After getting burned five or six times, I pay little attention to what's going on in the Star Wars Extended Universe. Except when it comes to X-Wings.After getting burned five or six times, I pay little attention to what's going on in the Star Wars Extended Universe. Except when it comes to X-Wings. Yes, my favorite Star Wars character, in the entirety of the canon, is Wedge Antilles. And yet I'd never gotten around to reading the X-Wing comics. This was very, very bad of me, and I'm trying to fix it now.
The Omnibus collects three of the X-Wing miniseries, plus a character guide to the series. They're all set very, very shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi, immediatly after The Truce at Bakura. It might help to have read that book beforehand, but I never have and I did just fine. Everything that's really important (namely, that the war isn't over because the Emperor is dead) is covered on the page. These are, for the most part, totally different Rogues than are seen in the comics. Wedge, Hobbie, Wes, and Tycho are all here, of course, but otherwise totally new characters to me. Not a bad thing.
The first of the minis, Rogue Leader, is by Haden Blackman. It's just ok. Basically without substance. Luckily, it's short. The next two are great improvements. Both The Rebel Opposition and The Phantom Affair are co-written by Michael A Stackpole, who would go on to write the Rogue Squadron books. The Rebel Opposition is co-written by Mike Baron, and is the lesser of the two. The plot doesn't really do anything for me, and it's honestly a bit shallow. The Phantom Affair (co-written by Darko Macan), on the other hand, is more like the Rogue books I've read. It's got the action and characters that I'm used to reading about in an X-Wing book.
The art... Well. Rogue Leader's art is serviceable, but not terribly good. The Rebel Opposition's art is frankly pretty terrible. Tycho looks oddly like Luke Skywalker, and Winter, who is supposed to look like Leia, doesn't. However, it had at least one fantastic cover by Dave Dorman. That beautiful, iconic painting of Wedge on a backdrop of X-Wings? My favorite piece of Star Wars art? This is where it came from. The Phantom Affair, finally, has decent art.
If I were rating these minis seperately, Rogue Leader would be a 3 (I'm grading a curve, because it's Rogues), The Rebel Opposition a 3.5, and The Phantom Affair a solid 4. I'm upgrading the whole collection to a 4 because it's Rogues, and I'm biased.
Oh, and that Rogue Squadon Handbook at the end? If you're reading the Rogue comics for the first time, then for the love of God, don't read it. It was published way after the minis collected here, and has spoilers for future comics. I have no idea what it's doing here, but it was a bad, bad, bad idea to include it. It should have been put at the end of the last omnibus instead....more
Crisis on Infinite Earths is unquestionably a landmark moment in the history of DC, and comics in general. At this point, the expectations for new reaCrisis on Infinite Earths is unquestionably a landmark moment in the history of DC, and comics in general. At this point, the expectations for new readers are either sky-high or in the basement. The reality is somewhere in between.
First of all, this is such a product of its time that it's kind of funny. Lots of dated posturing, dated art, and really dated character designs. But the art really is quite good, for the time. And the concept is ambitious enough that I'm able to forgive quite a bit in execution. But it's also repetitive and neck deep in exposition. It's a long book, and it feels it. But it sure was a heck of an idea....more
"I'd ask you to think outside the box on this, but obviously your box is broken. And has schizophrenia."
Lab Rat is an incredibly short online comic t"I'd ask you to think outside the box on this, but obviously your box is broken. And has schizophrenia."
