Possible changes, and a Poll!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I've been thinking about making some changes here at the Blue Fairy's Bookshelf. I'm pondering changing things up, maybe widening the focus of the blog slightly. I don't make any promises or any threats, and I might not end up changing anything anytime soon.

But before I decide what I want to do, I wanted to reach out to you, my readers, to see what you think. If you could take three minutes to complete the following short poll, I would very much appreciate it.

Thank you!


A Case of Conscience

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Case of Conscience
James Blish, 1958

Premise: In 2050, four men are on a commission to the planet Lithia. They are there to evaluate the planet and its sentient natives, and render a recommendation about future contact with Earth. One man wants to turn the unique geology of Lithia into a nuclear arms factory, another is convinced the peaceful Lithian society could teach humanity a thing or two, one is unsure where he stands, and the fourth becomes convinced that since the Lithians have an orderly society without religion, that they must be demonic in origin. Yeah. If you have been hanging around here for a while, you already know I'm not going to like this guy. In the second half, the plot gets even weirder.

Some books I read on the wrong day. Some books I read in the wrong year. Some books I read too fast because they have to go back to the library. Some books fall victim to all three, so you can feel free to take this review with a grain of salt.

I was never going to wholeheartedly enjoy A Case of Conscience, if only because Catholic theology makes my eyes glaze over. As far as I can tell, this is the story of a perfectly nice planet, completely screwed over by idiotic humans, who bring their baggage with them everywhere. Since we follow said humans through many pages of their own internal maunderings, I found the book ultimately pretty boring. The science discussed has not aged well, and it doesn't help that it seems to be recapitulating (pun intended) parts of Burrough's The People that Time Forgot.

The larger problem is that I don't really care what happens to any of the human characters. Admittedly, Blish seems to make them intentionally unlikable. Also, there are completely obvious science-fictional explanations for the behavior of the Lithians, and the characters are too stupid to see them.

The first half of the book was originally published as a novella, and is not bad, if dated and melodramatic. But in the second half, it completely switches gears, and turns into a sort of weird cousin to Stranger in a Strange Land. The humans are given a Lithian egg to take back with them to Earth. They completely screw up the raising of such (which is not pointed out enough), and he grows up to be an amoral anarchist. Which is kind of what Earth seemed to need in this awkwardly dystopian future, so I'm not sure what the characters are complaining about. There's a rather baroque sex party, I guess to prove the dystopian-ness, or something? Father Ramon whines a lot about his moral failings, and then there's riots.

And then there's the end, which I do appreciate for its ambiguity. Unstated moral: humans wreck everything, and should be confined to their own planet for the safety of others. I don't think that I'm entirely off base with my interpretation, and I don't object to the moral given the circumstances, but ultimately I found this book disjointed and depressing.

2 Stars - An Okay Book

List of Hugo Award Winners

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part 1

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part 1
Script: Gene Luen Yang, Art: Gurihiru, 2012

New Release! I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for purposes of review. (I read that one, and then went out the day it arrived in stores, bought a hard copy and read it again.)

Premise: The war is over, but bringing peace to the Four Nations isn't as simple as winning a battle. This is the continuing story of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I LOVE THIS. I loved this to pieces. This made me laugh and gasp and cry aloud. I love these characters, and this is completely in tone with the series: funny and sweet and heartbreaking.

It even starts by devoting three pages to the voiceover that opened every episode of the series, so it dropped me immediately into the right mindset for this world. I can hear the voice actors in my head. If you haven't seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, GO DO THAT. And then when you get to the end and want more, you're in luck!

The Promise interweaves some of the character moments we saw at the end of the last episode into the start of a new story, in which Zuko and Aang struggle with the Fire Nation colonies that were established in the Earth Kingdom during the war. It becomes a difficult question: what is the best thing to do, for those people who live there and for the Nations as a whole? How long have they been there? Are they Fire Nation citizens? Earth Kingdom citizens? What about the Earth Kingdom people who are angry, who lost people in the war, who want every Firebender gone? There are no easy answers for the characters.

There are plenty of great character moments, from an early conversation between Aang and Zuko that introduces the core emotional plot and had me right by the heartstrings, to the sweet moments showing the development of Aang and Katara's relationship. Toph and Sokka meanwhile maintain the right amount of comic relief to keep the tone on balance. Plenty of characters get at least a cameo, but there are occasional subtle words or references to keep the reader on track in case you forget who someone is.

