This is Joss Whedon so it gets three stars before I even start, but it's a graphic novel so it probably loses one because I'm really not the target auThis is Joss Whedon so it gets three stars before I even start, but it's a graphic novel so it probably loses one because I'm really not the target audience for graphic novels. I don't interpret the picture panels well, I'm all about the words. So words first. Yes, a good little story and a continuation of the Firefly arc, so OF COURSE I'm going to like it. It's Firefly for goodness sake - the best cancelled TV show on the planet - or any planet for that matter. But the artwork - while it looks good, is not all that easy for my word-hungry brain to sort out. I literally cannot follow all the action from some of the panels without text. Is it me or is it the artist? I don't know. That's why something with Serenity in it written by Joss Whedon is only getting four stars. ...more
Think not what you can do for Mars, think only what Mars can do for you. (Sigh!) Yes, this is colonialist, imperialist and racist in equal measure, yeThink not what you can do for Mars, think only what Mars can do for you. (Sigh!) Yes, this is colonialist, imperialist and racist in equal measure, yet it's probably not fair to condemn it for that since it was Written in 1934 and is of its time. It would be cruel to review it through the lens of 2014 because it simply doesn't stand up.
A expedition to Mars which Weinbaum imagines as a dry desert with thin but breathable air and low gravity. It has plants and creatures consistent with the world and Weinbaum's imagination is not lacking. One of the expedition members is separated from the others and this is his recounted story about his (first contact) meeting with a sentient alien, an ostrich-like being, Tweel, who manages to learn half a dozen words of English and communicate quite complex concepts, but at the end of the encounter human and Martian are no closer to understanding each other than they were at the beginning. This is what lifts it to two stars in my opinion, because the rest of it, (the journey across Mars) is largely first-they-did-this and then-they-did-that. The interest lies in Jarvis and Tweel's attempts at communication.
Sadly there is no attempt to understand a third race which is quite benign until Jarvis steals the egg-like-thing which seems to be the focal point of their civilisation. Why? Because he can and because he believes it may be a powerful healing device. There's no concept of leaving well alone. No theft-is-wrong. No Prime Directive. Mars is there to pillage for whatever the humans can appropriate.
This is interesting only from a historical perspective. Available free from Project Gutenberg....more
I really *really* wanted to like this book. The blurb was superb and it sounded like immense fun, especially "bravely going where they really shouldn'I really *really* wanted to like this book. The blurb was superb and it sounded like immense fun, especially "bravely going where they really shouldn't...". As it turned out there was much to recommend it, with Captain Hadrian Sawback plunging into a series of ever more improbable and impossible Trekkie-type situations and trying to sleep his way around every female member of his crew. (This guy has no concept of what constitutes sexual harassment.) It was, however, relentless, and I found I could only read it in small chunks. It works excellently on the level if a Star Trek spoof, but less well in its own right. I know I'm not comparing apples with apples, but as Star Trek spoofs go it's no Galaxy Quest....more
A short adventure for the Third Doctor as he's struggling to get 'home' to Sarah Jane after suffering a fatal radiation overdose (which will cause hisA short adventure for the Third Doctor as he's struggling to get 'home' to Sarah Jane after suffering a fatal radiation overdose (which will cause his regeneration into the Fourth Doctor). The Tardis dumps him into the perfect English village where, it seems, his ailments are (temporarily) cured. But all is not as it should be. Daily wellness parades and a terrified queen presents this doctor with one last problem to solve. Written by Joanne Harris (Chocolat) this is an elegant little story, but shorter than I would have liked.
Note: I received this as a review copy from Netgalley....more
I don't read comics, I have some difficulty identifying characters from the drawings – whether that's a fault in the artwork or a fault in my perceptiI don't read comics, I have some difficulty identifying characters from the drawings – whether that's a fault in the artwork or a fault in my perception is a moot point. However I'm a Firefly fan and a Joss Whedon fan and this full colour hardback seems to be the only way to get this story, so I splashed out. It's a beautifully presented full colour hardback with extras such as the pre-production memo for Serenity (the movie). And I can more or less tell which character is which, so a win for the illustrator, Will Conrad.