Lab Rat is an incredibly short online comic that serves as both backstory to and bridging material between Portal and Portal 2. There's no point in adding any more plot details. If you've played Portal, I don't need to, and if you haven't, you should. The Portal series is one of my favorites, and so I can't be objective enough to write a decent review. It's true to the games, the art is great and suits the storyline perfectly, and it's quite well-written. Also, it's free to read online. ...more
Let's be perfectly honest: the only reason to read these old Wonder Woman stories is historical curiosity. Or at least the only reason for me: althougLet's be perfectly honest: the only reason to read these old Wonder Woman stories is historical curiosity. Or at least the only reason for me: although I love the Golden Age heroes, the Golden Age stories usually fall flat for me, and probably for many modern readers. In many ways, Wonder Woman is a reverse of the stereotypical Superman format: here, it's the woman who's strong, smart, and capable, and the man who needs to be rescued. That was, of course, the point. Marston's creation was pretty feminist for his day, and it's an idea that we still don't see enough of: the woman who has physical strength and power and is attractive in part because of that strength. These are the good things to take from early Wonder Woman, the character herself. ...more
When I was first considering this "read every crossover event in the history of the DCU" project, I kept seeing variations of "read the Countdown bookWhen I was first considering this "read every crossover event in the history of the DCU" project, I kept seeing variations of "read the Countdown books, they're better". And I did read the Countdown books. And they are better. In fact, they're almost all really good. Which begs the question: would Infinite Crisis have been (kind of) disappointing if I hadn't read the Countdown books? Probably not.
The problem with a traditional crossover event, like the original Crisis and Infinite Crisis, is that they tend to be very ambitious in scope. Huge, cosmic plots, with massive casts of characters. How many established DCU characters showed up in Infinite Crisis? I couldn't even hazard a guess. The huge number of characters in particular crowds out the storyline and muffles the impact. Identity Crisis avoided it by using a much smaller cast.
The writing is, overall, fairly decent. Superboy Prime's character arc is... abrupt, to me. But huge cosmic implications aside, there is a much more intimate heart to the story. Superman and Lois Lane from Earth-2, and their reunion with Power Girl, for example. It keeps it human, and honest. So that is at least a mark above the original Crisis. And I have to say that I liked the ending.
The art is good, but it's often buried under the weight of what it needs to convey. Some incredibly crowded panels here. The best work is, of course, the panels that don't require as much, well, stuff.
Infinite Crisis is not bad. It's probably better than Crisis on Infinite Earths. But it's not as good as the Countdown trades, and I'd honestly rather read most of those again....more
All of the Imagineering Field Guides do essentially the same thing: they give you a virtual imagineer lead tour through one of the Disney parks. I'veAll of the Imagineering Field Guides do essentially the same thing: they give you a virtual imagineer lead tour through one of the Disney parks. I've never been to Disneyland (it's sad, isn't it?) and so can't compare to my memories of the place. So it didn't work quite as well for me as it did with the others in this series I've read, all set at parks that I have vivid memories of. If I ever get out to Disneyland (not if! when!) I might want to bring this along so I can make comparisons. Of course, this is really for the Disneyphile, and it doesn't serve as any sort of guidebook for the park.
Side note: Obviously, California Adventures isn't included in here, but it doesn't seem like there's any intent to make a DCA volume of the series. I just found that interesting....more
I think I expected this to be mindless fluff, entirely disposable and without any redeeming characteristics. And ok, it kind of is. But it's also a loI think I expected this to be mindless fluff, entirely disposable and without any redeeming characteristics. And ok, it kind of is. But it's also a lot better than anything called Marvel Zombies has any right to be.
It's obviously an excuse to see familiar faces in zombie disguise, but shockingly, it would also work nearly as well with entirely original characters. Yes, it's even more amusing that it's Spider-Man who ate his wife and aunt (and feels terrible about it, really) but that scene would be every bit as enjoyable with an original character. This is good: if the only appeal was seeing old friends zombified, it would get boring really fast.
As far as I know, this is a unique take on zombies. They eat people, sure, but when they're full they know what they did and at least feel a little bad about it. But they get hungry, and only humans will fulfill that hunger. They just can't help what they need. Zombies as metaphor for drug addiction isn't exactly new, but the cycle they go through here isn't something I've seen before. What the zombies do and say in their lucid, post-feeding moments are the most chilling moments in the book.
Also different is that this is a post-apocalypse story. The zombies have risen, and they've won. Now what? They're still hungry, and zombies taste terrible.
