Barnett is an expat Briton living in Kalimantan, in Indonesia. A momentary act of kindness from him sends Curtis MacKinnon to a trading post deep in tBarnett is an expat Briton living in Kalimantan, in Indonesia. A momentary act of kindness from him sends Curtis MacKinnon to a trading post deep in the jungle. After a while, Barnett gets alarming correspondence from the trading post that sends him to confront MacKinnon.
I'm not familiar with Shepard and from reading this, I assumed he was a literary writer, dipping his toe into the SF genre, but Wikipedia describes him as an SF author, albeit one with "an awareness of literary antecedents." There is definitely a literary tone to this novella and the island land of Kalimantan is lovingly described.
The story straddles the line between SF and fantasy with talk of the spirit of the land, but also crashed alien spaceships on parallel worlds. The story is a bit of a character study, with MacKinnon and Barnett both being examined in some depth.
An interesting story, with a lot of pleasure to be had from the language and descriptions. While there is some action late in the story, this isn't a book to read for that. It's one for introspection and to delve into the landscape. Worth it, but be prepared to have to do a bit of work....more
Patricia can (sometimes) talk to animals and (sometimes) leave her body. Lawrence has built a time machine that can jump you into the future by two sePatricia can (sometimes) talk to animals and (sometimes) leave her body. Lawrence has built a time machine that can jump you into the future by two seconds and an AI in his bedroom. These two outsiders become friends as much to protect them from loneliness and bullies at school, but life gets in the way. They encounter each other again as adults when Patricia is a powerful witch and Lawrence is a tech genius trying to live up to the role.
This is a story of love, betrayal and the apocalypse as we track Patricia and Lawrence through their journey as the world seems to be falling apart around them. It's an odd one. You can tell that it's a first novel, with the pacing and feel veering wildly. The first half or so is quiet and whimsical, even as it encompasses the helplessness and unfairness of childhood. I enjoyed that a lot. The second, as we catch up with our protagonists as adults, is less even. It will annoy some people, being set in the more hipster parts of San Francisco, with people going out for overpriced coffee and locally sourced, organic burritos and agonising over their lives. If that doesn't bother you (and it doesn't bother me that much), then trying to figure out the rules of Patricia's magic, and trying to figure out Lawrence's place in a larger masterplan to save the human race is enjoyable, with some good sex thrown in for good measure.
But (and you knew that was coming) the ending. The ending just sort of threw me. I suspect it's the sort of thing some people will adore, but I must confess that it lost me. There's a lot left unsaid and a lot left undone, and I found that unsatisfying. Most of the characters, other than the protagonists, seem to mostly exist for plot exposition too, they don't get much in the way of development (and it felt like Lawrence's girlfriend, Serafina, gets quite short-changed).
Anders obviously has a lot of potential. I've enjoyed some of her short fiction and this was a decent first novel. I'll keep reading them, I suspect, as I'll love to see what she's like in full flow....more
I've not read much of Joanne Harris's work but I've enjoyed what I have read. This collection of short stories has some great ones in it. There are gI've not read much of Joanne Harris's work but I've enjoyed what I have read. This collection of short stories has some great ones in it. There are ghost stories, horror stories, stories about little old ladies with attitude, something for all tastes. Some of them take a turn for the deeply disturbing, like Cookie, about a very strange pregnancy, while others leave you indignant at the indignities that Man heaps upon Man (the two Faith and Hope stories in this collection are great examples of that, about two old ladies in a care home). The hit to miss ratio is good and it's good for both dipping into and for binge-reading. Recommended both for established Harris fans, and newcomers wanting a taste of her style....more
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (or, if you prefer, 1001 nights) is the length of time that the Strangeness lasts. The walls between thTwo Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (or, if you prefer, 1001 nights) is the length of time that the Strangeness lasts. The walls between the worlds come tumbling down and the Jinni return to our world to cause mayhem and havoc. But before all this, before the cracks were sealed, Dunia, a Jinni princess, came to our world and fell in love with a mortal man, for his mind. Together they had many, many children before she returned to her world, and now, in its time of need, she must reconvene her descendants to help save the world. This unlikely group includes a gardener, still mourning his dead wife who wakes up one day to find himself levitating; a failing graphic novelist whose creation appears to him in his bedroom; and a baby who can detect corruption with her mere presence.
Even after a few days of ruminating, I'm still not entirely sure about this book. Rushdie's grasp of language and myth is as strong as ever and this book has a very mythic feel to it (as, I imagine, it's supposed to) but I was never able to just settle down and get lost in it, as I have done in other Rushdie books. The characters are mostly sketches, with really only Dunia and Mr Geronimo, the gardener, getting much filling in.
So, without being able to entirely say why, a difficult book to love, but definitely one to enjoy and find something worthwhile in....more
It's odd when something clicks and you go, "ah-ha", followed by a cunning analogy for what you're trying to figure out. For me, with this book, it wasIt's odd when something clicks and you go, "ah-ha", followed by a cunning analogy for what you're trying to figure out. For me, with this book, it was when we start to learn what are living in the depths of Ryhope Wood, I thought of the line "monsters from the id!" from the rock'n'roll musical adaptation of the rather marvellous Forbidden Planet. Although mythagos aren't all monsters, it still felt appropriate.