The story bridges the gap between the last episode of Firefly and the beginning of Serenity. It sees the return of Agent Dobson, with a grudge, and the Hands of Blue. It leads up to the departure of Inara and Shepherd Book and leads into the (unnamed) agent who becomes the antagonist in the movie. The story is hardly complete in itself, just a brief episode in the lives of Serenity's crew, but it does fill a hole – and anything Firefly is fine by me. ...more
Comic books and graphic novels are generally not my thing. I have difficulty recognising characters from the drawings. Having said that I managed withComic books and graphic novels are generally not my thing. I have difficulty recognising characters from the drawings. Having said that I managed with this one. In fact the artwork is excellent and any medium that enables me to get a bit more Firefly is fine by me. This bridges the gap between the end of Firefly (TV) and Serenity (movie). I'm a fan, so what can I say. Recommended....more
Breq was a space ship, the Justice of Toren, equipped with enough power to destroy planets and enough ancillaries to invade and conquer 'uncivilised'Breq was a space ship, the Justice of Toren, equipped with enough power to destroy planets and enough ancillaries to invade and conquer 'uncivilised' worlds in Radch 'annexations', however now she's just Breq, human (more or less) and alone despite her memories. She's the last surviving ancillary (corpse soldier) of the One Esk division, of Justice of Toren with a self-imposed mission.
There are two stories here, the one happening in the now, and the backstory that led up to it. In one Breq is alone, in the other, she's an omnicient AI running a ship full of ancillaries and human officers
The action opens on an icy planet when Breq, in pursuit of an artefact she needs to complete her mission, comes across Seivarden, once a lieutenant on Justice of Toren a thousand years before. Old habits die hard and without really justifying it as an act of kindness Breq rescues Seivarden and ends up acting as a nursemaid. Seivarden is a recovering junkie, driven to dark places after jumping the intervening millennium in cryo-stasis and waking up in a universe that seems wrong.
Breq and Seivarden hardly seem to like each other, but their paths intertwine, at first almost accidentally and then with growing reliance.
To be honest the beginning seemed a bit slow because there are so many ideas in here and the set up requires an understanding of the way all Justice of Toren's ancillaries are a part of the central ship's intelligence, each one fully aware of the whole. Leckie does a marvellous job of writing this without making it too confusing for the reader. One Esk comprises twenty linked individuals and each one is referred to as I, but it works.
Pronouns are confusing too, at first. Everyone is referred to as she, whether they have a curvy or straight physique, and you get very few clues as to what gender individuals are, which actually works well in this context. Breq has problems with pronouns in the non-Radch worlds because she can't get the hang of gendered pronouns and sometimes makes the wrong call.
As an adjunct of an AI you'd expect Breq to have no emotions, and, indeed, she can and does carry out instructions from her superior officers even if that means going against her personal feelings. It's one of these actions that she's forced to carry out that drives the plot and we do discover that Breq has feelings, she just doesn't express them in quite the same way as we might expect.
This is a book with big ideas, that doesn't sacrifice characterisation for ideas and though Breq's future seems inevitable, we find that there are choices which depend on personalities as well as logic.
Intelligent, thoughtful, complex and engaging, this is one of those books that you end up thinking about long after you've read the last page and closed the volume. It deserves all the awards it's up for. ...more
This is one of Karen's later Star Wars books, but will please fans of her Republic Commando series as here she does what she does best – takes a bunchThis is one of Karen's later Star Wars books, but will please fans of her Republic Commando series as here she does what she does best – takes a bunch of unknown characters including Jedi knights, clone troopers, a battleship captain and a spy, and chronicles a very short span of their activity in the clone wars, where the good guys are supposed to be the Republic and the bad guys are the separatists. Yes, OK, we do have Annakin Skywalker, his Padawan Ahsoka and clone Captain Rex from the animated movie, but this isn't a formulaic adventure featuring characters we already know. Instead it's Karen asking hard questions again – about identity, human rights and the nature of love.
