It's really a 4.5, and closer to a 4 for the first book, but I won't begrudge Novik a full set of stars. Navy man captain Will Laurence's life changesIt's really a 4.5, and closer to a 4 for the first book, but I won't begrudge Novik a full set of stars. Navy man captain Will Laurence's life changes forever the day he captures one of Napoleon's ships and finds a dragon egg in its hold. The dragon bonds with him, and suddenly his navy career has been swapped for one in His Majesty's Royal Aviators. Essentially, then, it's alt history, where the big historical change is that dragons exist, and humans have domesticated some of them--or at least convinced them to hang around. This collection contains the first three books in Novik's early 19th century dragon tale. In His Majesty's Dragon, Laurence and Temeraire (the dragon) bond and train together; in the second book, Temeraire is called back to China, and Laurence must fight to keep him; and in the third, Black Powder War, their journey back West is interrupted by the urgent need to sneak three dragon eggs back to England through a French-infested continent. The first story suffers a bit for lack of a clear conflict, beyond the initial disruption to Laurence's life that Temeraire causes. The climax of the story is one brought about by the historical circumstances rather than the protagonists' actions, and while that's not an unheard of strategy for an alt-history, it does make the story a bit less suspenseful. The second book places Temeraire and Laurence's relationship at the forefront, and the third features a slow build of Napoleon's threat (plus the inclusion of a repeat villain character) and they're both the more satisfying for it (plus, the third book has an 11th hour turn that's somewhat preposterous, but makes for such a fine Moment of Awesome that I can't really care.) For me at least, the series has three main things to recommend it. First is the aforementioned relationship between Temeraire and Laurence, which, as alluded, is really the emotional core of the story. Admittedly, it's fairly well trod fantasy fodder (How to Train Your Dragon does much the same, and McCaffrey's Pern series mined the area pretty thoroughly), Novik does it well. Second, the story shines as an alt-history. This comes out in a lot of different ways: the feral dragons that still dot the world, the history of dragons in China, Temeraire's fledgling efforts for dragons' civil rights. Third, and related to two, is Laurence's world view. He's a lot like Icabod Crane's character in the Sleepy Hollow tv show, if that's not too obscure a reference: he's a character who represents the absolute idealization of a culture that we look at a bit more critically in retrospect, even if the model before us is a (somewhat unbelievable) representation of how good those ideals can be at their best. I'm not the best student of history, but from what I know, Laurence embodies perfectly the British ideals of the time period, including inflated ideas about Britain's worth and the honor of a soldier. This is where it loops back to the first point, Temeraire and Laurence. There's a long history of fantasy using animals to critique anthrocentric/ethnocentric views (think T. H. White's Once and Future King for example) and Novik does an excellent job in using Temeraire to make Laurence question his own views---think of it as a 19th c British military version of Calvin and Hobbes. Other characters are, for the most part, somewhat underdeveloped, but used for good effect. It's also a *funny* book; Novik has a good sense of comic timing, and even manages to get a few good physical comedy bits, always a challenge in prose.
