Full Series Review: This may be the best comic book ever written, and certainly the best superhero comic (and yes, I'm including Watchmen -- WatchmenFull Series Review: This may be the best comic book ever written, and certainly the best superhero comic (and yes, I'm including Watchmen -- Watchmen is just cynical, whereas this deconstructs the genre and then puts it back together).
The story, to the extent it can be summarized in a couple sentences, is about a team of superheroes who must stop an evil wizard who's plotting to destroy the world. But unbeknownst to the heroes, their leader is herself a secret supervillain who only wants to stop the wizard because she wants to be the one who destroys the Earth. But that description is like reading the ingredient's list on a bag of honey mustard pretzels -- it tells you what's inside, but it doesn't convey just how awesome it tastes.
First, the story is just plain wacky, and not just in the normal Japanese way. I mean, take the title -- pretty damn weird by itself, but what the hell is a "biscuit hammer"? Well, besides a great song by the Pillows, it refers to the evil wizard's primary weapon, a giant mallet that can smash the Earth to pieces like a biscuit (the British kind, presumably, not the ones you eat with fried chicken). Yes, the wizard's plan is something out of a Loony Tunes cartoon. Then there's the fact that each hero has a kind of spirit animal that gives them powers -- not too different from your typical Magical Girl series, except in this case the animals include a giant preying mantis, a turtle and a swordfish in addition to the usual cute and cuddly things.
But as bizarre as elements of the story are, it never gets lost in opaque symbolism the way an Ikuhara series would. The focus here isn't on grand philosophical ideas (though a few creep in), nor on action (though there's plenty of that), or even wackiness for the sake of wackiness. No, at heart this is the story of characters, and every one of them is sympathetic and nuanced, even the villains. You aren't going to come away rooting for Samidare, the villain-protagonist, to destroy the world (again, this isn't a cynical series that tries to convince you that black and white are just shades of grey), but you'll understand what pushed her in that direction and you'll hope something will come along and save her. In fact, when the final battle comes, heroes against their former comrade, you'll find yourself crying in sympathy for her, even as she's getting ready to kill seven billion people....more
I was looking forward to this book but came away mostly disappointed. I was thinking this was going to be akin to Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars boI was looking forward to this book but came away mostly disappointed. I was thinking this was going to be akin to Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars books, full of details culled from production notes, script drafts, storyboards, and interviews, but while there's some of that, it's nowhere near as extensive. While Gaines managed to get most of the major behind-the-scenes players to talk with him, including Robert Zemeckis (though Gaines admits in his introduction he only got a half hour to interview him), the cast was less willing to talk, with Lea Thompson and Christopher Lloyd being the only major players sat down with him.
On most subjects you'll learn little more than you'd get from the audio commentaries and featurettes on the home video releases. The notable exceptions are the dirty laundry behind the production -- Eric Stoltz getting fired, the decision to replace Crispin Glover in the sequels and the subsequent lawsuit, and the accident that nearly killed a stunt woman -- which Universal understandably avoids in official material. That alone makes the book worth reading, even if you have to wade through material you're already familiar with. (This is a short, breezy book, so the rehashing isn't too bad.)
