Journey Into Mystery Volume 1: Fear Itself

Monday, December 31, 2012

Journey Into Mystery Volume 1: Fear Itself
Kieron Gillen, Doug Braithwaite, 2012 (Issues released 2011)

Premise: Loki brought destruction down on Asgard, then sacrificed himself to save the world. No one knows why. But Thor still cares for his brother, so he found him (reincarnated as a boy) and brought him home. Young Loki isn’t quite the god who died, but he’s not sure who he is, either. No one trusts him, but as war comes to the Marvel Universe, he will find his own path to walk.

This is fabulous. Beautiful, evocative art, clever, intriguing dialogue and narration, twisty, fascinating plots. Oh, this is everything I had heard and more.

I have always wanted to love Thor and his supporting cast, it seems it should be a great blend of superheroics, fantasy and high adventure. And I’ve read some that I liked, and some that I disliked, but this? This I loved.

This story is set during the Fear Itself crossover from 2011, and you can see the larger plot playing out around the edges. You don’t need to know what’s happening in the larger world to follow this story, just that something big and scary is going down, but Gillen does a decent job implying the danger and purpose of the war without getting bogged down in details. All the backstory I summed up in the premise section above is nicely spelled out on a prologue page before the actual story begins.

I don’t want to say much about the plot, but Loki travels to a few different realms to gather allies and make enemies and spin brand new plans. He’s adorable, tricky, too clever by half, untrustworthy and unsure of himself, so I kind of love him. There are parts that are terribly poignant and parts where I laughed out loud. There were parts that I thought more about later and then said: “Oh. Oh, I get it. That’s brilliant!”

This book deserves all the good press I’ve heard about it. It goes on the shelf snugly between great amoral heroes and great epic fantasy comics.

Right there.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

Get Journey into Mystery, Vol. 1: Fear Itself at

A Christmas Memory

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Memory
Truman Capote, 1956

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

Premise: A ostensibly autobiographical story about an unlikely friendship. The narrator, known only as “Buddy”, describes his memories of celebrating Christmas with his best friend, an older relative whom no one else seems to understand.

This was recommended to me by a friend, and I’m so glad I sought it out. It was just lovely.

‘Buddy’ and the elderly woman called only “my friend” have a lot in common; they are both thought of as strange and they both have a rather whimsical view of the world. The relationship here is touching and sad, you only get little subtle snippets as you follow them through the ritual of making holiday fruitcakes for all the people they like. Not “friends”, but rather shopkeepers and politicians and other public figures; anyone who they feel a connection to or think could use a fruitcake.

The larger family seems to be somewhat low-income, but not poverty-stricken. It’s worse for the two main characters, though, who both rely on what they can scrounge from odd jobs and scrimp from gifts. It’s another connection between the very old and the very young, along with never being far from home and a vivid internal life.

The most important thing about this story, though, is the lovely prose. It was delightful to read the words; I could almost taste the descriptions.

Both melancholy and uplifting, this is a perfect Christmas read.

5 Stars - An Awesome Story

The Gift of the Magi

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Gift of the Magi
O. Henry, 1906

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

Premise: You know. No, really, you've seen or read something based on this story. You know, anything with two people who buy each other gifts but give up something important to do it, making the gift exchange generally somewhat ironic? I told you you knew.

I’ve seen so many versions of this story as part of Mainlining Christmas, that it hadn’t occurred to me until yesterday that I’d never actually read the original story. And hey, it’s better than I expected.

The style is humorous and playful, with more than a few sly jokes. The story focuses on the wife, Della, and while she’s a bit childish at times, she's also forthright, determined and loving. The ending is much sweeter than I expected. I quite enjoyed reading this.

Why am I still talking about it? It’s a short story and it’s Free. Here, read it yourself!

Holiday Comics: DC Universe

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DCU Holiday Bash (1997)
Dennis O’Neil, Walter Simonson, Sal Buscema, Jim Aparo, et. al.

This is a pretty fun assortment of stories. First Lois tells a story about Superman’s early attempts at being a hero to a lonely guy on Christmas Eve. I thought the story about Highfather and Orion filling in for a department store Santa was surprisingly awesome. Denny O’Neil’s contribution is a little noir tale about Catwoman rescuing a woman and child who were targeted by mobsters. There’s a humor piece starring Etrigan, and a maybe-too-preachy piece about Green Lantern going after some punks who desecrated a synagogue. Flash shops for a gift for his girlfriend (Reprinted in DC Universe Christmas) and Alfred closes out the issue with a little wordless piece called “Just Another Night”.

This is a really solid assortment, and a very enjoyable read.

DC Universe Holiday Special (2010)
Joey Cavalieri, Tony Bedard, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, et. al.

This was much less interesting an issue, unfortunately. Who compiled this? First an “Anthro” piece with confusing art and writing. Next is a Jonah Hex Hanukkah piece of all things, which is very awkward in execution. The Green Lantern piece that comes next has redeeming qualities, but it’s a smidge too melodramatic and obvious. A Superman story that’s incredibly cornball and has ugly art is followed by a tedious tale of the Spectre. The only story in the whole issue that’s actually kind of good is the last one, a half-humorous piece starring the Legion of Superheroes. There are a series of false alarms on the universe-spanning day off only called “Holiday” and the Legion needs to get to the bottom of it.

Don’t bother looking up this issue, stick to the older ‘Holiday Bash’s or the DCU Infinite Holiday Special from 2006.

DC Universe Christmas

Monday, December 17, 2012

DC Universe Christmas
Various Writers and Artists
Compilation released in 2000, Issues originally copyright 1940-1999

Premise: A collection of holiday-themed stories from across the first six decades of DC comics.

Talk about hits and misses! This is a really interesting read, but it’s not always interesting because it’s good. There is a huge array of styles and quality here.

It starts really strong, with a Denny O’Neil Batman tale from 1980 about an ex-con turned mall Santa, and a cute piece from the 90's about Flash (Wally West) shopping for a present for his girlfriend. Then we get a Wonder Woman story from 1943. There’s some historical interest here, but mostly it’s all kinds of horrible. Soon after it is a Teen Titans tale from 1968 with a hokey plot-line and a lot of ‘groovy jive-talking’.

There’s a Robin story which is corny, but cute, a Legion of Superheroes bit that’s wild and kinda wonderful. I was really intrigued by a Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-up that’s Kyle and Connor. I don’t know that I’ve read anything with Connor Hawke before, and I liked him. There are a bunch of short pieces, some well done, some baffling. There’s an old Joe Simon & Jack Kirby Sandman bit that’s terribly dated.