This is the third fantasy book I've read in rather short order that deviates from the traditional pseudo-medieval trappings (the other two being the steampunk Retribution Falls, and the frontier-set Thirteenth Child), and this book in particular really gets how to make the most out of a different historical mindset. With the exception of the first book's pacing (and even that wasn't that bad), this was a really good read....more
No rest for the weary, Peter Grant is pressed into service, still reeling from the betrayal of his partner in the last volume. (Of course, this is GraNo rest for the weary, Peter Grant is pressed into service, still reeling from the betrayal of his partner in the last volume. (Of course, this is Grant, so reeling means doing even more work and repressing very, very hard that it ever happened.) The case de jour is the disappearance of two eleven-year old girls in a small village in North Herefordshire. The local police are sufficiently stumped to call in the "weird stuff" guys, and Grant answers the call. Of the regular cast, the only one to tag along is Beverley Brooke, and there's a turn in her relationship with Peter into a direction that is perhaps not entirely unexpected. In the place of the usual lot, we get the local population of Rushpool--the relations of the two girls' families, a rather vocal local reporter, a UFO enthusiast, a 90 year old former wizard, his apiarist daughter, and the Rushpool police force, represented in particular by DC Dominic Croft. It's only the last three who get much by way of characterization; in fact, the . I'll be honest--victimized family characters are hard enough to keep apart that I, at one point, had some trouble following the relationships involved. In case you can't tell, I wasn't a big fan of this book. It's fine, in the way that almost anything written by Aaronovitch will be fine. The action proceeds in a compelling manner, the character development is minor but good, and the details on police procedure is, as always, top notch. But the absence of most of the main cast drags it down, as the absence of London itself. So much of the series has been bound up in the history of London and England that a shift to a fictional locale is a step backwards. It's also got a very "case of the week" feel to it, a feeling that isn't helped by the vagueness of the villains' plans or by a late revelation in the book. A lot of urban fantasy series fall into the need to constantly ramp up the threat Goku-style in an almost ridiculous fashion (I'm looking at you, Dresden Files) and on a conceptual level, I like the idea of a story that takes it down a notch. But the execution here leaves me cold. Finally, if I'm being totally honest, some of my dislike might just be because of the pairing here--can't say I'm crazy about it. All of that said, though, even a below par Aaronovitch book is above the standard fare of urban fantasy, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to fans of the genre or series....more
The story begins with a prelude section four years before the main story, with Detective Bartholomew Nyquist investigating a murder with his unwanted,The story begins with a prelude section four years before the main story, with Detective Bartholomew Nyquist investigating a murder with his unwanted, newly minted partner Usula Palmette. Things go wrong, but not because of the case--they're caught off guard by a series of major bombings that shake the Moon dome to the core. (Oh, did I mention the story takes place on the moon, at a point where it's been colonized with a series of domes? Well, pretend I said that.) Then we get the jump. Four years later, the day is remembered as Anniversary Day, and this Anniversary Day, whoever was behind the original bombings wants to make it clear they were just an opening act. Identical men are performing assassinations of the Moon's top political figures, and things only get worse from there. The story's told from the viewpoints of a number of different people trying to hold things together and get to the bottom of the attacks: Nyquist, now a high-ranking detective; Flint and his prodigy clone daughter Talia; Noelle DeRicci, Chief of Security for the United Domes of the Moon, and others. Starting the book with a low level case was a good idea; while it takes time to see what relevance the case has to the larger story, Rusch provides the reader with an entry point before the main plot, which is largely an escalation of terrorist disaster from the perspective of the government and law officials left without their heads of states. What follows is a little confusing and scattered at first, but once the story picks up steam, the plot really carries everything forward--Rusch is *good* at thriller-type writing. Unfortunately, the ending is somewhat of a low point, as there's not so much a resolution as trailing off. As a thriller book, the characters aren't terribly well developed; the focus is on dealing with the rising crisis, not with character arcs. The villain side of things is kept deliberately dark, but even then, it's a pretty clear white hat against black situation, as the terrorists we do see are bitter, fanatical, or a bit of both. Still, none of the characters are off-putting, and they fit the story well enough. I didn't know until after I'd finished the book that it was the eighth in a series, or at least, the eighth book featuring Flint in particular. That explains some of its stranger elements--for example, we don't find out that aliens exist and are a regular feature in this future until a quarter of the way through the book, and that seems like an odd choice unless it was an event described in an earlier book that didn't need to be elaborated here. I'd also imagine that I'd feel a little more positive towards the characters and book as a whole if I was familiar with the history they might share in earlier stories. It's to Rusch's credit that I didn't feel lost, or even missing out on events. It's a good sci-fi thriller, but the hump in the first third and the lack of resolution are definite detracting points for me. On the other hand, I got it from a StoryBundle, and so for the price and what I was expecting, it was definitely worth reading. I don't know if I'd go out of my way to find the rest of the series, but if our paths cross, I'd be interested in reading more. ...more
**spoiler alert** The Sharing Knife: Beguilement starts with Fawn Bluefield running away from home after learning both that she is pregnant, and that**spoiler alert** The Sharing Knife: Beguilement starts with Fawn Bluefield running away from home after learning both that she is pregnant, and that the child's father isn't the man she hoped she was. Unfortunately for her, she runs straight into a malice, a creature bent on stealing people's life forces. Lakewalker Dag--an older man, with one hand lost to his fight--is nearby, and the two battle together to fend off the threat. Of course, an ancient evil unfathomable by man pales in comparison to what awaits Fawn when she brings a Lakewalker home... I have a policy where I tend to skip over any fantasy book that contains the word "love" in its plot description. Beguilement is both an example of why that policy is in place, and why choosing it limits my reading options in a negative way. It's not that I've got a blanket ban on all fiction depicting relationships--I've got multiple seasons of Gossip Girl, Gilmore Girls, and Everwood under my belt. It's more that it often seems like a substitute for plot, and that the end is never in doubt, and when both those hold, my attention wanes. And they both hold here; if you took out the first half of the book, Beguilement is basically a rural romance story with a veneer of fantasy thrown in, a story of an older, foreign man trying to win over a rural town to claim his bride. And while some of the more obstreperous town folk put themselves in his way, the outcome is hardly in doubt--Aragorn isn't about to lose a thinking contest to the local bar thug. And I had absolutely no patience for the "will they or won't they" portion of Fawn and Dag's relationship--it was a pretty foregone conclusion rather immediately.