The book, concerning the Huxley family, primarily younger son Steven, tells the story of what they awaken and what they have to deal with in Ryhope wood, a smallish patch of woodland on a large estate. But the wood is a remnant of the ancient woodlands that covered Britain in the ice age and beyond and within it time and space are warped, as avatars of mankind's deep unconscious myths are created and recreated, one of which captivates George Huxley, and both his sons, and forms the tragedy of the family.
Mythago Wood has an epic, mythic quality to it. It feels less a fantasy story and more a retelling of stories and myths as old as our species. The book is told in the first person, by Steven Huxley, with a few interjections from a secondary narrator (in the form of his diary). Steven is a likeable chap, one of those fellows who went to war, came back and just wants to get on with his life (before the wood intervenes).
I'd say this was 3.5 stars, rounded down.
(view spoiler)[Oh, and considering how the myths that spawn the mythagos tend to go, I was pleasantly surprised that the ending was much more hopeful than I had anticipated. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Several years have passed since the end of the last volume, as this one opens with Hazel now an actual honest-t0-goodness person, not just a baby/toddSeveral years have passed since the end of the last volume, as this one opens with Hazel now an actual honest-t0-goodness person, not just a baby/toddler. Hazel and her grandmother spend these years in a prisoner of war camp on Landfall, and we see several new characters introduced to the cast, including the rather adorable Noreen, Hazel's teacher and the slightly less adorable but very interesting Petrichor, a trans woman who Hazel befriends while in prison.
As usual, Vaughan's twists and turns of plot keep me guessing and he drops a real bomb at the end of the volume, which the always brilliant Staples visualises magnificently, with the expression on Alana's face. It's not just that, of course, but the rest of the art, which continues to be stunning, as she renders both horrific violence and moments of true tenderness with equal vividness. Staples' art is as much of Saga as Vaughan's writing and it wouldn't be the same without her.
So in case it's not obvious, I continue to love this series and am impatient for more! Maybe I should ease the waiting time by picking up the rather gorgeous-looking deluxe edition. It'll be an excuse to read the first 18 chapters again....more
Agnieszka lives in a valley menaced by a Wood from which nothing that goes in comes out. Or at least, comes out unchanged. Their valley is protected bAgnieszka lives in a valley menaced by a Wood from which nothing that goes in comes out. Or at least, comes out unchanged. Their valley is protected by a powerful, unaging wizard called the Dragon, but he demands payment for his protection: every ten years he takes a young girl from the valley. Although everyone knows that this time round it will be beautiful, brave Kasia who will be picked, it isn't, it's Agnieszka. She leaves her valley behind and her world changes forever.
I really liked this book. Agnieszka's story is great fun to follow, and the opening chapters are oddly funny. Although Agnieszka herself is terrified for a lot of it, as the reader, we're already starting to see what she can't through her fear, and that lends those chapters an element of farce, as the poor girl stumbles and wrecks everything she comes into contact with. Obviously this doesn't last, and it's a joy to see Agnieszka come into her power and start to drive the narrative.
In fact, this book doesn't do something that often annoys me, particularly in books with female protagonists: Agnieszka is never passive. She needs a push to get going, but she chooses her own destiny. She drives every major decision in the book, and is never just caught up in events or pushed around from pillar to post and that's something that I admire, both in the character and the author.
The book never hides from the consequences of violence. Agnieszka agonises over this even as she does what she must, but it's never romanticised. Violence is shown for what it is: nasty and brutish.
The only bit that didn't really convince was the romance. I can see where it came from, but I would have been just as happy without it. (Personally, I don't think that every protagonist needs to find romance to have a happy ending, but that's a rant for another day)....more
I'll get on to the important stuff in a minute, but did anyone else notice the smell of their book? I don't know if it's something to do with the bindI'll get on to the important stuff in a minute, but did anyone else notice the smell of their book? I don't know if it's something to do with the binding process used, or the glue, but it really doesn't smell like a book at all. In fact, it smells sort of unpleasant.
Anyway, skipping over that, this was a bit of a mixed bag for me. It was very definitely speculative fiction, not science fiction. There was a reasonable amount of fantasy as well as SF and more horror than I would have liked.
Highlights included The Gift of Touch, a space opera about a freighter transporting some passengers, which reminded me a bit of the marvellous The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet; The Boy Who Cast No Shadow, a tale of being different, literally and metaphorically, powerful and melancholic; and The Symphony of Ice and Dust about an expedition to the far reaches of the solar system and the remains that they find there.
There were a number of misses for me as well, stories that I just didn't really get, including Like a Coin Entrusted in Faith, which may have been a Jewish zombie tale, but I'm not really sure. I felt completely lost for most of that one. Jinki and the Paradox was going okay until the end, when it lost me again. I'm really not sure what to make of the last story in the collection, A Cup of Salt Tears, it's not the way that I would have chosen to end the book, this Japanese almost fairy tale about a woman whose husband is dying and a kappa comes to her and tells her it loves her. Very odd, a bit melancholic and (there's a theme emerging here), I got completely lost by the end.
I like the little flash pieces in between some of the longer stories. While they weren't all to my taste, they were short enough to not outstay their welcome if they weren't. And they were nice little palate cleansers between the chunkier stories.
So an interesting collection albeit one that I sometimes struggled with. I don't know if that's just the stories picked, or the international nature of some of them. I certainly felt that there were a few where knowing more about the cultural context would help me understand them, but it was good to read stuff from a different point of view to the usual British/American perspective. I'm not sure that I'd buy any of the others, but I might look for them in the local library....more
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