Spy, Halena, secret lover of Gil Pallaeon, captain of newly refitted assault ship, Leveler, is sent to the planet Athar to gather information about any proposed separatist activity and a potential threat to remove the current republic-friendly government by the downtrodden masses. Unfortunately she's not given enough information and the invasion is already underway. Rumbled almost immediately she requests extraction and Pellaeon and the Leveler happen to be the closest vessel. Unfortunately the refit hasn't been entirely successful and they're on a shakedown cruise with civilian engineers on board who are trying to fix a computer glitch which has taken their most effective weapons offline.
Added to that Annakin Skywalker has sent Captain Rex with Ahsoka and half a dozen fresh-out-of-training clones to familiarise themselves with Leveler's upgrades – that's the theory, but in fact he's just trying to get Ahsoka out of his hair and buy himself a bit of time with Padme – at this point in the Star Wars story arc they are secretly married and Annakin is suffering enormous guilt for forming an attachment. Add to this Master Altis' Jedi sect which allows marriage and children and you have an interesting mix of characters who are going to start questioning a) why Yoda is so keen that the Republic's Jedi knights be kept so strictly single and celibate, b) how and why the Republic knew that a clone army would be needed, c) whether the Republic has the right to treat clone troops like slave soldiers whose individual lives are not important and d) whether the Republic is actually the right side to be fighting on.
This is a simple get-me-out-of-here caper. What makes it interesting are the questions. Annakin and Ahsoka come up against Altis' Jedi sect and begin to question whether attachment will turn a Jedi to the Dark Side as Yoda insists. Halena questions her activities as a spy and whether she's on the right side. But it's the clones who raise the most questions. Karen always has great sympathy for the common soldier, portraying them as complex individuals, even the ones straight out of basic training. Grown to maturity in half the time it takes for an uncloned human, the clones are children in a world that values them only for their expendability and their camaraderie is as uplifting as it is heartbreaking.
An excellent novel, and not just for die-hard Star Wars fans....more
I'm trying to get round to a number of books that have been sitting on my bookshelf for years making me feel guilty. This is one such. I read one or tI'm trying to get round to a number of books that have been sitting on my bookshelf for years making me feel guilty. This is one such. I read one or two of Hill's Last Legionary Quartet many years ago and enjoyed them. This is a 1982 prequel collection of stories about the training of the legionary who was to become the last of his kind, published by Piccolo, a junior imprint of Gollancz..
There are four stories, each taking a snapshot of Keill Randor's life, one age 12 as he takes the dangerous right-of-passage test that shunts him into the Young Legionary Programme. The second is Keill at the age of 14 trapped with his fellow trainees in a dangerous desert situation with deadly spine-eels swarming. The third is Keill aged 16, assigned to give a trio of potentially hostile customers a tour of the Legion's mercenary facility, and dealing with things when the situation goes pear-shaped. And lastly there's Keill aged 18, facing his last test before being assigned to adult responsibilities as a full legionary.
The stories are slight and as a prequel you know that Keill is going to survive whatever the book throws at him (always the problem with prequels) and you know that all the other characters are eventually going to be killed off between the end of this book and the beginning of Galactic Warlord, the first of the Last Legionary books, so it's difficult to get invested in characters such as Oni, Keill's longtime (girl) friend, though she's well written.
