As the editor, of course I'm going to give this a five-star review. I hope everyone else will too.
The authors, artists and proofreaders involved in th...moreAs the editor, of course I'm going to give this a five-star review. I hope everyone else will too.
The authors, artists and proofreaders involved in this project all donated their words and work. Every cent that comes in in "royalties" (in other words, everything beyond CreateSpace's cut) will be donated to the American Cancer Society via the Relay For Life program.
Please consider buying a copy. Please consider boosting the signal to your friends, family, coworkers, etc.
As of today, only a print edition is available via Amazon, but the print will be available via Barnes & Noble and other outlets soon, and a Kindle edition should also be available in the next week or so.(less)
It's always nice when the creators of a monthly comic series have enough warning to wrap up their lead plot and all of their subplots in what feels li...moreIt's always nice when the creators of a monthly comic series have enough warning to wrap up their lead plot and all of their subplots in what feels like an organic manner. This final volume of the trilogy wraps all of Gillen's storylines up nicely, and at least implies that Gillen & McElvie knew all along that 15 issues was all they were getting. Everything comes together in the effort to finally stop Mother from destroying the team and the Earth. The journey to this point, told in the previous volumes, may have felt both rushed and convoluted at points, but the climax of the story is solidly paced with plenty of character growth, including a great pair of end scenes (one with the team, one with Loki) that made me chuckle and say "awwww, how sweet" while at the same time realizing just how far comics have come that a book can have a cast composed mostly of non-straight characters and still be widely praised. Not for that reason alone is this one of my favorite rosters for the YA since the original roster (although I do still miss Cassie Lang, Patriot and Teen Vision).
Throughout the issues collected here, McElvie's art continues to push the standard comic book borders in concert with Gillen's script calling for sections of the story to be told in text, tweet or Tumblr post format rather than the comics standard. In retrospect, writer and artist really made for a solid team on this book, and one wishes they could have kept at it for a while longer. (I'm guessing the end-date was mandated by Marvel to fit with their plans for the no-longer-Kid Loki's solo book, as well as in preparation/response to whatever Crossover Event was happening at the time.) McElvie's work here makes you pay attention. Not every current comics artist achieves that, regardless of the level of detail in their art.(less)
A third installment that feels like a final installment. One gets the impression reading Hammered that Kevin Hearne wasn’t really sure Del Ray would p...moreA third installment that feels like a final installment. One gets the impression reading Hammered that Kevin Hearne wasn’t really sure Del Ray would publish more than three books, so he ties up a number of characterizational and plot threads from Hounded and Hexed in this book, Atticus’ debts to Leif Helgarson and to the witch Laksha being the biggest and most tied to the main action of the book. There is some lip-service mid-book and again at the end towards setting up where Atticus would go from here should the series continue (which it did, with book 7 just recently coming out in hardcover). In the first half of the book, Atticus ties up a lot of his personal loose ends just in case he’s not going to survive the trip to Asgard, and he’s visited by a number of well-meaning supernatural friends who try to warn him off of the course of action he’s undertaking (at least one cameo made me chuckle out loud, and I don’t want to ruin that appearance for anyone).
Atticus’ devotion to being honorable, to keeping his word, gets him into a load of trouble throughout the book and at least once puts him in an untenable situation that doesn’t necessarily resolve satisfactorily for the reader (involving the fate of one of the Norse goddesses); I’ve seen a number of reviews that concur with me on this point but again, giving details would count as a spoiler. I’m hoping this decision of Atticus’ is revisited later in the series, that he realizes just how bad of a call it was (even if it might have turned out okay in the end) even under the guise of “do anything to keep my word.”
In fact, in comparison to the fairly light-hearted, often outright humorous, tone of the first two books, Hammered is almost completely dark. The few funny moments are, as I mentioned, chuckle-out-loud funny, but they are very few. From the start, author and Atticus alike know this is a bad path to walk down: bad choices bring Atticus to even worse choices. Knowing the series has continued, I can only assume the repercussions of this are felt. In my review of Hexed, I complained that unlike Harry Dresden in his first few books, Atticus O’Sullivan is perhaps just too all-powerful. In Hammered, we see that Atticus’ power-level and experience are just as much of a problem as Harry’s early low power and lack of experience, and perhaps even moreso as Atticus is able to do things (like kill gods,plural) that invite much worse things to follow.
