Most of the Young Adult fiction I've read in the past decade or so has either been fantasy based (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson) or dystopian (Hunger G...more Most of the Young Adult fiction I've read in the past decade or so has either been fantasy based (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson) or dystopian (Hunger Games). It was a nice change-of-pace to read a YA (or what I guess is now called "New Adult") set in the "real world," even if it is the real world of almost 80 years ago. The book is a fast, easy read, taking place over the course of one solid week and told strictly from the point of view of narrator Richard Samuels. Samuels is an endearing character: bright, insecure-yet-bold, recognizable. As so many of us experienced in our teens, Richard finds it easier to take chances and be bold when he's around people who don't really know him, and is far more insecure when he encounters similar situations in which his friends are involved. And of course, he doesn't treat his parents with half the thought and care he should. His week with the Mercury Theater teaches him the reality of who he is versus who he thinks he wants to be (and how not-so-different those persons are) and lessons about how to deal with people when you're not a singular personality like Orson Welles.
There were dozens of laugh-out-loud moments mixed in with the drama. Kaplow strikes a nice balance between the two extremes and never veers too far in one direction or another. And he captures so well the sense of what it must have been like to see that opening night performance of Welles' Julius Caesar.
I have no idea how well this book translated to film (starring Zac Efron as Richard, with Claire Danes and Christian McKay), but the book is a solid, enjoyable read that I think anyone who has been an teen actor (or any parent who has a teen actor child) would enjoy.(less)
These are four novellas set during the final episode of the series to feature Matt Smith's version of The Doctor (or Eleven, as we call him). Overall,...moreThese are four novellas set during the final episode of the series to feature Matt Smith's version of The Doctor (or Eleven, as we call him). Overall, the stories do not contain any spoilers for the Big Events of that finale episode (titled "The Time of the Doctor") other than the cover blurb which declares "The Eleventh Doctor's Last Stand.
My major quibble with the stories, which I'll address individually in a moment, is a slight internal inconsistency: no matter which time period during The Doctor's stay on Trenzalore the story is set in, the human inhabitants of the town of Christmas are perpetually amazed that something(s) from outer space has landed on the planet. First of all, if memory serves, the settlement on Trenzalore was a colony itself -- that fact alone should negate any character claiming that visitors from outer space are an impossibility. Second of all, the television episode during which these stories are set makes it clear that there are regular -- as in yearly, if not monthly -- attacks by various of The Doctor's enemies who manage to slip through the no-technology cordon erected by the Papal Mainframe --- this also should negate any character thinking any alien creature is native; these people should constantly be on the lookout for signs of the next infiltration.
Beyond that minor quibble, I enjoyed the stories well enough.
LET IT SNOW by Justin Richards The villains in this piece are the Ice Warriors, ancient Martians who can withstand long periods in hibernation in utter cold, which enables them to pass the Mainframe's "no technology" barrier by falling through it encrusted in ice. Their plan is to turn the town of Christmas' "snow making machines" against it and bury the city, and the Doctor, in a devastating avalanche untraceable to them. The fun part of this story is how The Doctor manipulates the Ice Warriors. Very well done, that part.
AN APPLE A DAY by George Mann The Krynoid, a plant-based alien lifeform I don't recall seeing/reading about before, is the villain in a story that draws on various "green man" myths and The Doctor's relationship with kids to add some tension. It's a fun, fast-paced adventure.
STRANGERS IN THE OUTLAND by Paul Finch This one attempts to explore part of Trenzalore outside of the town of Christmas. We didn't see anything of the rest of the planet in "The Time of the Doctor," and very little of what it might have looked like pre-war in "The Name of the Doctor," (the only other episode in which the planet appeared). There seems to be some disagreement among the authors as to whether the entire planet is icy or not (if it is, as in this story, then why the need for the snow farm mentioned in other stories herein?). The Autons are the villains of the piece, although we really see very little of them; the story is more a "survival amid the elements / attack by outside forces" tale and is a solid one for that aspect. The subplot introduced at the beginning -- that the invaders look just like The Doctor, is a threat not really followed up on.
THE DREAMING by Mark Morris Some of the scariest Doctor Who stories are those that touch on the supernatural, as this one does with The Mara invading the dreams of various inhabitants of the town of Christmas and controlling their minds with the intent of turning them against the Doctor. Morris builds the tension very well by bouncing between a few points of view and by infusing the story with some historical information about the settlement on Trenzalore (rather that the purely geographical explorations of the other stories).
I think the second and fourth stories are my favorites, with "Strangers" coming in third and "Let It Snow" feeling the weakest of the four.(less)
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)