The last two stories end on a high note, too. There’s a 1999 story about Bart Allen (Impulse) and his doubts about Santa, and a 1940 story about Superman and Lois preventing some mustache-twirling villains from preventing Santa’s flight. I mean, Lois mostly “helps” by getting captured and tied to things, like oversized rockets, but it’s pretty amusing.

I’m not sure whether or not I recommend this volume, though. There aren’t any parts that are just amazing, except maybe one or two of the really short two-page stories. I enjoyed reading it, but you have to have a healthy knowledge of and interest in the history of comics to get through some of the older pieces.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Letters from Father Christmas

Friday, December 14, 2012

Letters from Father Christmas
J. R. R. Tolkien, 1976, 1999

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

Premise: This whimsical volume reproduces a series of letters that Tolkien’s children received from “Father Christmas” between 1920 and 1943.

This was very interesting, as a student of early fantasy writing and as someone with interest in different ideas of Santa. It is not, however, exciting to read.

These letters were clearly never intended to be published. They were purely a gift from a father to his children, and while they are often elaborate and entertaining, there is very little in the way of plot here. Plus we are only getting half the story, as Father Christmas often thanks the children for their letters or answers their questions.

The time and skill involved in creating these mementos is obvious. Most letters came with an enclosed drawing, all reprinted in lovely color here. As more characters were introduced over the years, they developed their own writing styles. Happily, the text is transcribed for ease of reading, although I’m glad the book preserves examples of Father Christmas’ shaky scrawl, the Polar Bear’s use of a broad marker to make marks like runes, and the scribe elf Ilbereth’s small script.

Most of the letters tell of some happening at the North Pole that year, whether the bears were mischievous and delayed packing the sleigh, or local gnomes helps flush attacking goblins out of a tunnel. Bear in mind, though, that the intended audience here is quite young, so there’s never any real sense of tension or danger, and anyway all the stories are being told after the fact.

The first few are more unfocused, before the style and the cast of characters were really formed, and the last few are a bit melancholy, as war ripped through Europe. Tolkien’s own Anglo-centrism shows through every so often, most notably when Father Christmas exclaims at how busy he is because in addition to his normal routes, he is “getting stuff down to the South Pole for those children who expect to be looked after though they have gone to live in New Zealand or Australia or South Africa or China.”

It’s more biographical than anything else, revealing little hints to the relationships between the children, or the children and their dad. It’s a very pretty book to flip through, and an interesting piece representing a minor work of a creative person.

I enjoyed reading it, although it wouldn’t be for everyone.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Holiday Comics: Marvel Universe

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Marvel Holiday Special (1991)
Various Writers and Artists, including Scott Lobdell, Walter Simonson, Dave Cockrum, and many more.

There are eight short pieces in this double-size special, plus a selection of art pieces. Some I think might have been reprints, but it’s unclear. They’re a mixed bag, overall. The X-men story is rushed and strange, the Fantastic Four one is kinda nice and kinda heavy-handed. There’s a short Punisher piece with a nice melancholy tone, and a corny-fun Thor piece which is quite explicit about the Asgardians’ roles as gods, and Odin’s connection to Santa. After that is a sweet little story about Captain America meeting Bucky’s elderly sister, and a zany tale about a blind kid who mistakes Ghost Rider for Santa. There’s some badly written Marvel-themed lyrics to be sung to the tunes of various carols, and a farce about Captain Ultra (yeah, I don’t know who he is either.) The issue closes out with a piece about Spiderman visiting a children’s hospital over the holidays.

There’s redeeming qualities to these stories, but for the most part they’re dated and odd enough that most people shouldn’t spend the time to track this down.

Marvel Holiday Special (2004)
Tom DeFalco, Takeshi Miyazawa, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Roger Cruz, et. al.

This special issue contains three stories. The longest one, and the most fun, is a spin on Christmas Carol, featuring the Marvel U’s resident curmudgeon, J. Jonah Jameson, as Scrooge, and various heroes appearing as the spirits. It’s a really cute story. There’s also an X-Men story about Scott and Emma comforting a mutant student who doesn’t have anywhere to go for holiday break, and a story about Franklin Richards asking each of the Fantastic Four what the holidays mean to them. That one edges into schmaltz here and there, but it’s mostly sweet.

This is a pretty fun issue, and I recommend it if you get a chance.

A Christmas Journey

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Christmas JourneyAnne Perry, 2003

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

Premise: A bunch of rich snobs drive a young lady to suicide at a Christmas party and then make another lady travel to Scotland because she feels guilty.

What in the hell did I just read? It wasn’t a romance. It wasn’t suspense. It barely had a plot. I guess it’s tepid historical fiction? It was really odd.

I liked the beginning, I thought maybe it was going somewhere. I liked that the main character’s name was Vespasia, that’s dramatic even just to read. However, as the insignificant details mounted, and discoveries came to light about a character who really got very little page time prior to her death, I just couldn’t bring myself to care.

There were some almost okay parts where Vespasia reflects on her friendship with Isobel and how it brought them both to the back end of Scotland in the dead of winter (to carry the news of the deceased young lady to her mother). But sadly, most of it was just navel-gazing. Boring navel-gazing.

Vespasia’s obsession with one obnoxious male character who could seemingly do no wrong was especially creepy. The prose wavers between overwrought and too vague. It’s just a story about two women travelling and then coming back, with nothing to show for it but a lot of significant looks and talk, and then the end was really pretentious.

One Star - Didn’t Much Like it.

Manga Claus

Friday, December 7, 2012

Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle
Writing: Nathaniel, Marunas, Art: Erik Craddock, 2006

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

Premise: One small disgruntled elf plus a large amount of black magic spells trouble for the North Pole. Can even his magic swords help Santa save Christmas now?

This was an odd, cute little book. The art was fun, and the story was silly. The beginning was probably the best part, and I wish it had been a story about Santa just hanging out in feudal Japan.

I really wanted to like this more; it seems like a cute idea and one of the creators thanked a (sadly now-gone) comic store I’m rather fond of. But it wasn’t great, just fine.

The evil magic teddies were cool. The larger plotline of the elf messing with magic worked at times, but the resolution felt really wrong to me.

I just don’t have much more to say about this. It was really short.