On the other hand, it's not like fantasy is this genre of constant surprise; the victory of the hero in general is usually a foregone conclusion. The difference here, I think, is that the obstacles were all external things fairly easy to overcome. The only internal conflict between Dag and Fawn was Dag's uncertainty in loving again, and since we don't get the reason for that it's an internal struggle we see from the outside, in the book's second half. (Given what happens to Fawn, she really *should* have had more conflict; the book moves past what would really should be a physically and mentally debilitating event for her to skip to the romance in fairly short order.)
However, the second half of the book is also the book's strength. So much of mainstream fantasy is focused on epic scale--the warring Houses (with the capital H), the rise and fall of nature, the final battle of Good versus Evil. Rarely do we see anything on the day to day life of people in these worlds. Bujold offers that here, and that change is refreshing. It's also, I'll note, a difference that's often gendered; if I think of the best known authors who have followed similar tactics, the names that come to mind are Robin Hobb and Ann McCaffrey, and it's probably not a coincidence that it takes female writers to write about the "small" matters of day to day life and marriage in a fantasy world. That, I think, is what I'm missing when I enforce my "no love in book jackets" policy, and it is policy that could arguably be said to be a gendered one.
Ultimately, it's still about 150 pages of wedding hijinx that don't escalate beyond an errant hornet's nest, fifty pages of YMMV vanilla sex, and 150 pages of demon fighting. The two main characters are likeable if not amazingly so, and it has a slower pace rare for fantasy without getting bogged down. So if that's your thing, this is the bok for you....more
After their father dies in a car accident, Emily and Naven move to their great-grandfather's abandoned house with their mom for a new start. But no soAfter their father dies in a car accident, Emily and Naven move to their great-grandfather's abandoned house with their mom for a new start. But no sooner does Emily find a strange amulet in her great-grandfather's study than a monster shows up in the basement and attacks her mother. Following it, Emily and Naven are soon drawn into a fantasy world, and forced to fend for themselves with new allies and the mysterious amulet. This was better than the initial pages led me to suspect, to be honest, especially on the art front. The first scene is clearly well told, from a framing perspective: we see Emily's agency in responding to the accident without being told, and that's impressive, given the difficulty of conveying a child's agency in the face of a family tragedy. In general, Kibuishi gets a lot done without a lot of words, which makes the book more accessible to a wider child audience. The art, though, can appear a bit rushed or broad stroked at times, but Kibuishi is also clearly capable of providing really nice detail, as evidenced by the first glimpses into the fantasy world, the building Emily and Naven find, and the book's final scene. My major point of comparison for a series like this is Bone. Bone felt a little more all-ages than this volume, which left me with the sense that it was definitely written for a younger audience, and the humor isn't quite there either, at least not to the same degree. But what Amulet does really well is show the strength of character of its protagonist Emily and portray the fantasy world in a way that preserves its mystery--the tentacled monsters and steam-punk machines quickly set it up as more than the average high fantasy. I'm not a great judge for what kids find scary or appealing, but I'd recommend this for, say, ages 5-10 or so--maybe older if they're not hung up on avoiding "kids" books....more
3.5. Jig is an average goblin. Well, maybe a little below average. He's clever, but small, and weak. That's why it's such a surprise when he accidenta3.5. Jig is an average goblin. Well, maybe a little below average. He's clever, but small, and weak. That's why it's such a surprise when he accidentally gets recruited into a party of adventurers looking to fight the cave's resident dragon. And then, to defend his tribe against an invasion of pixies. And against the combined armies of the region, human, orc, and otherwise. (Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero, and Goblin War, respectively.) Good thing he's got a personal god and a fire spider on his side. I bought The Legend off Jig Dragonslayer to read on a day where I knew I'd be spending a lot of time in transit at airports. I wanted something long, amusing enough to keep me going, but no so complex that my sleep-deprived mind would have trouble sussing it out. And Jig Dragonslayer nicely supplied all three. It's not the most amazing fantasy story I've ever read, or the funniest, but its light satire and perpetually wincing protagonist are charming. Jig