Still, if you're going to read one book on BTTF, I'd go with the hilarious B^F: The Novelization Of The Feature Film by Ryan North, which goes through George Gipes' long out-of-print novelization page by page. Because the novel was based upon the draft of the screenplay used for Eric Stoltz, there are lots of fascinating differences, from an alternate opening sequence where Marty acts like a John Hughes character, to Marty treating his family with utter contempt in the original 1985....more
I was looking over a list of Seiun Award winners (that's the Japanese equivalent of the Hugo Awards) when I noticed something odd on the list of bestI was looking over a list of Seiun Award winners (that's the Japanese equivalent of the Hugo Awards) when I noticed something odd on the list of best translated novels:
1970 The Crystal World by J. G. Ballard 1971 The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton 1972 Nightwings by Robert Silverberg 1973 The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. 1974 Dune by Frank Herbert 1975 Up the Line by Robert Silverberg 1976 ...And Call Me Conrad by Roger Zelazny 1977 The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance 1978 I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein 1979 Ringworld by Larry Niven 1980 Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke 1981 Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan 1982 The Genesis Machine by James P. Hogan 1983 Dragon's Egg by Robert L. Forward 1984 The Garments of Caean by Barrington J. Bayley 1985 The Zen Gun by Barrington J. Bayley 1986 Elric saga by Michael Moorcock 1987 Neuromancer by William Gibson 1988 Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith 1989 Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle 1990 Collision with Chronos by Barrington J. Bayley 1991 The Uplift War by David Brin 1992 The McAndrew Chronicles by Charles Sheffield 1993 Tau Zero by Poul Anderson 1994 Entoverse by James P. Hogan 1996 The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons Timelike Infinity by Stephen Baxter 1997 End of an Era by Robert J. Sawyer 1998 Fallen Angels by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle 1999 The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson 2000 Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick 2001 Frameshift by Robert J. Sawyer 2002 There and Back Again by Pat Murphy 2003 Illegal Alien by Robert J. Sawyer 2004 Heaven's Reach by David Brin 2005 Distress by Greg Egan 2006 Diaspora by Greg Egan 2007 Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve 2008 Brightness Falls from the Air by James Tiptree, Jr. 2009 Spin by Robert Charles Wilson 2010 The Last Colony by John Scalzi 2011 Eifelheim by Michael Flynn 2012 The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi 2013 The Android's Dream by John Scalzi 2014 Blindsight by Peter Watts
Okay, that's a pretty good list of the major figures of sci-fi, leaning a bit more towards hard-SF than the Hugo Awards do and being light on female authors ... but, who the hell is this Barrington J. Bayley guy? I mean, the Japanese must really love him. They've given him more awards than anyone but Robert J. Sawyer.
Well, Wikipedia to the rescue. Turns out he was a new wave author who influenced Bruce Sterling and Alastair Reynolds. Huh, I love those guys. Better check Bayley out.
Luckily his works are available in reasonably priced ebooks.
And yes, I can definitely see the influence on Reynolds. The opening scene in Revelation Space is remarkably similar to a scene early in this book, and the climactic battle is very much in Reynold's style, with all the fighting taking place off screen while the characters deal with the intellectual issue at the heart of the story.
Too bad it all gets wrapped up with a deus ex machina.
I can also see why the Japanese like this. It has a lot in common with sci-fi anime -- villains who, despite being monstrously evil, are still presented as acting within their own moral framework (think of the House of Zabi from Mobile Suit Gundam), and the deus ex machina is one of those philosophical conversations that take place in a vaguely defined and surrealistic floaty place (the end of Madoka, the end of Penguindrum, the end of Mospeada, the end of Akira, etc., etc.)....more
What a mess this book is. It reads like a comic book written by two or three different people, none of whom ever spoke to each other about what the plWhat a mess this book is. It reads like a comic book written by two or three different people, none of whom ever spoke to each other about what the plot's supposed to be. I mean, okay, a sequel to The Time Machine's a cool idea, but then Jeter throws in King Arthur and Atlantis for no good reason. He disregards the whole point of the original novel to introduce intelligent Morlocks who capture the time machine and use it to invade the 19th Century. Why? Shits and giggles, I guess. We're never given any explanation other than "Morlocks are evil." And then there's this woman who turns up at the end who's the secret mastermind of the Morlocks, and we're never told who she is--Morgana La Fey--or why she's helping them--shits and giggles, again, I suppose.