2 Stars - An Okay Book

Holiday Comics: Generation X and Futurama!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

Generation X Holiday Spectacular (1995)
Scott Lobdell, Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham

This little story about Generation X (Generation X is a team of teenage X-men, mostly second and third stringers I don’t know much about) intervening in a hostage situation in a Maine town isn’t terribly holiday related except for the snow. And the fact that the narration seems to be done by an elf hiding around the edges of the panels. That doesn’t have any bearing on the story, though. It’s okay, I guess, although the little snippets of characters unconnected to the story are more interesting than the story itself, and the villain seems awfully annoying.

Generation X Holiday Special (1998)
Joseph Harris, Adam Pollina,

The same super-lame villains strike again, this time trying to kidnap a kid on Christmas Eve who’s only wish for Santa is to not be a mutant. The art is stronger in this one, and there’s some interesting snippets of character stuff early on when all the young mutants are shopping at the mall. Then some of GenX gets captured, and the mutant kid holds Santa prisoner, and the villains keep screwing up... it’s occasionally amusing, but kind of a mess.

Neither of these are especially recommended unless you’re a super-big fan of these characters. Jubilee does get a few good scenes, though.

Futurama #64 (2012)
Script: Ian Boothby, Pencils: James Lloyd, Inks: Dan Davis

Hey, a new holiday comic! I picked this up at my local comic shop last week. It's a pretty cute little tale of blackmail and Robot Santa, but it's not great, just good. There was one part that really threw me, since I thought it showed a fundamental misunderstanding of Futurama, but Erin tells me that the show was inconsistent on the point. It still marred the experience of reading it for me.

The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas
Madeline L’Engle, 1984

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

Premise: Vicky Austin is always excited in December, but there’s a lot more to be excited about this year, since she’s been cast as an angel in the Christmas Pageant, although her Mother is very pregnant, and who knows whether she’ll be home for Christmas!

This little short story was.... fine. Cute, even. It’s all from little Vicky’s perspective, so the drama is very small and the solutions are very black-and-white. Oh, no! Mommy might be in the hospital over Christmas! Oh, now she’s being sensibly reassured. Oh no! Vicky is too clumsy to be an angel! Oh, Mom just taught her how to walk with a book on her head, so she’ll be fine. Well, good thing there wasn’t any tension.

The title alludes to the Austin family’s habit of doing something “special” every day leading up to Christmas. However, since some of those “special” things are as simple as opening Christmas cards and there isn’t even a list of all the activities for kids to ask about and/or copy, this gimmick fell a little flat.

At the end, it looked as though there was going to be a plot, because the mother starts to go into labor but there’s a blizzard and the Dad isn’t home... but then the Dad gets home, and since he’s conveniently an obstetrician, the other kids worry a bit, but there isn’t really anything to worry about.

This is a fine story for, say, a five year old. I mean, I wouldn’t give it to a five-year-old of mine unless I was ready to have the “some kids believe in invisible forces that grant wishes” conversation, but other than a smattering of explicitly religious content, it’s pretty innocuous.

In place of this, for a similar feel but more interesting setting and story I might recommend the Christmas chapters from Little House in the Big Woods.

No Rating, as I am so far from the target audience I don’t think I can see them from here.

Deck the Halls

Friday, November 30, 2012

Deck the Halls
Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark, 2000

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

I found this book on a list of books tagged “Christmas” on goodreads. Apparently the Clarks, mother and daughter, have written a list of novels together all set at Christmas.

Premise: Two successful novelists decide to cram all their popular characters together in the space of 200 pages. For Christmas.

This book was an absolute mess. As I said above, it appears to be that both women took the protagonists of their successful suspense series and put them in a book together. This book is so short that you don’t get a sense of any of the characters, just told “this is person X and they are a Y” and the fact that you should care about them is assumed. The villains are petty and boring, the heroines sort of useless and bland. There are really useless, dull red herrings, and none of the sundry investigators do anything productive that actually leads to the resolution.

On a certain level, there was something a little creepy about this mother-daughter novelist team writing about a woman who was a novelist and her private investigator daughter dealing with the violent kidnapping, complete with ransom, of the woman’s husband. I mean, I understand write what you know, but that really gave me pause. There’s another amateur investigator, though, a Miss Marple type, and all her supporting characters.

At times it doesn’t completely suck, one woman’s worry about her children feels somewhat real, even if that’s her only character trait, but overall, there’s too much surface detail (purple prose alert!) and basically no character development. There’s some tremendously forced “romance” around the edges. Somehow the romantic plotlines manage to be present enough to be annoying and absent enough to also be completely annoying that it’s just assumed that these characters will get together, because that makes it a “happy” ending. Bleck.

The only good thing I can say about this is that it was short, and by and large not offensive.

I have to give special note, though, to a line that completely pulled me out of a scene, such that I reeled back, such that I lost any sympathy I might have scraped together for the guy whose kidnapping is the focus of the story. Rich dude actually verbally blames his fellow kidnappee, his female chauffeur, for not dating this skeezy guy she’d turned down who was now in on the kidnap plot. He takes it back almost immediately, and she doesn’t react strongly, makes a joke out of it, but it made me feel ill that I was supposed to give a shit what happened to this guy.

1 Star - Not a Good Book

Holiday Comics: The Tick

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I’m going through my collection of holiday-themed back issues, looking at two issues every week until Christmas!

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

The Tick’s Big Yule Log Special 1999
Concept: Ben Edlund, Writer: Marc Silvia, Penciller: Gabe Crate, Inker: Tak Toyoshima

In this holiday story, The Tick and Arthur head to New York for a Christmas party at the Superheroes-only Comet Club. Meanwhile, Barry (the wannabe Tick) hires a villain to crash the party so he can ‘save’ everyone and show up the Tick. This is a funny story, although I could have used maybe a couple more pages; it felt quite short. It was a great read though, with a downright heartwarming-ish speech from Tick, and ninjas hiding in the party decorations.

The Tick’s Big Yule Log Special 2000
Concept: Ben Edlund, Story: Clay and Susan Griffith, Pencils: Gabe Crate, Inks: Tak Toyoshima

The story in this one is called It Came From Outer Space to Ruin Yet Another Christmas. Tick brings Tunn-La (not of this Earth) home for the holidays, and Arthur tries to convince Tick that he can’t convince an “implacable enemy of humanity” to play nice. Another fun story complete with good jokes and great art.

Reading these two back-to-back was maybe not the best idea, because they are slightly similar in some respects. Both are solid, entertaining reads though.