This isn't exactly a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, but it's way better than I could have ever expected it to be. It's worth a read, as long as you can take the gore....more
If you're a fan of The Guild web show (and who isn't?) this is really a must read. It's the prequel to the show, explaining how poor Cyd got involvedIf you're a fan of The Guild web show (and who isn't?) this is really a must read. It's the prequel to the show, explaining how poor Cyd got involved with her guild. The writing is exactly what you'd expect from the show (it is written by Felicia Day, of course), and the art is great. I especially liked that there are two distinct styles for what happens in the real world and what happens in the game. Really well-done, especially for a tie-in....more
A Mass Effect tie in, set between the events of the first and second games. We all know that it was Liara who retrieved Shep's body and delivered it tA Mass Effect tie in, set between the events of the first and second games. We all know that it was Liara who retrieved Shep's body and delivered it to Cerberus, and most of what happened on that mission. This comic fills in the very few blanks. It's a lot less necessary than the other ME tie ins that I've read, that there's not a lot of added information. We do, however, get to meet a salarian that could give a krogan a tough time, so that was fun. Liara was somewhat out of character here, very erratic and really failing to think her actions through. I can chalk that up to grief, though, at least partially. Of all of the Mass Effect comics and books I've read so far, it's probably my least favorite, but I did still like it. Looks like I'll take anything as long as it's set in that universe....more
I probably don't need to say that this book is only for Mass Effect fans, but I'll say it anyways. I doubt anyone who isn't already a fan of Mass EffeI probably don't need to say that this book is only for Mass Effect fans, but I'll say it anyways. I doubt anyone who isn't already a fan of Mass Effect could get really invested here.
This book could be subtitled The Complete History of Why Anderson and Saren Hate Each Other's Guts. Yes, it's the full story of Anderson's failed Spectre attempt, and exactly how Saren screwed it up. It is interested to see a pre-Sovreign Saren, and see exactly how ruthless and morally bankrupt he already was. There wasn't far to go for him. It was also good to see a slightly younger Anderson in action. The storyline itself is fast-paced and, for the most part, engaging. There is one character who gets stuck with the Idiot Ball (view spoiler)[but that's probably because of Reaper indoctrination so it actually makes sense (hide spoiler)].
At times, the author (who did indeed write for the game) would get caught up in giving us loads and loads of background information. There are huge chunks of exposition in here. This is what makes the book fans only: only a fan would care to read through such detailed explanations. On the other hand, a fan has likely read these or similar descriptions in in the in-game journal entries. Lots of it was familiar to me, but I didn't particularly care. For an exposition dump, it was done rather well, and I'm personally pretty invested in this setting already.
For Mass Effect fans, this is a must-read. There's a lot of backstory revealed here, and it adds a ton of context to what we see happening in the games. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This may be the geekiest book that I've ever read. The story is set almost entirely in Oasis, a sort of World of Warcraft on steroids. The Oasis is anThis may be the geekiest book that I've ever read. The story is set almost entirely in Oasis, a sort of World of Warcraft on steroids. The Oasis is an entirely immersive VR simulator, which is so awesome it's managed to license content from basically everything good. In practice, this means that I could spend Monday flying my X Wing into battle against geth and Tuesday riding my unicorn across Middle Earth with my trusty vorpal sword in hand. I bet I could even spend Wednesday in early 19th century Paris, fighting with Les Amis on the barricades. Thursday? Thursday is TARDIS day. (I want this game. NOW.) The entire setup is steeped in 80s nostalgia, of course, and with good reason. The designer of the Oasis, James Halliday, has died, and left his entire fortune, and control of the Oasis itself, to whoever can find his Easter egg first. And the key will be understanding Halliday's own nerdy obsessions, which are grounded in the 80s. Which means that being skilled at Pac Man could win you billions.
This is nerd porn at its finest, and as a second-generation nerd, pure heaven for me. At least half the joy of the book is the references, which are fast and furious. And the author trusts (and knows!) his audience enough to not insert a bunch of, "Star Wars, right?" comments. He knows we know, and if we don't, then that line just isn't for us. But that really is only half the joy. The storyline itself takes elite gaming to a new level by giving it realistic, real world consequences. There's the money, of course, but there's also control of the Oasis, and a truly evil villain (in this case, an evil megacorp) to struggle against. There are a few pvp battles, but it's mostly solitary pursuits getting people through the contest. And somehow, Cline managed to ramp the tension up even on those.