This whole thing is on the level of Star Trek writers running out of imagination and turning the Borg from a hivemind into drones under the command of a slinky, smexy queen....more
For about three-quarters of this book I thought I might be reading some lost classic -- a time travel novel that fell into obscurity simply because itFor about three-quarters of this book I thought I might be reading some lost classic -- a time travel novel that fell into obscurity simply because it came out a couple months after Welles' The Time Machine, a social satire forgotten because it was too far ahead of its time -- but then the author remembered books are supposed to have plots instead of being a loose collection of amusing vignettes. While a lesser author like Douglas Adams would've simply tossed in an arbitrary final scene and so produced a comedy classic, Allen had to get all literary about it and add a romantic tragedy that the story like a polar bear in a flock of sparrows....more
Oh my God, Doraemon is finally, legally available in English. This is so freakin' awesome.
I'll get the bad news out of the way first -- these releasesOh my God, Doraemon is finally, legally available in English. This is so freakin' awesome.
I'll get the bad news out of the way first -- these releases aren't full volumes, but rather comic book sized chunks (about 35-40 pages each), and if the Wikipedia list of chapters is correct, they're in mixed up order. But you know what? I don't care. Because Doraemon is just that awesome.
For those unfamiliar with the series (i.e., most Americans), imagine Back to the Future told from George's POV. Except instead of Marty coming back himself, he sends Doctor Who to fix his father's life. Only the Doctor is a giant blue robot cat, and he and George (err, Nobita) go around having these cool Calvin and Hobbes style adventures. If that doesn't sound awesome to you, just go back to reading Doonesbury, you unfeeling grup....more
I found this volume a big disappointment. This is basically a secret history of Assignment: Earth, but since we already know how that ended, there's nI found this volume a big disappointment. This is basically a secret history of Assignment: Earth, but since we already know how that ended, there's no real suspense in the big plot, and the 20th Century characters don't get themselves in that much personal danger (and we know from the beginning that at least two of them survive), so the only thing pulling the plot along is seeing Project Bluebook deal with all the aliens who've visited Earth in Star Trek, and that gets old halfway through the book.
And on top of that, the plot with Kirk is mostly unnecessary, and so chopped up by the 20th Century scenes that it's just a series of cliffhangers. It may've worked better if Ward had made some sort of parallel between Kirk dealing with mysterious time travelers and the Bluebook people dealing with aliens, but as is Kirk has explanations handed to him way too easily....more
I gotta say, this is the best media tie-in novel I've ever read. Reynold's captures the zeitgeist of mid-70s Who so perfectly I can hear Pertwee's voiI gotta say, this is the best media tie-in novel I've ever read. Reynold's captures the zeitgeist of mid-70s Who so perfectly I can hear Pertwee's voice and see the cardboard sets. I can even imagine how awful the no-budget aliens would look....more
Despite the title, this is more of a TOS novel where the characters from Bennett's previous book, Watching the Clock, pop-up intermittently, serving mDespite the title, this is more of a TOS novel where the characters from Bennett's previous book, Watching the Clock, pop-up intermittently, serving more as a framing device than actual characters. You could remove most of their scenes and the only affect it'd have is making the ending a deus ex machina.
The bulk of the novel focuses on how Starfleet and the Federation Science Council react to Kirk's various temporal adventures. On one side there's an admiral who sees great value in time travel, both for research and a possible weapon. On the other, there's a bureaucrat who wants to regulate the hell out of time travel to make sure no one rewrites history. All this leads to a secret time travel experiment which nearly destroys the universe we know, etc., etc.
I normally hate attempts to retcon a long list of inconsistencies into a coherent storyline, such as the execrable final season of Enterprise or the bI normally hate attempts to retcon a long list of inconsistencies into a coherent storyline, such as the execrable final season of Enterprise or the big reveal in season four of Angel, but Christopher Bennett does a fine job of fitting Star Trek's many contradictory accounts of time travel together while handwaving away the numerous plotholes, including the end of "Tomorrow Is Yesterday." For that alone he has my admiration.
The story follows various members of the Department of Temporal Investigations as they investigate various temporal anomalies while dealing with the uptime factions of the Temporal Cold War. Most prominently featured are Lucsly and Dulmur, introduced as joke characters in the DS9 episode "Trials and Tibble-ations" but here expanded into real characters. There's also Teresa Garcia, your standard issue reader-proxy newb whose main job is to have things explained to her, and a handful of other agents.