If the novel stumbles anywhere, it’s in the third quarter: when the vampire, the werewolf, the forgotten god, the sorcerer and the Asian mystic each recount why they want to kill Thor, the novel plods almost to a halt. I’m not sure there was any better way to info-dump the characters’ motivations, and Hearne at least attempts to couch the storytelling as a necessity for Atticus’ binding spell to move them all to the Asgardian plane, but this reader grew very impatient reading through them. (less)
My review of Scruffians! was posted on Strange Horizons (http://www.strangehorizons.com/review...) on June 27, 2014. Click the link to get to it. Suff...moreMy review of Scruffians! was posted on Strange Horizons (http://www.strangehorizons.com/review...) on June 27, 2014. Click the link to get to it. Suffice to say, at four stars, I enjoyed the book. Also suffice to say, I would greatly enjoy seeing Duncan further explore the urban fantasy world he establishes in these stories. Individual reviews of each story in the collection will eventually be forthcoming on my short story LJ community, http://365shortstories.livejournal.com/.
It should be noted that I reviewed an ARC of the paperback edition; the hardcover special edition has one additional story I have not read.(less)
I've been dragging my heels on this review, concerned about how to avoid spoilers for folks that aren't up to, or just have not yet read, the present...moreI've been dragging my heels on this review, concerned about how to avoid spoilers for folks that aren't up to, or just have not yet read, the present book. Then I reread the book synopsis and realized there's plenty to discuss within what the author and publisher revealed, and plenty to say about the character and pacing, without giving away any of the excellent plot twists and turns.
And there are plots twists and turns. Reading the book, I felt like I was on one of those movie studio back lot tour rides, where you're going alone nice and sane and then suddenly you're immersed in an earthquake, a shark attack, an alien invasion, a highway accident ... and then the ride turns into a rollercoaster with back-to-back loop-de-loops. Because of course, despite the book cover description, nothing is ever as it seems in a Dresden File: what Harry thinks he's gotten into is never as bad as what he's really involved in. And this time, that "unable to see the trees while he's in the forest" problem Harry has actually extends into several of the sub-plots, which I'm not sure has really happened before. I believe this is an authorial choice -- Harry's world has gotten so complicated and he's missed out on a lot of developments due to that whole period where he was sorta dead plus, as we learn at the start of the book, in self-exile on Demonreach for close to a year; Those periods combined have to have affected his ability to read people and to connect-the-dots, even beyond the debilitating headaches Harry's been experiencing since the conclusion of the previous book -- and I think Harry's perceptive/deductive skills are going to get worse before they get better.
The main plot is such a classic heist film I have to wonder how many of those films Butcher watched as research. It's a caper, complete with all the double-crosses and hidden agendas one would expect; the surprises and reverses are played out expertly and, in my mind, fairly played. I'm pretty sure if I go back and reread the book, every hint necessary to figure out what's going on is there, just where Butcher/Harry says they are. In addition to being a caper and despite the pedal-to-the-metal pacing, the book has a very noir feel and I kept expecting Robert Mitchum to show up.
Characterization-wise, several characters we haven't seen take the focus in a while get some solid moments, in particular Waldo Butters and Michael Carpenter. Of course there's some great interplay with Karin Murphy, and Harry appropriately brings the snark whenever he's around Nicodemus so those scenes are especially fun to read. The dialogue (and Harry's internal monologue) is as crisp as ever. There are some fist-pump-at-the-sky moments, and there are some moments of real heartbreak (I don't think it's possible for a Dresden File to not include heartbreaking moments at this point). For long time readers, there are some simmering sub-plots that finally come to a head ... but just as many new sub-plots are introduced, most spinning out of the answers and/or closure of those other sub-plots.