Dragonslayer fits nicely in a rather niche category of fantasy, alongside works such as A. Lee Martinez' Too Many Curses and John Moore's Bad Prince Charlie. They're stories that take traditional fantasy tropes and gently twist and mock them, turning the good slightly darker and the dark into a light comedy grey. In that company, Jig Dragonslayer stands at the high end, for me at least. The first book is a parody of the sword and sourcery dungeon crawl (although not overly D&D-influenced), but the second and third spend more time thinking about Jig's world in general. Jig is really the only well-developed character in the trilogy (the attempt to develop his god Noc in the third book fell kind of flat for me) and he doesn't exactly have much character development, but at least there's a rough arc, and it's fun to see him constantly get in over his head through--as he'll insist--no real fault of his own. It didn't rock my world, but it's a really pleasant way to spend some time. ...more
**spoiler alert** Call it a 3.5. I wanted to like this book more than I did, but I think it departed too far from its starting point. The book stars S**spoiler alert** Call it a 3.5. I wanted to like this book more than I did, but I think it departed too far from its starting point. The book stars Stark, a sort of odd-jobs mercenary type who takes gigs from people in the City, the futuristic conglomeration that's come about when the majority of the world's surface has melded into one big, well, city. Zenda, a close friend from the Neighborhood known as Action (where the focus is high level business deals, all day every day) has a job for him: a high-level Actioneer has gone missing, and they want him to find him. Stark's path to locate the man take him through Neighboorhoods of chaos, Neighborhoods of purely regulated order--and maybe out of the City entirely. Minor spoiler, but about half way through the book, Stark has reason to enter Cheamland, a land of dreaming that modifies itself based on the people in it. It's a bit of a left curve, plotwise, and its the first of many; the book is very end-heavy, in the way it withholds a lot of information until the very end. And that's where most of my negative opinion of the book lies. It turns out to be about something very different than it appears to be, and while the ultimate story isn't really worse, it does feel like the reader's been given an unnecessary run-around. Stark is a great character--he's a likeable protagonist while also being the quintessential unreliable narrator, quick to admit that to the reader that he was lying for convenience. Likewise, the tone of the story really worked for me. It was a lot like a Tom Holt novel, irrelevant and broadly satirical, but without the lead having to be the straight man, which I think works much better. The City seems like a nice locale to build a story from as well; Cheamland is a bit iffier, since it seems so ad hoc. While Stark has a small circle of friends (also largely endearing), the story is mostly his. For the most part, his personality carries the book. It only stutters a bit at the end where all the withheld information just becomes a bit too much. But I'd recommend this to anyone who likes a bit of quirk with their sci-fi--it may not be funny, exactly, but it's consistently amusing and entertaining. And I'd be interested in reading more from MMS, if this is typical of his work....more
**spoiler alert** Permutation City takes place in the near future, in the mid twenty-first century. The big idea is that simulation technology has rea**spoiler alert** Permutation City takes place in the near future, in the mid twenty-first century. The big idea is that simulation technology has reached the point where people can make Copies of themselves digitally that are more or less as sentient as we are. Egan follows through this idea in various ways through four narrators. There's Paul Dernham, who is obsessively pursuing the technology in what he sees is the next step of humanity, through experiments that will test his sanity--or at least that of his Copies. There's Maria Deluca, who's more interested in the other side of things, the way this technology can simulate life on the smallest, microbiological scale; it's something of a hobby for her, but one that often seems more pressing than her real life. There's Thomas Riemann, a rich Copy who was made in the event of his original's death, but is still haunted by his actions in life. And there's Peer, a Copy of the digital underclass, part of a group that has cast of the shackles of material existence and the limits of the physical world. All of the characters are eventually drawn into Dernham's plan to create a new, untouchable city for Copies, one away from the fear of physical destruction. It's obviously a book of its time; in terms of tone and approach to technology, it's a nice, more realistic blend of the earlier cyberpunk cynicism and the 90s Internet euphoria. I think the pacing of the story is a little off; the first half or two