Sidekicks is a graphic novel about an aging superhero, Captain Amazing, who’s feeling the endless creep of years sneaking up on him. He decides it’s tSidekicks is a graphic novel about an aging superhero, Captain Amazing, who’s feeling the endless creep of years sneaking up on him. He decides it’s time to get a sidekick, and that’s when we learn that his pets, the real protagonists of the story, have been yearning to team up with him forever. There’s an indestructible dog, a static-energy cat, and a hamster with no appreciable superpowers. And an iguana. A few thoughts:
- This comic has a really positive message — it encourages us to think about all our gifts, and the way that understanding them as part of our whole selves gives us an advantage far exceeding that of the person who excels at one thing alone. - The hamster/iguana team-up is fantastic. They’re both brave and eminently vulnerable, fighting in a world fraught with danger. - Captain Amazing’s tale of aging and teamwork cuts strikingly close to the bone for me, a father watching his children grow up and acquire their own interests that diverge from mine, and at the same time, want to do all the things I do.
It’s a cute and fulfilling comic. Well worth the twenty five minutes it will take you to read. According to the school librarian’s notes in the inside cover, you will also earn “4 points” for reading it. So there’s that....more
Sir Maurice Newbury and Valerie Hobbes are back in another rollicking steampunk adventure in George Mann's The Osiris Ritual. Like the previous book,Sir Maurice Newbury and Valerie Hobbes are back in another rollicking steampunk adventure in George Mann's The Osiris Ritual. Like the previous book, The Affinity Bridge, there's plenty of great action and adventure and nobility and constrained behavior and running around London. The characters of the two protagonists develop a bit more thoroughly in this one, though they end up spending much of the novel investigating two separate cases and worrying about the other. A few more thoughts:
Mann really excels at gruesome description. In the first book, it was automata -- in this one it's a rotting cyborg. Gross and awesome. The fight scenes in the novel are where it's at. Great action! Alas, the relationship tension feels a bit tacked on to me. But I don't generally enjoy that part of these kinds of stories anyway. Thoughts about feelings? GROSS.
A nice romp. If you liked the first one, you'll like this one. If you didn't read The Affinity Bridge, I think you could enjoy this just fine as well....more
Shea’s novel is a light romp through a dark future where most of the Earth has been ravaged by economic and environmental collapse. Many people live iShea’s novel is a light romp through a dark future where most of the Earth has been ravaged by economic and environmental collapse. Many people live in floating cities high above the Earth, and a few others vie for the limited slots among the global elite. Just making her way in the world is our titular vicious mercenary, who has been working as the owner of a brothel for the last few years. Alas, her past comes back to haunt her and she must make a run for it.
- Koko is an enjoyable adventure, if a bit light on the plot arc. The main character is empathetic in as much as someone who used to be a mercenary can be, but the future Shea describes is so bleak that we need not worry too much about particular bleakness facing individuals in the world. Yikes. - One of the plagues of the floating cities is a kind of suicidal depression that’s diagnosed as an incurable disease. There’s an implication in the book that this sort of depression is just in one’s mind, which could imply some deeper readings of Shea’s view of modern mental health issues, or it could just be the view that the overlords of the future might employ a cynical terminal diagnosis to control population growth. (And thus, I just realize, I build a link between this novel and the under-rated Tom Hanks / Meg Ryan film Joe vs. the Volcano.) - Shea seems to have an equally dark view of corporations of the future — global capital has not been all that good for people in the world. That said, there’s an implication that the world collapses under some other malady and it’s only global capitalism that gets us going again, so maybe these vicious corporations are good? I would love to read another book written with a Margaret Atwood-ian seriousness in this particular world. (Actually, without too much tweaking, you could see this as a version of the Oryx and Crake world.)