The Battle for Christmas

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Battle for Christmas
Stephen Nissenbaum, 1996

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

Premise: Non-Fiction book tracing the origins of American Christmas traditions, with emphasis on the shift from a more public-focused carnival Christmas to a more child-focused domestic holiday.

I found this book really interesting, if a bit long. Nissenbaum is a little too enamored of his own narrative, and sometimes doesn’t completely back up his proposals with evidence That said, all of the stuff that is corroborated is really interesting.

I most enjoyed the accounts of how Puritans fought the celebration of Christmas and then later, in the early 1800’s, how gift-buying became fully central to the expectations of the season. It was fascinating reading about the creation of “Gift Books”, which became popular very quickly in the mid 1820’s. They may be one of the first products produced specifically to be purchased as a gift, and one of the first items sold to specific demographics created by marketing. What I mean is, you might buy a girl a doll or a young lady a dress or a boy a top, but for these products you wouldn’t buy a book, but rather specifically a “girl’s book” or a “lady’s book” or a “boy’s book”.

There’s also quite a bit of interesting biographical information on the authors of many seminal works which influenced Christmas in America.

The author is pushing the idea that over time, specific groups of people convinced the public to want to celebrate Christmas a) sober, b) with purchased presents, c) with family, and d) without rising above their station. And he’s probably at least partially right, although I don’t really buy every one of his leaps of logic as to why this happened.

I do like the thesis as stated in the epilogue: that “traditions are always changing and...the domestic Christmas idyll is surprisingly new...[also]...most of the problems we face at Christmas today - the greedy materialism, the jaded consumerism...are surprisingly old.” And the data backing this up is really interesting. Nissenbaum’s style loses me at times, though. He doesn’t seem quite able to separate himself from his subjects, which can work to convey the opinions and stances of people who thought quite differently than we do today. However, it can get rather awkward when it goes too long before a reality check when he’s talking about, say, the Antebellum South.

Still, for all that I don’t quite swallow every last argument put forward, and it focuses on American traditions with a singlemindedness that might put off those looking for a more holistic view, it was a really interesting book, and well worth a read for any students of the history of Christmas.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

The Christmas Basket

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Christmas Basket
Debbie Macomber, 2002

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas

Premise: Girl met boy, lost boy, left hometown in a terrible snit, returns years later successful but lonely career woman to face boy, their feuding moms, and Christmas.

Wow. Romance is silly. I mean, anyone who says otherwise is just deluding themselves. It's not necessarily bad, but it is darn silly.

Particularly this light bit of fluff from noted romance author Debbie Macomber. Apparently Ms. Macomber writes a Christmas book every single year, so a friend suggested she'd be a good choice to spotlight for Mainlining. Why did I read this one? It was available at my local library and it won an award. Simple as that.

I flew through this book in a single evening, and most of the details have left my brain already, but for romantic fluff, it wasn't bad. Sure, every single character was a sitcom-level moron and they all deserved the stupid pits they’d dug themselves into, but it was still okay to read.

The main problems with the book are common to a lot of romance (I think, I do read romance on rare occasions, after all). There’s a crazy amount of telling rather than showing. This character says shes upset, then she says she’s conflicted, then she says she’s in love. I never really felt any of it. The romantic plotline overall was pretty by-the-numbers and dull. The main girl’s name is Nowell and her birthday is Christmas. Ugh.

What saves this book from the scrap heap is the fact that the mothers of the lovebirds are in the midst of a twenty-year feud which escalates into a sort of global-war-level of petty catfighting just for the holidays as they attempt to work together on a charity project. The mothers are both hopeless and hilarious. I was actually a little sad when they (completely unrealistically) made up by the end.

So, do I recommend you read it? Probably not, unless you’re trapped in a Barnes & Noble in a blizzard and other people took all the good sci-fi. Am I sorry I read it? Nah, it was short. Not the worst way to spend a couple hours.

2 Stars - An Okay Book

Christmas times a'comin, so I know I'm gonna blog.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hear ye, Hear ye! The holiday season is upon us once more, which means that all the lovely books and comics and galleys languishing in my queue to be posted are going to have to wait for a while.

Because it’s time for Mainlining Christmas once again! (If you're just joining us now, Mainlining Christmas is the yearly event wherein my husband and I consume potentially lethal amounts of Christmas themed movies, specials and music, and blog about it.)

While I’ll be spending the majority of my blogging energy there, never fear! Holiday books and comics will be cross-posted here on the regular schedule.

I’ve got a weird bunch of books lined up this year, but if you’re eager, here are some links to holiday-themed reviews of Christmases past:

The Atheist's Guide to Christmas
A Christmas Carol
A Clockwork Christmas
Holiday Comics Special!

52 Volumes 1-4

Monday, November 19, 2012

 52 Volumes 1-4
Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucks, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, et. al., 2007
Collects 52: Issues 1-52

Premise: After the Infinite Crisis, the world is saved, but not without cost. A year passes in the DCU, a year that sees new and old heroes rise to the challenges of a more complex world.

52 was a bit of a grand experiment for DC. It was a weekly book that came out consistently for an entire year, written by a team of their top writers. At the same time that this was coming out, most other books were labeled “One Year Later”, and took place a year after the Infinite Crisis crossover event. 52 aspired to tell the story of the “missing year”, a year in which the big three (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) went a bit walkabout to find themselves, and meanwhile other heroes rose to prominence.

52 is a complicated book. Main plotlines include Steel struggling with Luthor’s project to turn teenagers into controllable superheroes, the JSA dealing with same, Elongated Man dealing with the death of his wife, Booster Gold trying to be the kind of big shot he’s never been, Black Adam ruling a country and maybe finding a soul, Renee Montoya coming out of depression to join forces with the Question, investigating Intergang’s incursion into Gotham, the introduction of Batwoman, Professor Magnus (of the Metal Men) checking into a mass disappearance of mad scientists, and I think I’m forgetting something. Oh, Adam Strange, Starfire and Animal Man trapped in deep space. It’s not for the faint-of-heart or anyone new to comics. There are minor characters even I’ve barely heard of coming out of the woodwork.

The 52 issues are collected in four volumes, and they include commentary and sketches in between the issues. Overall I really liked it... for about three of the volumes.