Our narrator is the hero of the piece, Wade Watts. He has one of the most authentically nerdy voices I've read recently. Early on, he has an argument with a friend over the relative merits of the movie Ladyhawke, and it's pitch perfect. My friend and I just had essentially this exact same argument over Dragon Age II last night. Wade has a nicely done and very believable character arc, moving him from a true Oasis obsessive to... more. Much more.
But no, it's not perfect. The narration could be really repetitive. In a relatively early scene, Wade has found a dungeon based off of an old D&D module. And that? That is awesome. But I did get tired of hearing how each individual element was "exactly like the original module" over and over again. And again. And again. Considering how much of the hunt for the egg was spent playing in other people's sandboxes, that happened much more often than I would like. It made those chunks of narration drag.
This is kind of a nitpick, because it doesn't have much impact on the story as a whole. Now, I'm not a player of MMOs, so I'm speaking from my experiences as a more traditional gamer. (Everything I know about MMOs I learned from Kingdom of Loathing and The Guild.) It seems to me that Oasis is really tough on the noobs, implausibly so. From what I can gather from Wade's narration and experiences, when a new avatar is created, it shows up on a planet that has nothing but shops, and with no in-game money (credits, of course). Credits are needed to go anywhere else in the Oasis, including anywhere that might have some XP. The only way to get credits at this stage of the game is to use real-world money to buy credits. And this is the point where I think the Oasis would have some problems appealing to the wide variety of people it apparently does. Low-income gamers, for one. Unless I'm missing something, a gamer with no real-world money to invest in the Oasis would spend their entire experience stranded in a giant shopping mall, with no way to leave or purchase anything. That would suck. A more plausible setup would be for low-level gamers to have free access to a planet with low-level enemies and loot. Not only does this make the entire game more accessible for those with no money to spend on a game, it also acts as a hook, to get people addicted. It also seems like players need a huge amount of XP to gain even lower levels. (At one point, Wade mentions having spent entire weekends slaying kobolds, and he's still only level 3.) This would easily frustrate a lot of players. Most games require small amounts of XP to get the first few levels, and ramp up the XP requirements exponentially. Halliday was (obviously) a genius at game design, and I don't think he'd make his masterpiece quite so hard to get into. But like I said, it doesn't have much impact on the story as a whole, and after awhile it ceases to become an issue at all.
I listened to the audiobook version, of course. I mean, it was read by Wil Wheaton, who is just perfect for it. I can think of no better match between narrator and text. In fact, I don't think anyone else could have read this book. It was made for Wil Wheaton to read. I'll go further and say that this is a book that must be experienced in audio form. You're just cheating yourself otherwise....more
I admit to being biased, being a hugely dorky fan of Wil Wheaton. (Can I get a w00tstock Nashville? Please?) And what do you know, I'm also a hugely dI admit to being biased, being a hugely dorky fan of Wil Wheaton. (Can I get a w00tstock Nashville? Please?) And what do you know, I'm also a hugely dorky fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. So Wil Wheaton snarking all over the less than stellar first season of TNG? Pure awesome. This isn't a behind the scenes tell-all (though there is some behind the scenes stuff that's pretty cool). It's really a collection of lovingly snarky reviews of the first season of TNG, up to Datalore. I loved it, and I can't wait for volume two. ...more
So you want to write a Choose Your Own Adventure book for grown-ups. Obviously it's going to have a zombie apocalypse theme, right? Of course right!
ISo you want to write a Choose Your Own Adventure book for grown-ups. Obviously it's going to have a zombie apocalypse theme, right? Of course right!
I have always loved CYOA books. Always. I still make a tiny pile of bookmarks so I can explore every single choice in the whole book and die in as many horrible ways as possible. And I have to say, the choices here are pretty good, and they play fair. Here's a hypothetical example: you are given the choice between getting on a bus out of town or taking a cab. If you take the bus, the driver will get zombified and you'll end up dying in a twelve car pileup. If you take the cab, the twelve car pileup will still happen, you just won't be in it. (This was most emphatically not always so in the original CYOA books, where your choices could totally change the premise of the book.)
There is, however, a very definite character. I am not a stereotypical guy in my early twenties, and that would throw me out of the experience at times. This is so not going to be a problem for most of the people who are likely to pick up a zombie themed adult CYOA.