This book comes as close as I’ve found to the edge of the nickel. It doesn’t offer enough, to me, to push it onto the recommended pile, but it has a few enjoyable facets that make it hard to recommend against. It’s a fine beach read, but that’s about it....more
The dark and shadowy world of Empire State is kind of like New York in the late 20s, but not quite. This tale of adventure, mystery, weird technology,The dark and shadowy world of Empire State is kind of like New York in the late 20s, but not quite. This tale of adventure, mystery, weird technology, and haunting atmosphere will have you running in circles, marveling at the buildings, and peering into the fog. A few thoughts:
- The first half of the novel is fantastic. I mean that both literally — as in: it includes fantastical science-fiction elements and a complicated plot set in an alternate New York called The Empire State — and figuratively, in that it’s quite enjoyable. The second half, for me, was not quite as good. The novel explains more than I wanted it to, and the mysteriousness of the first half overwhelmed the result of the second half. - In mood, Empire State resonates with dystopian city sci-fi scapes like Brazil, The Manual of Detection, and Kafka. It also injects noir tropes and pulp science heroes into the mix. The result is a world that draws on many of the same tropes in vogue throughout speculative fiction right now, but does so with verve and gusto. - Most impressive about the first half of the novel are Christopher’s casual world-building moments. He excels in writing sentences that open new doors on the world, shifting the whole nature of what you see as you read. I enjoyed these moments so much that I’ve excised a lot of references from this review so that these syntactical gems can remain inviolate. To explain what I mean, though, consider the classic example from Heinlein: “The door dilated.” With the simple use of a word in a new context, Heinlein downloads a whole new set of expectations and ideas about the world. Christopher does this several times (at least three that I can think of), and it’s a delight. - At the same time, some of these reveals are cheats of narrative convenience. For instance, at least one “big reveal” from fairly late in the novel depends on visual information that, had we been watching this as a film, we would have understood from the beginning. Thus, the value of carefully excluding details. - I like that Christopher includes a playlist and an invitation to fan contributions at the end of the book.
All in all, very enjoyable. Phil Gigante does a good job handling different voices in the story, particularly given the complex relationships between some of the characters....more
On the far side of the moon, a new observatory is building the biggest telescopes ever crafted by Man. These massive instruments, combined with the MoOn the far side of the moon, a new observatory is building the biggest telescopes ever crafted by Man. These massive instruments, combined with the Moon’s airless surface, and the far-side’s shelter from the brightness of the Earth, give its scientists the ability to see things much more clearly than ever we have before. Alas, amid the excitement of the project, trouble is brewing. And in the vacuum of space, even a small problem can become a big problem quickly. A few thoughts:
- This is only the second Bova book I’ve read, and it seems to be in the middle of his “Grand Tour” series. As such, there’s some context I’m missing, but generally it’s readable on its own. The characters are believable, even if they’re drawn a bit quickly, and their emotional lives take a stronger center stage than in most SF novels. - Bova’s hard SF angle works really well here, as the entire structure seems cogent and potential. Of course, it’s infused with current worries, but at least thinks through the potentials of the next century or so. I also didn’t catch any years listed in the dates, which will help keep it relevant longer. - I particularly liked the depth of the characters as the novel progresses. Often, quickly drawn characters prove to be two dimensional, lacking believability or depth that’s part of the human experience. As the novel goes along, the characters become more complex, and more interesting, and it works well. - Aside from thinking through the Moon stuff, the use of Nanotechnology plays a big role in this book. I like the discussion very much, and think it would make a nice entry into the field. A reader who finds this idea interesting should next explore The Diamond Age. - Stephan Rudnicki’s reading is excellent, and his voice is awesomely deep.
A good read – enjoyable and quick, with cool ideas and a strong story....more
When a mercenary gangster and a bored “camera girl” accidentally bump into one another on the streets of a futuristic London, all chaos breaks loose fWhen a mercenary gangster and a bored “camera girl” accidentally bump into one another on the streets of a futuristic London, all chaos breaks loose for a romping ride through the city. While the comic teems with funny ideas (as with the part of Chinatown where dudes in suits are shooting at one another all the time amid flocks of doves), the characters and the story never really come together for me. I also found the depiction of Rosi Blades, the girl who makes her living streaming her life and adventures 24hours a day, too exploitative without compensating for it with an interesting character....more
What if the Three Wise Men of the nativity story weren’t, in fact, scholars, but were rather disguised thieves on the run from Herod? And what if theyWhat if the Three Wise Men of the nativity story weren’t, in fact, scholars, but were rather disguised thieves on the run from Herod? And what if they happened upon a young woman and her husband and the baby they said was destined for great things? And what if there were a bunch of swordplay and adventure? Seth Grahame-Smith answers all these questions.
A few thoughts:
- As with his past outings (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Grahame-Smith’s expertise lies in crafting stories that live in the gaps of other famous stories. Unholy Night could fit entirely within the Biblical nativity story, using the gaps (such as “where did the wise men come from”) as opportunities for creativity and excitement. He shows a lot of reverence toward his source material, even as he turns it from a religious tale into an adventure story. - Balthazaar, the protagonist through whom we see the tale unfold, is a deep character, with well-founded motivation and a believable backstory. Very entertaining. - The story walks a fine balance, too, in its evocation of the supernatural. The Biblical God is certainly present in the tale as the unseen actor, but it isn’t too heavy-handed.
As with Grahame-Smith’s other books, well worth the read, though not likely to warrant multiple reads....more