Maybe I heard too much about the plotlines. I knew most of the twists before they happened, just because I heard about them when the book was first coming out. I didn’t know exactly how they happened, but reading them wasn’t very satisfying. The twists I didn’t know, I didn’t enjoy either. Some of the plot resolutions felt rushed, some forced, some just like a cop-out. I don’t know. I wanted to like it, and I did like some of the plots throughout (heroes in deep space and Montoya mainly), although even there, the endings were kinda shoved in to make space for the next story beat.

Ugh. I’m still ambivalent on Kate Kane. This ends my completely backwards reading of her history. She starts here, then got her own backup (collected in trade), then her own series. I read them in reverse order, and I’ve never quite understood the appeal of the character. Her interactions with Nightwing were fun, but overall I’m just meh on her plotlines.

The early stuff is pretty interesting, but while you don’t have to know all the characters going in, if you didn’t at least recognize most of the names in my sum-up above I would steer clear of this one. I’d never read anything with Black Adam or Elongated Man or the Metal Men, but I had a vague idea of who they were, and most of the other characters I knew better.

Some more specifics: I really liked the way Starfire and Animal Man were written through most of this, and Booster Gold’s scenes were generally fun. I had wanted to read more with Natasha Irons, and her stuff, though full of teen angst, is decent. On the other hand, Elongated Man’s plot bored me more and more as it went along, and I thought the ending was dull as dirt. The very, very end to Black Adam’s plot was great, but the climatic issues before that I just found busy, upsetting and needlessly confusing.  Montoya’s plot was sort of working until, again, the climax. I just think the ‘Religion of Crime’ is a stupid idea for a villain, their plot is dumb and I don’t like reading about them.

The final ending has some neat ideas, but I didn’t really understand the heroes’ solution to the problem, and there seemed to be a bit too much hand-waving going on in the brief explanations. It was meant to bring it all together, but to me it just felt like they’d turned the entire year of issues into an excuse for a setting element that should have only taken up a few pages at most. Between that and the commentary at the end, which made a good try at making the whole thing feel inspirational, but just made me angry at the current state of the DCU, it risked souring me on the whole year-long arc. I have to keep reminding myself that I liked a lot of it, even a lot of the last Volume. There’s good stuff in the ending(s) that take up most of Volume Four, but overall I just found it fine, not great.  I know a lot of people loved the ending, but it really doesn’t work for me, and so it brings the whole enterprise down a notch.

The Trinity appear around the edges of the other plots. Wonder Woman’s late scene with Montoya is pretty great, although the rest of the stuff with her feels tacked on. Bruce... it’s kinda neat, but I do not know what was going on there. Clark, meanwhile, positively sparkles in the first few volumes. Temporarily powerless, he hangs in the background being awesome.

I enjoyed the read (until the endings started hitting), but I can only recommend 52 to the hard-core DC fans... who, honestly, have probably already read it.

52 Volumes 1-3: 4 Stars 
52 Volume 4: 3 Stars

The Element of Fire

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Element of Fire
Martha Wells, 1993, gently revised 2006

Premise: Set in the same world as The Wizard Hunters and its sequels, but takes place centuries prior. In the kingdom of Ile-Rien, the Captain of the Queen’s Guard goes to rescue an academic sorcerer from a dangerous foreign wizard. It seems simple enough, but with power-hungry sycophants circling the young king, who himself seems disinclined to care about the kingdom, everything is part of someone’s plot and everyone will be drawn into the battle for the future of the country.

I really enjoyed this book. Wells seems to have a knack for characters who I find likable because of their abrasive ways. In this book, it’s Kade Carrion, half-fay bastard sister to the king. She’s all sorts of awesome. She could be powerful, but chooses to mostly skate by on her luck and trickery. She’s snarky and sad and simply delightful.

The Dowager Queen Ravenna is pretty spectacular as well. Just because her weak-willed son has reached his majority doesn’t mean she’ll easily give up the power she’s wielded her entire life. She’s often cynical and angry, but also extremely clever and hard, as she’s needed to be to keep her land safe through violent war.

Captain Thomas Boniface is a bit more generic, but he’s a good-hearted sort, although he’s learned enough cynicism and deceit from Ravenna to have survived this long at her side.

The story is easy to follow and trips along at a good pace. I did see one twist coming, but just long enough to really feel the foreshadowing hit. The romantic subplot is well handled, and while it informs characters’ motivations, it never overwhelms the story.

The descriptions of the various fay creatures are great, and the differences between fay magic and human sorcery (only alluded to loosely in the other books in this world) are explored in depth.

Overall, while neither groundbreaking or perfect, I found this to be a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

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Master and Commander (Aubrey-Maturin, Book One)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Master and Commander (Aubrey-Maturin, Book One)
Patrick O’Brian, 1969

Premise: In 1800, two men meet at a concert by being terribly rude to each other. Jack Aubrey is a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, currently without a post. Stephen Maturin is a physician, currently without a patient. Their friendship will change both their lives, as well as the lives of everyone around them.

This is a re-read for me, because I recently bought the whole series for my Kindle. Huzzah! Now I can dip into the adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin any time I want!

I had forgotten how utterly delightful I find these books. I love the style, the way it’s grounded in the time the story is set while still being accessible. I love the characters. I love Jack’s bluster and good humor, and Stephen’s wit and wisdom. I love them together, Jack stumbling upon the doctor’s curious blind spots or Stephen wincing at Jack’s overbearing humor.

There’s a good deal of humor in the writing, much of it subtle and witty, as well as a good deal of drama and action to be had. Soon enough Jack and Stephen are at sea in the Sophie, and much of this book revolves around forming the crew of the little sloop into a team and fulfilling missions to protect British shipping and harass the French along the coastline. If you are interested in naval history, you will enjoy the descriptions of life aboard ship. If you don’t think you’re interested in naval history, you might be by the end!

Mr. Dillion, Jack’s first lieutenant, has history with Stephen and trouble relating to Jack, and his presence clarifies both their characters. There are an assortment of other minor characters, including Mr. Marshall, whose crush on Jack goes unnoticed by him, but not by his shipmates, and Commander Harte, who is aware of Jack’s behavior with his wife, and threatens to bring all of them down for it.

The one caveat I would add for those unfamiliar with this series is that, while there are plenty of character arcs and plots to follow, the book isn’t structured with them in mind. The entire series (20 books plus half of one left unfinished by the death of the author) tells the story of the life of a friendship. Each piece is a small arc, but doesn’t have the same kind of resolution that most novels have. What I’m trying to say is that after a major plot is resolved, the book ends rather abruptly. Many of the books in this series do the same. I don’t mind this, but it might be rather jarring the first time.