thirds jump back and forth between Dernham's experiments and the present day Dernham attempting to find backers for his project, but I think it may have worked better if Dernham's attempts happened first, fully established the mystery of the character, and then we got to see behind the veil. This way, there's still mystery, but it's centered on what he learned in the experiments, rather than the character himself. I suppose that's keeping with the sort of sci-fi approach Egan is adopting, where the idea is the main focus, but it still felt a little dry. I know this sounds a bit like an insult, but I appreciate that the book is relatively brief. A lot of genre stories, when they think they have a good idea, insist on exploring it in every possible way (permutation, you might say); Permutation City knows just how much to deliver, then exist quietly. The ending is too Pyrrhic for my tastes, and it's kind of weird to see a scifi book go so far from the thriller template (it's more a world-building character piece with less than compelling characters), but I've certainly read worse. ...more
Robinson conceptualizes the settling of Mars, from the voyage of the first hundred settlers to the rising potential of a civil war. The process is excRobinson conceptualizes the settling of Mars, from the voyage of the first hundred settlers to the rising potential of a civil war. The process is exceptionally detailed: the psychological toll of the journey, the first months of set-up, the extensive terraforming, and the establishment of the space elevator. Robinson has clearly done his research here, and it shows. But at the same time, the leaps in technology are never presented as something impossible or magical; I actually found myself thinking occasionally that it didn't seem like a futuristic novel at all; everything presented seemed like a reasonable extension of today's technology. And then I had to remind myself: oh yeah, Mars. The book starts off really boldly, with a murder dozens of years into the colonies' existence then jumps back into the initial voyage. Such an extreme skip could easily wind up overplaying Robinson's hand and kill suspense, but it works because of the way he presents the novel's characters: each major section is from the perspective of a different member of the 100 (well, mostly the 100) and each one is quickly established as having a unique perspective. Maya is impulsive to everyone but herself and is trying to keep everyone together; John is the celebrity astronaut who keeps things on an even keel through force of personality as much as anything else; Nadia is the organizational, mechanical expert who spends her day managing other people's chaos (and really, it's much better done than I'm describing here). If I have a complaint (besides the portrayal of the Middle Eastern colonists being a little iffy), it's that the story is a little bloodless; the characters all have a fair degree of agency, but relatively little effect in most of the story's main beats. That's part of Robinson's point of course, that a settlement of Mars would necessarily set into motion events no one can entirely control. But it tends to change the focus from acting to surviving, and that can get a little depressing, over time. Still, though, this is one of the best crafted hard sci-fi stories I've read in a long time. ...more
Detective Inspector James Quill, intelligence analyst Sarah Ross, and undercover officers Kev Sefton and Tony Costain continue their work as London'sDetective Inspector James Quill, intelligence analyst Sarah Ross, and undercover officers Kev Sefton and Tony Costain continue their work as London's elite team of police dealing with matters of the arcane. Tensions are rising in the city as a police strike seems more and more likely, and unruly riots increase. Now, these riots are being followed by murders, and messages left in blood allude to Jack the Ripper. With matters escalating quickly, the detectives must move quickly to prevent full scale chaos or fascist retaliation. I liked this book but I think I didn't like it quite as much as the first one. Cornell's London Falling had a rough start, but escalated with a bang. Severed Streets is more even keeled throughout, never really slow, but not quite reaching the same heights. The first novel had some genuinely scary bits in it; this one has some surprising moments and terrible things *do* happen to its characters (really, really terrible), but it's threat feels a little more mundane. And Sefton in particular isn't given a lot to do. On the other hand, Cornell does a lot of world-building here, creating details clearly meant to be taken up and elaborated elsewhere. There's some great locales, in magic-based auction houses and pubs, not to mention some time spent in a very unpleasant place. And there's a celebrity guest star that Cornell is clearly having a lot of fun getting to include; his inclusion walks the line between twee and really cool, and just manages to pull it off, I think. This series was, as Cornell mentioned last book, originally meant to be a TV show; if we follow that metaphor, the first book was an explosive premiere, and this, in comparison, is a regular episode. A really good regular episode, albeit one that doesn't quite have the same goals as the original. He's already got his audience; now, it's time to build the story a bit, and the book does an excellent job of that. ...more