It is gory, and it is bleak, but what else did you expect? The vast majority of the endings are horrible, horrible things to consider. But it's a zombie outbreak, and you're not about to get a good ending here. There are three or four that aren't terrible and don't involve immediate, horrific death. Which is somewhat better than I had expected, to be honest. ...more
Emily and Phillip have been to see their favorite musical, Aurora (fictional), over a hundred times, borrowing money from Emily's Grandma Rose every wEmily and Phillip have been to see their favorite musical, Aurora (fictional), over a hundred times, borrowing money from Emily's Grandma Rose every weekend so they can stand in line to get the rush tickets. And then they find out that their show is closing.
For the most part, I get these kids. The entire Aurora fanbase seems to be based on the RENTheads, and reminds me guiltily of my own Scarlet Pimpernel days. (Don't judge me.) If I lived in the NYC area, I would totally be on that rush line at least twice a month. But I just can't get borrowing something like $5000 out of your college fund to do so. But I totally buy that there are teenagers who would happily do that, especially with Emily's grandmother encouraging them. (You have to see your show when it's open, she tells her, and the musical fan in me nods in agreement even while the rest of me is yelling, "BUT WHAT ABOUT COLLEGE?!")
But. For all of their love of musicals, Phillip and Emily are bizarrely naive about the business aspect of Broadway. Emily (who is sixteen, mind) has to have it explained to her that there's no possible way that a Broadway show could be free to all and still, you know, run. And even after that explanation, she still needs to spend some serious thought and do some quick math before it really sinks in. You would think that somebody who is proud of knowing the exact budget of her show ($6.5 million to open, fairly modest for a big show) and knows some professional actors would have realized the money had to come from somewhere. Phillip, supposedly a numbers guy who reads the trade papers religiously, is equally clueless about what producers actually do. They're clueless to advance the plot, not because it makes sense for them to be. The big producer that shows up is impossible to accept as a successful producer of profitable shows, (his ideas sound like something from The Producers) but since the author has Broadway experience I took him as the author venting.
Will any of that bother people who aren't Broadway fans? Maybe not. But nobody who isn't a fan of musical theater would read this anyway. I wouldn't have liked it as well as I did if I didn't identify, in some ways, with Emily and Phillip. If you aren't, you'll be bothered by the thin plot, the way the characters never really develop and grow, and all those theater references. I was, too, a little, but not enough for me to dislike a book written for my kind of theater geek, the ones in the audience....more
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is only 200 pages long, and it's far too short. The plot is rushed through at breakneck speed, and wrapped up far, fDown and Out in the Magic Kingdom is only 200 pages long, and it's far too short. The plot is rushed through at breakneck speed, and wrapped up far, far too quickly, with almost no time given to bringing the whole thing in for a landing.
Part of that is because Doctorow puts quite a bit of time into developing his Bitchun society. Death has been essentially eliminated. If you die, your consciousness is uploaded into a clone and you start over again. Tired of living? "Deadhead" for awhile by having your consciousness stored for a few decades, a few centuries, even a millenia or two. Money has been eliminated, replaced with a system called "whuffie". You gain whuffie through earning respect, which you then spend in place of currency. Everybody is completely wired, which makes it easy to track others' whuffie. All very interesting concepts, and something that I wouldn't mind reading again. That this is a 3 star book instead of a 2 star book is almost entirely due to this system.
It's not because of the characters, unlikeable one and all. Not even anybody at least fun enough that I can look over that they're all jerks. Petty, spiteful, mean-spirited, selfish and self-centered. The thought of a future Disney World being in the hands of these people made me very, very sad.
The Disney World setting probably is a huge draw for a lot of readers. It certainly was for me, especially when I saw that the plot would revolve around the Haunted Mansion in particular (my favorite). But that's another place that I ran into a few problems. Is Doctorow actually a Disney fan in real life? If so, he would understand that this is a baffling way to portray Disney fans. I am a Disney phile, and I can tell you that the idea that the overwhelming majority of Disney park fans would support making radical changes to a classic ride that involve completely stripping it and changing the very nature of the experience... Look, it's just not going to happen. I've seen Disney philes get mad when the parks changed the style of topiaries they used. Gutting Pirates would not be a popular move.