I don't think I can say more without spoiling actual plot moments.(less)
From the late 70's through the early 90's, I probably bought every comic DC and Marvel put out. Didn't matter if it was super-heroes, war, western, ho...moreFrom the late 70's through the early 90's, I probably bought every comic DC and Marvel put out. Didn't matter if it was super-heroes, war, western, horror ... about the only thing I stayed away from was the romance titles, and those were pretty much gone by the mid-70's anyway. I enjoyed the non-super stuff just as much as the super, and titles like Weird War Tales (and Marvel's War Is Hell, which didn't last as long) really clicked with me. Being also a fan of the Universal monster movies of the 30s (Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman), high school me (the stories were originally published in 1980-83) was probably the ideal audience for the Creature Commandos, and I ate up every issue in which they appeared (not that I didn't love Jake, the G.I. Robot). That massive comics collection has been whittled away over the years, and I have no idea when I sold off all of the war and western titles but I always regretted selling off the issues with the Creature Commandos.
This collection brings all of those stories back -- some were full-issue-length, some were 8 pages or so -- and while I'm glad I picked it up, the nostalgic glow is a little tarnished. Read back-to-back, the plots feel a bit repetitive in theme and formulaic in execution. They can be summed up as: Human commander berates his "freak" squad as they embark on a mission; mission involves saving normal humans from some unusual/supernatural foe; normal humans freak out when they learn they've been saved by "monsters;" human commander reminds the CC they'll never have a real life. Even when Shrieve seems to learn his lesson, to see past the scarred/monstrous exteriors to the truly good men (and woman) within, the lesson doesn't last long. (It is somewhat telling that even in the one page "series finale," thrown together to write the characters off with Weird War Tales' cancellation before DC's big Crisis on Infinite Earths, the CC and GI Robot are about to be executed by firing squad, and Shrieve's only action is to reprieve them ... so they can be sent on an experimental ICBM aimed at Hitler's Chancellory.) Still, the characters (other then Shrieve) do experience some growth before the end of the run, despite the writing chores bouncing between DeMatteis, Kanigher and Mike W. Barr.
The art is a bit all over the place, as is to be expected from a monthly anthology title. While Fred Carrillo seems to have drawn the majority of the stories (in a style reminiscent of the great Ernie Colon: sketchy yet detailed), there's also stories drawn by Pat Broderick (not his best work), Bob Hall, Dan Speigle (who most humanized the Commandos, in my opinion; this was around the time he was doing such great work on Blackhawk as well), and even some inking by Jerry Ordway that I wonder if he even remembers doing. Then there were the issue covers: the Commandos had the honor of being drawn by the great Joe Kubert on their very first cover, but also by Ross Andru, Rich Buckler, Jim Aparo (one of my favorites of the non-Kubert covers), Joe Staton and Gil Kane (another favorite). I do wish some of those guys had done some of the actual story art.(less)
Full disclosure: Kate Fox is a dear friend from high school with whom I'd only recently regained contact with when she was diagnosed with breast cance...moreFull disclosure: Kate Fox is a dear friend from high school with whom I'd only recently regained contact with when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. We are both cancer survivors (in my case, colon cancer). I handled my diagnosis, surgery and chemo by blogging about it on my livejournal and joking about it in real life; Kate turned introspective and journaled her experience, from diagnosis through mid-reconstruction, via her poetry. She has always been a poet; I have always been a proser (is that a word? It should be.). Kate's words in this slim, emotional volume are concise and to the point; the poems are in the moment and of the moment, not "epic poetry." This makes each poem real and relatable even to folks like me who are not normally poetry fans. People who have experienced breast cancer specifically will recognize Kate's moods and concerns as their own (thought not all breast cancer experiences are exactly the same); people who have been diagnosed with other forms of cancer will be able to relate; people who have sat and watched a loved one go through diagnosis, chemo, surgery and recovery will likewise find familiarity in these poems.(less)
Lawrence Block is now so well-known as the creator of series characters Matthew Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr and Evan Tanner that people forget his earl...moreLawrence Block is now so well-known as the creator of series characters Matthew Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr and Evan Tanner that people forget his early years as an author were spent writing material that sat firmly in the soft-core porn realm. Unlike a lot of authors who would prefer those early, pseudonymous, works remain lost, Block has been gleefully bringing everything he’s ever written back in print, from stamp-collecting columns to sex advice manuals to pulp/porn like this book. Some of it Block has self-pubbed in ebook format, and some he’s allowed Charles Ardai and the other good folks at Hard Case Crime to bring back in print. This edition includes the short novel described above (originally published in paperback as Border Lust 50 years ago) and three other short stories from the same period.