This is one of those books where a small part of me wonders if I'm grossly misinterpreting the author's argument, but here goes. Paik's From Utopia toThis is one of those books where a small part of me wonders if I'm grossly misinterpreting the author's argument, but here goes. Paik's From Utopia to Apocalypse rejects the fictional utopia, and by extension, any liberal politics that would call for reform yet shy away from the radical transformations necessary to deviate from the modern capitalist society. And at the same time, Paik is also rejecting ruthless pragmatism that would deny any alternatives but nihilism or fascism. Rather, he wants to examine the upheaval that precedes a massive societal shift (the catastrophe of the subtitle in other words) through examine of a series of sci-fi texts. Most of these texts are by Alan Moore; the introduction contains an extended look at Moore's Miracleman, a series which contains the creation of a utopian society, but in a way that also frames it as very ambiguous. The first chapter looks at the Watchmen, contrasting the Ozymandias' moral pragmatism with Rorschach's unflinching refusal to accept peace at that price, or the mass deception it requires. And the final chapter looks at both the Matrix in terms of the tragic tone of its prequels and the comparative failings of its conclusion and at Moore's V for Vendetta, in terms of the comparatively flaccid film and the complicity of the populace in reaching V for Vendetta's state. The middle chapters look at Jang Joon-Hwan's Save the Green Planet, and the decision to become a monstrous subject or complacent tyrant; and Miyazaki's Naussicaa of the Valley of the Wind, in terms of considering Nausicaa as a saintly figure--not one who is naive, but who perseveres despite knowing human nature and terrible truths. Paik's subject matter more or less precludes this book being a "fun" read but it is engrossing. Knowledge of any of the major works he's talking about isn't essential; Paik's great at describing them in sufficient detail that the reader doesn't feel lost. On the other hand, there is a *lot* of political theory here, and knowing a bit of, say, Agamben or Steve Shaviro or Hardt and Negri won't go amiss. I'll admit, even after reading the book, I would hesitate to say that I could sum up Paik's main point--there's a choice aside from annihilation, fascism, and tacitly endorsing either through inaction, I think. But if I was doing work on any of the main texts he used, I'd absolutely recommend the book as a starting point. And at 182 pages, it's one of the more readable 182 pages of theory I've read in a while. ...more
Call it a 3.5. I'm really torn on this book--on the one hand, I'm somewhat annoyed and frustrated with where it ends up, but on the other hand, I can'Call it a 3.5. I'm really torn on this book--on the one hand, I'm somewhat annoyed and frustrated with where it ends up, but on the other hand, I can't deny that it's just shy of 600 pages and I read it in a single sitting, which is an unprecedented level of commitment from me. Plot: Scott McGrath was a rising journalist superstar when he took on the wrong subject--reclusive underground film director/legend Stanislas Cordova. Jumping the gun on the investigation, McGrath's career takes an abrupt nosedive at the same time his marriage comes to an end. Years later, Cordova's daughter is found dead in an abandoned Manhattan warehouse, and McGrath is pulled back into Cordova's strange world. Last time, it ruined his life; this time, he might not get off so easily. While not as overtly postmodern as, say, Infinite Jest or House of Leaves, what Night Film really gets right in a way they did as well is how it captures the scene of underground cult films. Cordova, obviously, is not a real person, but he and his films feel real under Pessl's description. As the investigation deepens and Cordova's past seems to get darker and darker, she does a wonderful job of making it seem like a net's closing around McGrath. McGrath himself is essentially a variant on the world-weary private detective model, and works nicely, as do the two figures who round out his supporting cast. But without getting too many spoilers, the whole wound up being less than the sum of its parts, for me. While I can't really blame Pessl for the ending so chose--she choreographs it rather clearly several times in the book--it still left me feeling disappointed. Still, I can't deny that it was a fun ride while it lasted. Edit: I noticed one of the other reviews praising this aspect of Pessl's book, and I'd be remiss if I didn't do the same. Several times throughout the book (particularly the beginning and middle), it adopts a multimedia-type visual approach--that is, we see newspaper articles and webpages as if they were being shown to us directly, as found objects in her fictional world. It's a simple trick, but extremely effective in establishing Cordova's mystique....more