The book gets off to a slow start thanks to Teresa needing huge infodumps, and the actual plot doesn't get moving until almost a third of the way into the book, but once the real story gets going, it's an exciting ride....more
So it's come to this -- Stephen King ripping off Red Dwarf. Yes, his latest novel is a retread of the Series VII episode "Tikka to Ride" in which timeSo it's come to this -- Stephen King ripping off Red Dwarf. Yes, his latest novel is a retread of the Series VII episode "Tikka to Ride" in which time travelers prevent the JFK assassination without really thinking through the consequences. In Red Dwarf at least the characters did it by accident. And were idiots. King's protagonist, Jake Epping, does it deliberately yet we're supposed to think of him as reasonably intelligent.
Except on the matter at hand, he's surprisingly ignorant and gets roped into the mission by his friend Al Templeton, who has found a time tunnel in his pantry that leads to 1958. Al tells Jake that if only JFK had lived, the world would be better -- there would've been no Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement would've proceeded more smoothly. There's no real evidence for these suppositions, and any reasonable person would be leery of mucking around with seminal events in the Cold War. But not Jake. He does take a bit of persuading -- since the whirligig of time opens in 1958, he'll need to dedicate five years of his life to the mission -- but ultimately signs on.
I'll get the good part out of the way first -- this is King's best book since he quit snorting blow. It's still not a very good book and suffers from the problems that have plagued his work for the last twenty years -- a penchant for "hip" dialogue that comes off like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer written by Freddy Freiberger, and an insistence that every single story somehow tie into the larger mythos surrounding the Dark Tower.
King has always peppered his books with references to other works, but it used to be that that's all they were. References. In-jokes for dedicated fans. A way of making the fictional world seem larger. But somewhere along the way, King decided to make them into important plot points, which in turn led him to draw unnecessary attention to the connections. Now when a character crosses paths with another story, King doesn't just lampshade it -- he hangs a 40,000 watt crystal chandelier on it.
A case in point occurs early in the story when Jake goes to Derry, Maine to test his ability to alter history. If you're at all a King fan, then "Derry 1958" should ring a bell. The year the Losers defeated It. For the most part King does a good job of painting a city hiding a dark secret from an outsider's perspective, but and if he'd left it there, the sequence would've been fine. But he doesn't. He has to have Jake cross paths with Bev Marsh and Richie Tozier (see what I mean about Freddy Freiberger writing -- and not just a cameo but a full-on guest spot that calls attention to itself. Jake even gives them stupid nicknames -- Bevvie from the Levy and Richie from the Ditchy -- which he uses whenever he thinks back to them (which he does far too often. For anyone who's never read It, the scene must be perplexing, like watching an old sitcom where there's a celebrity guest you've never heard of before, but the writers at the time thought the celebrity was so great that they didn't need to write a decent scene for him.
The bigger problem with the Derry interlude is that, though interesting in itself, it's unconnected to the larger plot, yet it takes up a quarter of the book. It's followed by another section, taking up almost a third of the story, dealing Jake's time as a school teacher in the late '50s/early '60s as he waits to make his move against Oswald. And Jake isn't just any teacher. He's the sort they make inspirational movies about starring Edward James Olmos or Richard Dreyfuss. So instead of following him as he investigates Oswald to make sure there was no conspiracy, we get him as the sponsor of the drama club, where he discovers a football player who has hidden acting talents, and leading a fund-raiser for a girl who was injured in a car accident, not to mention a maudlin romance with another teacher. Apparently King doesn't agree with Alice that a diet of treacle will make you sick.
King does attempt to liven the school-teaching sequence with some suspense. When Jake first arrives in the past, he encounters a wino who's ranting incoherently. Later he realizes that some of the wino's words apply to his life in the past ... but this never goes any place. Although the first time Jake realizes this is mighty creepy -- creepy enough to be the cliffhanger ending of a chapter -- it only leads to some expository dialogue near the end.