Borderline itself is exactly what it purports to be: an ensemble piece that hinges on the sexual appetites of the characters. As such, it moves fast and doesn’t delve too deep. The five main characters are well-drawn and distinct enough that they feel like real people instead of just porn archetypes. I might not particularly have liked Marty, Lily, or Meg (I don’t think Block intends you to like them, honestly), but at least I wasn’t bored by them; Block’s penchant for making even unlikeable characters interesting is what set his books in this realm apart from most of what was published (and subsequently lost) in the genre at the time. The newly-minted serial killer Weaver is the darkest aspect of the novel, and in Weaver’s scenes Block pulls no punches – the violence is raw and brutally described and little is left to the imagination; my stomach lurched in one particular scene. Only Cassie, the redhead, feels like a one-note character present mostly to move the plot along – and that could be because of the five main characters, Cassie is the only one not given her own POV scenes; all we know about her we learn through Lily’s eyes.
The back half of the book contains three short stories of the period. One is about a pyromaniac, one is about a meet-cute in a roadside bar, and one is a straight-up private detective story. The first two have sexual components to them (one emotional, one overt) that link them at least thematically with the main novel. The third, ”The Stag Girl,” does a nice job of teasing the reader with ‘will they or won’t they’ at least in terms of one particular couple, but otherwise the mystery is the main point of the story. (less)
I've been enjoying the Whyborne & Griffin adventures all along, and the fourth book in the series is no exception. Hawk has worked steadily over t...moreI've been enjoying the Whyborne & Griffin adventures all along, and the fourth book in the series is no exception. Hawk has worked steadily over the course of the series to expand the world her characters experience, and to pull them out of their established comfort zones. In this book, Griffin must cope with parental and sibling dynamics that call into question his own current family state and confront his fear of underground; the normally homebody Whyborne must contend with traveling not only out of his home town of Widdershins (as he did in the novel Threshold) but to an entirely different continent; and Christine must come to terms with the fact that there may very well be a man in the world who loves her for who she is rather than for who society says she should be.
Yes, in this book Christine finally, sort of, gets some romance of her own rather than just being the "beard" for Whyborne or Griffin on any particular occasion. I enjoyed watching Christine be flustered over how to relate to Iskander, who may or may not actually be a part of their team. It's not a spoiler to say that Iskander's, and others', motives are in question -- a hallmark of this series is whether anyone outside of the core three characters can ever be trusted. Every new character introduced comes with a giant "Friend Or Foe?" over their heads.
The characters also have to deal with the ghosts of their recent, and not-so-recent, pasts: family and relationship drama abounds (and of course Whyborne and Griffin find convenient, and not-so, places to have sex; it's an expected part of the book and Hawk does craft convincing sex scenes that are also romantic), but so does the specter of all of the horror the characters have now experienced. This new adventure builds on small threads from each of the first three novels, most especially Christine's on-going exploration of the legend of the Egyptian "dark pharoah" Nephren-Ka, but introduces an interesting twist in the form of our first female evil figure: Nitocris, also of ancient Egypt. The Nitocris and Nephren-Ka legends interweave with each other and the present lives of our heroes in ways that keep the reader motivated to see what the true outcome of the book is going to be.