For the beginning of one of the great friendships in literature, I’m definitely giving Master and Commander-

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

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Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Friday, November 9, 2012

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance (Vorkosigan Saga)
Lois McMaster Bujold, 2012


Premise: Ivan Vorpatril’s settled into his life. He likes his job, he’s found a certain peace with most of his relations, his old girlfriends are all married, and he’s okay with that too. That is, until assignment on Komarr brings him into contact with one sly ImpSec informer, one angry blue-skinned dancer, and one lovely woman in danger. It’s Ivan to the rescue, although he has no idea how far his gallant impulses will bring them all!

Yay! A new Vorkosigan Saga book! (This is either book 16, 15, or 14, depending on how you count them.) I loved this; it was completely adorable. Getting to spend an entire book with Ivan is downright restful in some ways, and you can really get into his subtle strengths as a character. Tej is delightful as well, although in the middle of the book I sometimes had moments where it was harder to relate to her. That’s just the kind of person she is, though, because of where she grew up.

Byerly Vorrutyer is back as a major player, and where By shows up, trouble can’t be far behind. Lady Alys Vorpatril, Simon Illyan, Duv Galeni and Emperor Gregor all get moments to shine in the supporting cast, as well as Admiral Desplains,  Ivan’s boss at Ops. Count Falco Vorpatril even pops in with a memorable cameo.

As a late entry in the series, there are plenty of little callbacks to earlier adventures, but with maybe one or two exceptions, that never holds anything back, just adds a fun layer. It’s certainly better to have read the books up to this point, or at least the books Ivan is in, but I could see someone picking this up blind and enjoying it. It’s adventure-romantic science-fiction! What’s not to love?

I more or less knew where this story was headed from early on, but was definitely surprised by the route it took to get there. As usual, the pace was gripping, the characters compelling, the humor laugh-out-loud-in-public funny.

Not much more to say really. I’ll have to read it again before I know whether it’ll become an all-time favorite, but it’s a solid entry in an outstanding series, so:

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

Get Captain Vorpatril's Alliance at

Peter Panzerfaust Volume 1: The Great Escape

Monday, November 5, 2012

Peter Panzerfaust Volume 1: The Great Escape
Story by Kurtis J Wiebe, Art by Tyler Jenkins, 2012

New Release! I received an electronic copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of review.

Premise: It’s a reimagining of Peter Pan set in France during WWII. Many years later, a man who had been an orphan stranded in Calais during the German invasion tells the story of how he and a group of other stranded boys were rescued by a strange American named Peter.

I expected to enjoy this book, but I had no idea how fascinating it was going to be. The blend of history and literary allusions is gripping, the art is dynamic and amazing. It’s grounded and bloody and definitely set in France, but still completely recognizable as Peter Pan.

There are moments when the art slips; it gets a little too stylized and some unnatural anatomy throws me out of the moment. But the moments when the writing and the art come together and just sing are breathtaking.

There’s some mystery yet to be revealed in the frame story, something about why the interviewer is looking for this story, and this volume is just the beginning of the characters’ adventures. Yet, while I’ll look forward to more, these pages stand on their own perfectly well.

The characters are drawn out in little moments, and while I sometimes had a hard time telling some of the boys apart, I was invested in all of them at least a little. But Peter is truly magnificent.

You get just enough to ground the character in a sense of reality, while he’s still bound up in adventure and youth and a kind of magic. I think the balance is just right, and the storytelling framework keeps you out of his thoughts, which is a very good thing.

I don’t want to reveal any of the plot points, or exactly how each character translates to the new setting, because it was so much fun to come upon those things unexpectedly. This is a tremendously unique and intriguing ride.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

You can pick up Peter Panzerfaust Volume 1: The Great Escape on

Maggie For Hire

Friday, November 2, 2012

Maggie For Hire
Kate Danley, 2011

Copy received from BookRooster for review.

Premise: Maggie is a tracker, but now someone’s tracking her. Her life of tracking undead and other nonhuman bail jumpers is upset when she’s caught between a group of strangely powerful vampires, an elf who wants her services on behalf of the elven queen, and a mysterious figure who wants Maggie’s power to walk between worlds.

This was a fun read that started really strong, but there’s not much supporting the fun.

The style of the writing is the most striking thing about this novel. Maggie’s voice is conversational and funny, with a decent turn on humorous phrases. The supporting cast is interesting and sometimes silly.

The plot is pretty thin, though. It doesn’t end up amounting to much, and while the climax works, it wasn’t as strong as it could have been. The friendship between Maggie and Killian works right up until it feels forced, and while the style starts adorable, it eventually got a smidge cloying. The Other Side was really interesting, but nothing about it was established beyond the existence of elves, vampires and other mythical beasties. Maggie is half Other Sider, but what that means and what her dad is was never addressed.

A lot of my problems with the book, though, didn’t come to mind until after I finished reading it, because the experience of reading it was pleasant. It’s a cotton candy sort of story: inoffensive, sweet, fun for a while, not filling.

Can I mention how happy I am that I never saw the cover before reading the book? I picked the least terrible of the various covers to put with this article, but the other ones don't fit the book at all, and this one's just odd.

I enjoyed the experience of reading Maggie for Hire, but I don’t think I’ll need to track down the next one.

2 Stars - An Okay Book

Comics Briefly: American Vampire #32, Batman: Li’l Gotham #1, Captain Marvel #5, Wolverine and the X-Men #19

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Books new (in stores and/or online) on 10/31/12. Happy Halloween, everyone!

American Vampire #32
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

Despite the beginning being a bit of flashback for those who missed the early plotlines, this issue fits in a lot of action, twists and plot developments. Hattie reveals her plan and her allies (little bit of monologuing there), and Pearl struggles to counter her. A strong installment, and I’m eager for the resolution of this arc.

Batman: Li’l Gotham #1
Written by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs, Art by Dustin Nguyen

Hey, look, a digital comic. Fancy. And AWWWWWW. It’s so CUTE! It’s half-size, like most digital-only books, but it’s a super-cute little story about Bruce teaching Damian the meaning of Halloween. Really. And the art is awesome. You’ve got 99 cents burning a hole in your pocket? Give it a shot!

Captain Marvel #5
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Artist: Emma Rios, Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

Closing out the first arc with a bang! Awesome art, wonderful writing. I LOVE THIS BOOK. Carol revisits her beginning, in more than one way, and her mentor Helen’s along to challenge her at every step!