A farmer finds a boat in his backyard--buried for thousands of years, but in perfect condition. This simple discovery leads to more, and soon the entiA farmer finds a boat in his backyard--buried for thousands of years, but in perfect condition. This simple discovery leads to more, and soon the entire planet is in turmoil over the newly discovered technology. Can humanity handle the change? McDevitt's story is a bit of a bait and switch. It seems like it's setting us up for a first contact story, but it's not that, not really. Really, it's more a story about how humanity handles rapid change, especially rapid technological change. And we see that in a lot of ways: the vignette of a union rep who's concerned about what tech that never wears out will do tire sales; a stock market that drops like a stone when there's even a whiff of credibility to the idea that we'll soon have teleporters that make transportation obsolete; a president who's gone from wondering whether anyone will remember his presidency to wondering whether he's going to be remembered as the one who failed everybody. The way the book focuses on how humanity at large reacts is its strength, and, given the nature of its conclusion, it's clear McDevitt knows that. At the same time, it stumbles a bit in terms of character. McDevitt's pretty good at establishing a secondary character in fairly short order, but rounding out main characters is less of a strong suit. He develops the lead Max a bit--as a hotshot pilot with a tragic past that reveals, to him at least his true colors--but even then, he seems more a piece to move around. The focus on Native Americans is nice--much of the tech that's found is on Sioux land--but considering that our two lead POVs are white outsiders, it's hard to avoid a touch of the "noble savage" syndrome. It's also a book that's heavier on dialogue than action, but the dialogue tends to be kind of pedestrian; there's nothing particularly memorable there. All of that said, the book's climax is great, and worth the price of admission (although it would be a lot more worth it if the price was, say, a little shorter.) McDevitt's got a good grasp on the speed of information, and how difficult it is to control; I can only imagine how much faster everything would have spiralled out of control in the age of phone cameras. It's kind of interesting how the book's got what basically amounts to an anti-government perspective. Even when discussing the merits of not seizing or destroying the tech, no government official actually says that destroying them would be harmful to the future of humanity--the closest to that sentiment is those that warn the president that history would never forgive him. It's a portrayal of government that's concerned with image and short-term solutions--again, necessary, I suppose, given the story's resolution....more
Recently minted detective Eve Coffin seems like she has it made; she's singlehandedly caught a notorious serial killer. But after a near fatal shootinRecently minted detective Eve Coffin seems like she has it made; she's singlehandedly caught a notorious serial killer. But after a near fatal shooting, she resigns from the force, and returns to her home, Coffin Hill. Her family's been in the area a long time, and drawn from the power of the woods for a long time, and now, something in the woods is coming to collect. First: it's nice to see a reasonably high profile, original comic with a female creator. And Miranda's art works well to the unreal nature of Coffin Hill. As for the book itself--well, it's probably the most "Vertigo" Vertigo book I've read in a long time. That is, it's the sort of style Vertigo was originally born in: gothic, moody, with a heavy focus on witchcraft and evil; Thessaly from Sandman would not feel out of place at Coffin Hill. The book feels like a bit of a throwback on that level, though the fact that it's the older character returning to the site of her teenage transgressions helps with that. The first arc is a bit of a set-up story; you don't get much on Coffin's life as a detective, but you do get a lot of Coffin Hill's story, albeit most of it kept deliberately vague. The ratio of revelation to further questions didn't quite work for me, and while the initial flashback to a teenage Eve worked great, there was a sense of diminishing returns on later ones. I think the big problem here is that there are two characters that really jumped out at me: Eve herself, and her grandmother's story at the end set decades ago. I cared about what happens to Eve, but the rest of the town wasn't really interesting. Still, there was enough here to make me think favorably of reading more issues. A good Halloween time read. ...more