Final Girls

Monday, August 14, 2017

Final Girls
Seanan McGuire, writing as Mira Grant, 2017

Premise: A new technology for completely immersive VR promises extremely effective therapy by causing the patient to feel as though they lived through a specific traumatic experience. A reporter is determined to determine whether it's a hoax.

I've liked all of McGuire's novellas so far, and this didn't break the streak. It's interesting that this was released under her horror pen name; it does fit that paradigm. The world created by the VR technology is less intriguing than the magic and ghosts in Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day and a lot less inventive than the world of Every Heart a Doorway (which just won a Hugo!), but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

This one is a tense, short thriller in which, after everything predictably goes wrong, the main characters are trapped in an unreal dream that is trying to really kill them. It's more compelling than most spins on this premise, partially because it ties in strong themes of female rivalry and friendship.

I could have wished for some more satisfying twists on the way to the ending, but the way it is fits McGuire's sometimes fatalistic-poetic style.

3 Stars - A Good Book

A Fire Upon the Deep

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Fire Upon the Deep
Vernor Vinge, 1992

Hugo Winner - 1993

Premise: The galaxy is a big place, full of old civilizations, ancient powers, and ancient traps. What are the lives of two children and a librarian worth in all the universe?

It took me a while to get through this book, and I'm not 100 percent sure what I think of it.

I was thrown off at the start, as it takes a lot of pages to introduce all the characters, factions, and situations. I started expecting one kind of story and ended up in quite another.

I think overall it's a good book, and an interesting one, but it's much more about world building than characters, so how much you enjoy that type of thing will probably dictate how much you enjoy this book.

To be fair, the worldbuilding is really neat. It questions the breadth of consciousness that might be possible across a diverse and strange galaxy. The major alien races include one who is more or less a plant augmented by technology, and a race made up of "individuals" which we might call small hive-minds.

The galaxy is divided up into zones in which different levels of technology not only predominate, but actually function or do not function. Amorphously identified Powers operate at the highest levels, and species can move, or be brought, up into broader levels of civilization.

The story, meanwhile, is good, but I wasn't compelled by it until rather late in the book. The stakes for some of the characters are immediate, but it's rather vague for the galaxy at large, despite lots of threatening description. The climax was viscerally satisfying, but I have little idea what happened.

3 Stars - A Good Book

List of Hugo Award Winners

Thor: The Goddess of Thunder and Thor: Who Holds the Hammer?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Thor: The Goddess of Thunder and Thor: Who Holds the Hammer?
Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Jorge Molina, 2015

Premise: The son of Odin is no longer worthy to wield Mjolnir, and the only one who can lift the hammer is an unknown woman who takes on the power and the responsibility of being Thor. Collects Thor #1-5 and Thor #6-8 and Annual.

The nice thing about waiting and catching up on comic books later is that you tend to only read the good stuff. The less nice thing is that sometimes you know the ending.

Happily, the fact that I went in knowing the reveal at the end of the second volume (the identity of the new Thor) did not diminish my enjoyment in this case.

For me, these issues had just about the perfect balance of humor and drama. The art and writing take the larger-than-life characters and plot seriously, but it never gets too dour or bleak.

It wouldn't be a perfect jumping-on point for someone who's not used to sprawling comic universes and stories that continuously build on each other, but I don't mind reading the set-up in the front of the first issue and moving forward from there.

New Thor is awesome. I loved her powers, her wit, her determination, and her simple conviction that because she could be a force for good, therefore she would.

I like that she's Thor, not Lady Thor or Thor Girl or whatever. The only downside is that, similar to Hawkeye, it makes the characters challenging to talk about.

Her relationship with "Odinson" (the now-unworthy-Thor) is great. He appreciates her strength and courage, and he soon chooses to support her as chosen by the hammer. Of course, he's also determined to figure out who she is.

Lots of awesome ladies who are connected to Asgard in various ways appear by the end of book two, and I might appreciate some of them even more if I catch up on the rest of Aaron's Thor run. I liked that the story played out several intersecting stories of female power, most notably contrasting Odin's blustering attempts to reclaim rulership of Asgard from Frigga with Odinson's cooperation with the mystery Thor.

I've often enjoyed the idea of Thor comics more than the execution, but this was just a solid, fantastic experience, the writing, art, action, and humor all ideal.

Also, frost giants, elves, evil CEOs who dabble in dark magic, and, of course, Valkyries. I'll definitely be reading the further adventures in (the frustratingly numbered) The Mighty Thor #1.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book