Wolverine and the X-Men #19
Writer: Jason Aaron, Penciler: Nick Bradshaw Inker: Walden Wong, Colorist: Laura Martin

That’s more like it! Beast consults with the brains of the Marvel U to try to save a student, Logan and Rachel are on the track of the Hellfire kids, Angel gets some help getting his family company back, and Kitty’s interviewing prospective faculty. Hilarity definitely ensues. I loved all the cameos in this one! I giggled constantly, though I think I only downright cackled at the first one. Everyone gets a word in edgewise; I loved that the issue managed to tell several short stories and check in with every major character. It really felt like it was tying the title back together now that the big crossover is done.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Robert A. Heinlein, 1966

Hugo Winner – 1967

Premise: Manuel “Manny” O'Kelly lives on the moon. A lot of people do, in fact. However, the moon is still being run like the prison colony it started out as, and there is talk, especially among people who were born there, about governing themselves. Manny doesn't intend to get involved in politics, but it turns out that he has the lynchpin necessary to make an idea of revolution a reality.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I mean, on the plot level, it was an interesting little piece about a moon-based revolution and a computer with a sense of humor. It heavily explores the idea that we'll re-play all our previous frontier problems in space. The lunar civilization bears more than a passing resemblance to early Australian colonies crossed with stories of the Wild West. The 'loonies' look after themselves and sometimes each other and have no problems enforcing brutal frontier justice to keep their home 'safe'.

On the other hand, Heinlein still can't write characters, in my opinion. The problem might be that I've read all four of his Hugo winners within a year. Certain male character types recur in his writing: the blue-collar pragmatist, the personal-freedoms intellectual with convenient buckets of cash, the inhuman learning to be human. I didn't find anything new or particularly compelling about any of the versions in this book. They are less annoying than the main characters in Stranger in a Strange Land, but that's more a matter of plot. His women are affable blanks; friendly, shallow creatures with interchangeable looks.

Even with that, I didn't hate this book. It wasn't unpleasant to read. The highly stylized language is interesting, the particulars of the plot sort of neat.

I understand, I think, why many people enjoy this book. It's got some neat parts, and like most of his work, I'm sure it inspired other writers who took some of the concepts much further. I do feel bad that I finished it and thought: “Yes! That's the last Hugo winner by Heinlein! DONE!”

His first winner, Double Star, I really enjoyed. But I guess his longer stuff just isn't for me.

3 Stars – A Good Book.

List of Hugo Winners

Dog Wizard (The Windrose Chronicles, Volume Three)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dog Wizard (The Windrose Chronicles, Volume Three)
Barbara Hambly, 1993

Premise: Sequel to The Silent Tower and Silicon Mage. Joanna again returns to Antryg’s home dimension, but not willingly this time. Antryg follows in search of her, but he finds his former colleagues are less concerned with the fact that he’d escaped his death sentence than with who or what is causing severe disturbances in the Void. Disturbances that threaten to unhinge the world of magic, and trap both Antryg and Joanna between dimensions.

This is a tremendously misleading
cover, just FYI.
This book is set about 6 months after Silicon Mage, but the publication dates are five years apart. As such, Dog Wizard is less “Part Three” and more “the continuing adventures of.” Some characters recur, but the tone and the emphasis is a bit different, and the plot is relatively unconnected to the previous books.

It was a pretty fun book, though. This book spent much more time with Antryg, getting into his head, where the previous ones mostly focused on Joanna. There was a lot more about magicians and their private culture and interactions. They hold themselves somewhat separate from the world, but are always actually interacting with locals and in danger from authorities. It felt a lot like the community in some liberal arts colleges I know, both for good and for ill.

I was surprised to see the return of one character in particular, but happy. The multiverse implied by this series doesn’t get a lot of play, otherwise.

The solution to the mystery was satisfying and sad, and while I saw one of the final twists coming, I still enjoyed it when it landed. It does rather beg for another sequel, but other than a stand-alone book in the same world and a handful of priced-just-too-high-for-a-short-story offerings on the author’s website, this is the end of the story for now.

Similar to the other offerings by Open Road Media, this book had terrible OCR translation. It wasn’t unreadable by any means, and it didn’t have the section break problem that plagued Silicon Mage, but it confuses “the” and “me” a lot. So. My advice: only buy the Kindle/Nook/etc. version on a very cheap sale, or if you’ve got room, check it out in paperback.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Dog Wizard is available on

October Comics Briefly Catch-up: Batman Incorporated #4, Captain Marvel #5, Star Trek/Doctor Who #6, Sword of Sorcery (Amethyst) #1, Uncanny Avengers #1, Wolverine and the X-Men #18

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Been super busy the past few weeks and I’m re-evaluating the sustainability of my budget for comic issues, but I do have several weeks worth of new comics to talk about:

To sum up:
The Best: Sword of Sorcery
The Good: Captain Marvel, Batman Inc.
The In-between: Wolverine and the X-Men
The Bad: Star Trek/Doctor Who, Uncanny Avengers

Batman Incorporated #4
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Chris Burnham

I don’t really understand the last few pages, but other than that this was a strong action-oriented issue in which the (male, un-rebooted) members of Batman Inc. go up against the League of Assassins. Pretty fun stuff, although the characters I actually like were under-used in favor of the D-listers.

Captain Marvel #5
Writer: Kelly Sue Deconnick, Artist: Emma Rios, Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

A lot of great moments in this issue. I might not be completely on board with the “jumping through time” plotline yet, but there’s a lot of good stuff to be had. Carol trying to interact with Helen, who she knew/will know at a very different time is interesting, and the way they spark off each other is fun.

Star Trek/Doctor Who #6
Written by Scott & David Tipton, Pencils by Gordon Purcell, Art by J. K. Woodward

The plot picks up a little, but this story is really dragging on too long, and the art continues to be rather slapdash and terrible. If there were more than two issues left, I would quit this series right now.

Sword of Sorcery (Amethyst) #1
Writer: Christy Marx, Art: Aaron Lopresti, Colors: Hi-Fi

Yay Amethyst! This picks up right from the end of Issue #0, and I’m really enjoying this so far! I love how Amy’s training kicks in, while her reaction to the horror of actual battle feels real. I love that the book is layering in some complexity to Amy’s wicked aunt. She’s a prototypical wicked queen in many ways, but she’s still a person with feelings and doubts. So far I like the looks of the different clans quite a bit, too. The Beowulf back-up is still completely uninteresting.