The Whyborne & Griffin books take place at a time when the world was changing, when electric light was illuminating all of the dark places and giving evil fewer places to hide ... so Hawk smartly whisks her characters out of "modern" Widdershins into a place where electricity and running water and all the comforts of home are hard to come by, where the Lovecraftian horrors of the series have a stronger hand. A great way to shake up the series and increase the characters' growth.(less)
This is the first Man From UNCLE novel I've read, so I can't weigh it against the others in the series. However, it is the entry in the series that co...moreThis is the first Man From UNCLE novel I've read, so I can't weigh it against the others in the series. However, it is the entry in the series that comes the most highly recommended by my friends who love, as I do, the concept of fictional characters from different franchises co-existing in the same world. Fans of Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Family concept or Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic books will equally enjoy this UNCLE adventure in which Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin meet a plethora of British spy and detective types, including (but not always identified by name) Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Father Brown, John Steed & Emma Peel, and Simon Templar. There are even a few scenes with the notorious Doctor Fu Manchu. Readers who love picking out veiled (and not-so-veiled) references such as these will get extra enjoyment out of the book.
It's been a long time since I've seen any episodes of the television series (although this book prompted me to buy the Complete Series on dvd recently), but both Solo and Kuryakin and their boss Mister Waverly seem entirely in character throughout the book.
It's a breezy read, fun and fast-moving. The Affair is not an especially complicated one: locate the man responsible for planning The Great Train Robbery among other crimes, a man who does not want to be found and who does not want his autonomy compromised by organizations like UNCLE and THRUSH, and bring him to justice or at least convince him not to partner with THRUSH. There are a few cute turns of events but nothing especially surprising.(less)
I didn't have the pleasure of reading Rose Marshall's story when it first appeared in serialized form on the Edge of Propinquity website, so everythi...more I didn't have the pleasure of reading Rose Marshall's story when it first appeared in serialized form on the Edge of Propinquity website, so everything in this book was new to me (whereas some of it might have been old news to long-time McGuire fans). There were some very pleasant surprises and reveals throughout, and even a somewhat subtle connection to McGuire's InCryptid books, which I really love. (I think there's also a solid connection to McGuire's short story "Homecoming" from the September 2013 issue of Lightspeed magazine, but I don't think the author's confirmed that one yet.)
Rose Marshall herself is a fascinating focal character, and with a small exception here or there, the novel is told in first person from her point of view. It's not easy to write a character who is forever sixteen but has been around for seventy-something years and manage to keep her feeling young without also having her feel too precocious. McGuire walks that line by showing us in various flashbacks how Rose was as a living teenager versus a newly-minted road ghost versus how she is now.
It's also not necessarily easy to take short stories that were published independently of each other and whip them into shape as a cohesive novel; sometimes the cracks show no matter what the author does. Not so here; if any massaging of the serialized website version was done for the print edition (such as removing repetitive "here's what happened last month" info-dumps), it wasn't noticeable to this reader as it has been in similar books I've read.
The time-jumps in each section of the story also build the reader's suspense, not only about what actually happened that night on Sparrow Hill Road, but also about how Rose has "lived" (for lack of a better term) from then to now. The constant jumping around might annoy some readers, but it kept my attention and enhanced the world-building with plenty of small "a-ha" moments as I made connections Rose herself hadn't necessarily revealed yet or as connections I hadn't made became evident.
Rose is the narrator but she's far from the only well-developed character: McGuire takes the time to develop the demonic Bobby Cross, the baen sidhe (and proprietess of the Last Chance Diner) Emma, and several other supporting characters who become more or less important to Rose's story as it jumps from present to past and back again.
I'm always enamored of McGuire's world-building, whether it's in the Toby Daye books or Incryptid or in self-contained short stories. Here, she takes various ghostly urban legends (like "the girl who just needs a ride home / a ride to prom") and spins a whole universe of different types of traveling ghosts out of them, with her own unique touch. Around the ghosts, McGuire also creates various cultures that interact with road ghosts and with the roads themselves: ambulomancers, routewitches, trainspotters and umbramancers. The routewitches are the most well-developed because of the way their own cultural story connects so deeply to Rose's personal journey; I'm hoping that in future volumes (and clearly I'm hoping there will be future volumes), McGuire will likewise develop the ambulomancers, trainspotters and umbramancers.(less)