If anything Keill and Oni are a little too perfect and competent, but each story develops the characters a little further. I found this fairly bland by today's standards and probably for completists only, though as the intended audience is a young readership (and bearing in mind the time it was written) it stands up quite well to other SF children's books of the period. ...more
David Feintuch: Midshipman's Hope – Seafort Saga #1
Without a doubt this is Hornblower in space, with all the self-doubt and stiffness that characterisDavid Feintuch: Midshipman's Hope – Seafort Saga #1
Without a doubt this is Hornblower in space, with all the self-doubt and stiffness that characterised CS Forester's somewhat wooden hero. Stuffed full of Victorian Values which seem to lean towards spare-the-rod-and-spoil-the-child, and focuses heavily on 'hazing' – apparently an American tradition of tormenting cadets in various nasty and pointless ways to toughen them up – all of which I found actively distasteful. It's not that I object to an author putting a character through hell, I don't, but usually it's for a plot-related reason and caused by the bad guys. Not so here. Oh, yeah, and in the future there's still capital punishment in the space navy. Hanging, would you believe?
Feintuch also makes a big thing about Christianity having had a renaissance in the future with all disparate branches now being united. That's always bound go down like a lead balloon with me, though I admit to not being unbiased in this. Even so it doesn't strike me as being realistic, and what about all the other religions and non-religions?
Anyhow, the plot fairly rattles along (with pauses for introspection). Nicholas Seafort is 17 and this is his first space assignment. In this book we see him trying to live up to what he thinks he should be as he's thrown unexpectedly into a position of responsibility, trying to lead men more experienced than himself. As I said, Hornblower in space, specifically Midshipman Hornblower in space. For me it blows its believability completely with a series of unfortunate and unlikely events which not only kills off the captain and his two senior lieutenants, but then also removes the 4th in command via a very quick-acting cancer. As if that wasn't enough – upon reaching Hope Nation – guess what? Yes, that's right, the bigwigs have been killed off and Seafort is actually senior to the officer left in charge and therefore in charge of the whole sector. I'm all for the occasional coincidence, but that's a lot to swallow
To be fair I know a lot of people appreciate Feintuch a lot more than I do, but this is not for me and I won't be reading more Seafort books. ...more
The first half of this book reads like a fantasy, but it's actually science fiction, though taking place on an isolated, backwards and repressed worldThe first half of this book reads like a fantasy, but it's actually science fiction, though taking place on an isolated, backwards and repressed world. Kerin's sky-touched son, Damaru, (autistic with special talents) finds a naked, unconscious, amnesiac man on the edge of the swamp. Kerin, a widow, nurses him back to physical health and begins to dream of a better future with him. He names himself Sais - stanger, outsider - and proceeds to try and recover lost memories. He remembers nothing of his own life, but he knows things far outside of the understanding of the primitive culture he finds himself in, while at the same time knowig nothing of the overbearing religion that demands Kerin send her sky-touched son to either be a Consort of Heaven or die in the attempt.
On the long journey to the Cty of Light, Sais begins to remember, and slowly learns that Kerin and all her people have been living a lie, but exposing that lie will rock the foundations of the society beyond endurance.
This is the difficult second novel in Jaine Fenn's Hidden Empire series, begun on the much more technological world described in Principles of Angels. It isn't until the end of the book that you can see where the story of Sais (for despite Kerin being a viewpoint character this is Sais' story) intersects with the universe we discovered in Principles of Angels. It's a steady start and then picks up pace and races to the finish. Kerin and Sais are well drawn characters and the author subverts the obvious romantic expectations in a neat way....more
This is the original novel that the TV series 'Six Million Dollar Man' was based on, but I read this way back before the TV debut and loved it. Alas iThis is the original novel that the TV series 'Six Million Dollar Man' was based on, but I read this way back before the TV debut and loved it. Alas it was a library copy so I can't go back to re-read it now....more
Patricia Wrede is a brilliant writer of children's books and she certainly made a good job of this junior novelisation of a disappointing film. She maPatricia Wrede is a brilliant writer of children's books and she certainly made a good job of this junior novelisation of a disappointing film. She made the story accessible. But in the end the story has limitations which are not her fault. I strongly suggest you try some of her own fiction. She's a great storyteller....more