At 850 pages, this isn't King's longest book, but it's one of his most bloated. The majority of the story is filler to keep Jake busy for the five years he has to wait until the title date. In the afterword, King says the story was inspired in part by Jack Finney. But Finney could've told this story in 300 pages, excising the unnecessary parts and giving the reader a much better romance....more
Meet Zits, a half-Irish, half Amerindian orphan who's spent most of his life shuffling between foster homes and juvie. Because his dad abandoned his mMeet Zits, a half-Irish, half Amerindian orphan who's spent most of his life shuffling between foster homes and juvie. Because his dad abandoned his mom before he was born, he's not an "official" Indian entitled to any of the paltry benefits offered by the US government -- the most significant, given his situation, being that if he was recognized as an Indian, he'd have to be placed with Indian foster parents. He's not too broken hearted about this since the one time he was placed with an Indian family, the dad turned out to be a real dick, but he's still not happy that all his knowledge of dad's culture (and he's not even sure what specific culture that is) comes from the History Channel.
Like many foster kids, Zits has led a hard knock life to the point that he knows the local cops by name. During his latest stay in jail, Zits meets a mysterious white kid who calls himself Justice. Once they get out, the two begin hanging around together, and Justice fuels Zits imagination by encouraging him to take revenge upon white people for the centuries of oppression. Justice even provides Zits with a gun and tells him to go rob a bank. Which Zits promptly tries to do, only to end up with a bullet in the back of the head.
This isn't as much an impediment as it might first seem, for the bullet causes Zits to become unstuck in time. Or stuck in an after school special. He travels to various periods of US history to witness conflicts between whites and Indians -- though not the ones you might expect. In the '70s he possesses the body of an FBI agent who is in cahoots in a criminal enterprise with several radical Indian rights activists. At the Little Bighorn he witnesses the desecration of the corpses of the 7th Cavalry. Then he becomes a member of another cavalry unit pursuing a group of Indians who slaughtered homesteaders. During this incarnation, he witnesses a young enlistee desert in the middle of battle in order to rescue a young indian boy. Finally he becomes a middle aged flight instructor who's broken after a young Arab man he befriended and taught to fly turns out to be a terrorist who crashes a jetliner in the middle of Chicago.
At last Zits returns to his own body a few minutes before robbing the bank, and the valuable lessons he learned on his journey convince him to do the right thing and turn himself in to the police. At least, that's what we're supposed to think, though really, you'd think knowing that he's going to get his brains blown if he goes through with the robbery is more sobering.
What's that you say? I just spoiled the whole book for you? No, really I didn't. If you can't see the ending by page thirty, you're better off sticking to Green Eggs and Ham.
I first encountered Sherman Alexie in a bookshop bargain bin when my eyes alighted upon The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven. With a title like that, I would've bought it even if it wasn't marked down to two bucks. That book contained a series of slice-of-life stories about living on reservations -- and not the kinds with big fancy casinos.
Since reading that book, I've seen some criticism of Alexie for pandering to white audiences and reinforcing stereotypes. I've thought most of that was misplaced given that Alexie claims his stories are based upon himself or people he knows. This one, however, doesn't have that excuse. Alexie seems to be trying to provide a nuanced view of Anglo-Indian relations in which he points out that both sides were schmucks. But while that may be true in detail, a look at the big picture can't but show that one side was being schmucks proactively and the other reactionarily. To have a nuanced view of situation, you have to examine it from both ends of the telescope, which Alexie fails to do.
I've been around for the better part of three decades, and not ONCE has a white person provided me with some sort of salvation. I feel shortchanged. There was no teacher who saw something in me, no employer who defended my rights and no white family who kindly took me into their home.
But exactly that happens at the end of this book. The ending is a complete cop-out that's meant to make middle class white readers sigh happily as they put the book down and think, "Golly, I'm glad I'm one of the good guys who cares."...more