Doctorow is inconsistent about this, too. The main character spends the first part of the book complaining about his rival changing the nature of The Hall of Presidents. I believe that I'm supposed to feel sad when I read about the Lincoln animatronic being hauled offstage, and I do. So how am I supposed to feel when I read about the ballroom ghosts illusion being cut into pieces to remove it from the Mansion? I guess I'm supposed to be supportive because it's the main character that's destroying a classic, instead of feeling gut-punched because he's ruining one of the greatest things about my favorite ride. (Not one single character expresses the slightest bit of sadness that the ballroom ghosts will now be gone forever.) Other than the technical specifics, there's no difference between what the two camps are doing: both are destroying classics. And so I hated both and wanted nothing more than to see both groups lose control of the park to somebody who would actually preserve it.
I know that I'm ranting, but I can't help it. If this is supposed to be a science fiction book for Disney fans, I think Doctorow missed the mark. The characters in the book don't act like Disney fans, and they don't act like Imagineers (who would build a new ride to play with their new tech). SF fans who aren't big Disney philes would probably enjoy it more, but the storyline is too brief and the characters too noxious to make this a truly outstanding book. ...more
When Cass's best friend, Julia, dies, Cass decides to take her ashes across the country on bicycle, so they can be scattered at the ocean. She's goneWhen Cass's best friend, Julia, dies, Cass decides to take her ashes across the country on bicycle, so they can be scattered at the ocean. She's gone off like this, by herself, because Julia's boyfriend has cast her middle school nemesis, Heather, as the star in the musical Julia wrote before her death. When she gets back from her trip, Cass starts helping produce the musical, and gets to know Heather much better.
I just loved this book. Cass and her friends are all engaging characters to me, especially Julia. How can you not love a girl who writes a musical called Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad? How can you not love a group of friends who put their summer on hold to put that play on for her? The romance between Cass and Heather was built very subtly and naturally, and I enjoyed seeing things develop between them.
The one major word of complaint that I have is that the book alternates between chapters set during Cass's bike trip (Then) and chapters set during the production of the musical (Now). It can be a little jarring, and I don't think it was necessary. I think we would have seen a much more satisfactory character arc, for Cass, that way. I suspect that it's because an awful lot of Then is spent with a solitary Cass thinking to herself, and that might have weighed down the first half of the book.
But I really loved this book anyways. I also liked that Cass and her family are practicing Quakers, a religion I haven't seen much at all in YA. I didn't think it was particularly preachy, either, which is also nice. ...more
Sadly, this is not the riveting story of the Great Zombie-Unicorn War. I want that book. Somebody write me that book. No, this is an anthology of shorSadly, this is not the riveting story of the Great Zombie-Unicorn War. I want that book. Somebody write me that book. No, this is an anthology of short stories, half about zombies and half about unicorns. The "Vs." comes from the not-as-funny-as-they-think rivalry between the two editors, Holly Black (Team Unicorn) and Justine Larbalestier (Team Zombie). The stories alternate between the two teams.
The best stories, for me, were The Highest Justice, by Garth Nix (a traditional fantasy), Purity Test, by Naomi Novik (actually pretty funny, yay!), Bougainvillea, by Carrie Ryan (best zombie story by far, probably the best story in the collection, and one hell of an ending), and The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn, by Diana Peterfreund (set in her Rampant universe, and it made me anxious to read those books).
Alaya Dawn Johnson's Love Will Tear Us Apart was a pretty good story, but the zombie wasn't really a zombie. Call me a traditionalist, but if you can carry on a conversation about more than just brains, you're not a zombie. Maureen Johnson's The Children of the Revolution was pretty well written, but I was deeply uncomfortable with the fact that it was basically an Angelina Jolie RPF.
I skipped A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan, Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare, and Prom Night by Libba Bray because I don't care for their writing. The other few stories didn't make much of an impression on me, but weren't awful either.
The collection is getting three stars because Bougainvillea, Purity Test, and The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn are really outstanding stories, even if the rest of the book didn't thrill me. They at least are worth reading....more