Uncanny Avengers #1
Writer: Rick Remender, Artist: John Cassaday, Color: Laura Martin

I’m intrigued by a lot of the titles coming up with ‘Marvel Now!’ Writers who I have liked are taking on Sif, Iron Man, and Thor, and a lot of the previews I’ve read are kind of neat. I should have listened to my instincts and stayed away from this one, though. It picks up in the aftermath of AvX and deals with the repercussions... sort of. I mean, if “let’s dudes talk about form a new team while the ladies have a cat fight” can really be called dealing with anything. There are neat things about it, and some moments I liked, especially around Wolverine. Someone online pointed out that the ending is fantastically camp, looked at a certain way, and maybe I could get behind that, but it really threw me, as is, and didn’t make me interested in picking up the next issue.

Wolverine and the X-Men #18
Writer: Jason Aaron, Penciler: Jorge Molina, Inker: Norman Lee

This issue has a decent sum-up of the end of AvX, and an assortment of good character moments. That doesn’t quite make up for the upsetting ending. Seriously, if this book wants to kill/wreck my favorite characters and doesn’t want to be my fun-feel-good Marvel book anymore, I’m dropping it for Young Avengers.

JLA: The Greatest Stories Ever Told

Friday, October 19, 2012

JLA: The Greatest Stories Ever Told
Various, 2006

Premise: A collection of iconic Justice League stories from throughout the history of comics.

I picked this up at the library on a whim, because I like the Justice League, and I like zany classic comics. Some of these were a little corny and boring even for me, though. Some, on the other hand, were pretty great.

The first story is “The Super Exiles of Earth”, in which the Justice League has to reveal their secret identities to each other to defeat a bunch of evil duplicates. It’s a little zany, with stilted dialogue and a really silly, forced resolution. The second story is the one where Snapper Carr betrays the League in the name of “normal” people. It has some nice Batman stuff, but a really silly ending as well.

There’s another one based on secret identities, where each Leaguer thinks he’s actually one of the others. This is a neat idea, but the plot involves Doctor Light setting traps for them based on their mixed-up memories. So, for example, Green Arrow falls into a trap in Ray Palmer’s lab that the actual Atom could have escaped from. Which sort of begs the question: why not just set that trap somewhere Oliver Queen would go? The end effect is rather silly. It’s better once it gets into the big fight scene, though.

The one where the JLA body-swap with a bunch of villains was rather fun, with lot of interesting character moments and plot twists. That’s followed by the story of the formation of a later incarnation of the League, which since it includes Guy Gardner, Black Canary, Dr. Fate, Mister Miracle and Batman, is full of rather hilarious bickering. The plan to beat the bad guys in this one was pretty neat, too.

Finally there are two modern era stories: Star Seed, from Grant Morrison’s run, and a one-shot issue called Two Minute Warning. I really liked both of these, especially the latter. Two Minute Warning is a great exploration of the League, jumping back and forth between a big battle and vignettes about what each member was doing before the alarm went off. Also, there’s some really excellent interactions between Batman and Wonder Woman that make me quite happy. It does have Plastic Man, though.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this compilation, although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone who isn’t already a fan.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book Three)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Suzanne Collins, 2010

Premise: Final book of The Hunger Games. (Book One, Book Two) The revolution is finally at hand, as the Districts try to bring down the government of Panem. Can Katniss become the symbol that the rebel leaders want her to be? If she does, what will happen to her friends still in captivity?

I've had a surprisingly hard time sitting down to write this review. It's not that I'm unsure how I feel about the book: I loved it. It's rather that it was such an experience to read that I'm not sure I'm up to articulating my response.

Mockingjay had some of the same world-building weaknesses that have characterized this series. However, since this one was more limited in scope (focused mostly on District Thirteen and very specific sequences in other areas) and concentrated on what the characters didn't know, the world didn't bother me as much.

I liked the expanded/combined cast of characters building off of the second book. I thought the plot twists were well done. This is not, overall, a happy book. Katniss is in a very dark, broken place, and her narration reflects that.

I loved the end, although I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet. I'll just say that I liked the way it resonated thematically with the whole series.

I loved the way Katniss' opinions and plans shifted constantly. I loved the return of the theme of music. You should really find some melancholy folk music to listen to while you read this.

I actually re-read this one, which I hadn't done with the first two. It makes my heart feel heavy in a cleansing sort of way, if that makes any sense.

5 Stars - An Awesome book

Check out Mockingjay on

This Immortal

Monday, October 8, 2012

This Immortal
Roger Zelazny, 1966

Hugo Co-Winner – 1966

Premise: Conrad Nomikos is a rather secretive fellow, when you get down to it. How he became Commissioner of Arts, Monuments and Archives for Earth is just one of many things he doesn't discuss. Neither does he discuss his feelings about the Vegans, an alien race who is “helping” the shattered remains of humanity, maybe. When he is called upon to escort a Vegan representative on a tour of historical sites, he grumbles about it, but he doesn't realize that the mission could change the fate of the entire planet.

Wow! This was easily one of my favorite Hugo-winners to date. I really enjoyed the style, the story, the characters, the mystery and more.

This Immortal is set in a future when the Earth is at a particularly low point. After some sort of catastrophic incident, several space colonies were cut off from Earth and by now the planet itself is mostly inhabited by mutants, gangs, clusters of survivors, and an administrative staff. The relationship between the human colonies, the human population of Earth and the Vegans is complex, realistic, and totally fascinating.

It's told in the first person, and I absolutely loved the style. Conrad's dark humor shines throughout, and I loved the way he wove little ironic references to various poems, songs, etc. into his narration. A quote on the back cover of my copy described this book as “...If you've ever asked yourself what would have happened if Philip Marlowe had been Odysseus...”(-New Worlds) The delightful prose certainly justifies that comparison in my opinion.

The plot is interesting to follow, there are plenty of twists and turns, and a few times I laughed aloud at certain developments. The goals of each character on the expedition are revealed slowly, and there are so many layers that it's hard to say when characters are telling the truth.

While the plot and the immediate concerns are resolved in the end, many questions raised by the book are left intentionally vague. What the Three Days devastation was, why many 'mutant' creatures are similar to things of myth or legend, and especially who or what Conrad actually is, beyond fantastically long-lived, are all left somewhat up to the readers interpretation, and I think it works best that way.

I really just flat-out enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it for its unique characters and setting, and for its wonderful style.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book (but very close to 5)

List of Hugo Winners