You know the next element that's needed for Avatar: action! And this doesn't disappoint. The fight scenes are gorgeous: clear, dynamic, and inventive.

The art is beautiful throughout, in fact. Mostly just true to the series, although I especially liked the addition of Aang's prayer beads containing all the symbols of the elements, that he apparently uses to talk to the previous Avatars. The design work on that was beautifully done, and there are little elements to the art that I only noticed on a second look, little details that just enhance the whole.

This is a medium-short graphic novel at 76 Pages.

Be warned, this ends in a cliffhanger! And I have to wait until MAY for Part 2? NO FAIR.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

Watch Avatar: The Last Airbender on Nickelodeon, DVD, or Netflix
Get Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise Part 1on Amazon.com, or your local comic shop

Comics Briefly: American Vampire #23, Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part One

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Only two buys today, and they are both quite good and quite different. Both new in stores on 1/25/12

American Vampire #23 (Death Race Part Two)
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Rafael Albuquerque, Colors: Dave McCaig

A good follow up to last issue, this issue continues to intercut the 'present' car chase with more pieces of backstory and more recent history. The flow works well; everything slots together quite nicely, while keeping the tension high. No surprise on the last-page reveal, despite the events of Ghost War. Travis is a great new character, and I'm excited to get the rest of his story soon.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part One
This is 75 pages long, pretty much a graphic novel. And it is AMAZING. It's getting its own post tomorrow.

The Big Time

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Big Time
Fritz Leiber, 1957

Premise: What starts out as a usual day for The Place - rest stop for soldiers in the Change War - becomes much more dangerous as personalities, ideologies and plots clash between the soliders and the entertainers.

First of all, the prose here is fantastic. The narration is by Greta, once a "party girl" from Chicago, now separated from her time-line to be comfort and companion to those who fight in the Change War, which rages across all time and space. The dialogue is wonderful. The characters come from all different points in history, and speak polyglots of language from their own time mixed with slang picked up from others.

I'm less sold on the ending: the closing speeches are a bit silly to me, but the plot itself is very nice. The introduction of the edition I read compared it to a stage drama, and I would too: a collection of people come to a place under great stress, and begin to love and fight and argue, shifting alliances and dealing with interpersonal conflict.

The cast of characters is what makes the story zing along. There's Greta and the other Entertainers: Sid who runs the Place, Beau the pianist, Doc the drunk (every bar has a drunk, even those suspended in the Void), the other girls: Maud the therapist and cynic, Lili the young and romantic. Add to this three soldiers: Erich, brash, bossy and proud, Mark, broken and quiet, and Bruce, firey and young. Plus three more, rescued from near death, two non-humans and Kaby, an ancient amazon. And then there's a bomb and a mutiny. Sparks fly.

It's short, which is good, although it still comes to the edge of wearing out its premise. Despite a lackluster denoument, this is still a solid exploration of humanity in extremis.

3 Stars - A Good Book

List of Hugo Award Winners

Daughter of the Centaurs (Centuriad, #1)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Daughter of the Centaurs (Centuriad, #1)
(K.K. Ross/Kate Klimo), 2012

New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review. 

(NB: It looks like the author's name on the cover changed between when the review copies were released and the final book release?)

Premise: Malora wants to grow up to train horses like her father before her, but when disaster strikes their tiny settlement, she and the horses must learn to survive alone in the wild. That is, until she meets travellers from a city of centaurs, who are rather surprised that any humans still exist. Should she run the other way, or try to find a place in their society?

I have extremely mixed feelings about this book.

On the one hand, I like the main character. She's got a lot of heart and fire, and I found her moral and emotional struggles convincing. I liked quite a few of the supporting characters, and the two societies we see over the course of the story are both interesting.

On the other hand, I think the larger setting is flat-out stupid; more on that below. It's the sort of thing that might be saved by extremely clever explanation, but that explanation was not forthcoming in this volume. Overall, I was aggravated by the number of plot threads that were teased or foreshadowed and then not dealt with. I understand that this is book one of however many, but the plot climax for this book was fairly lacking. It didn't feel like it had any stakes, and the other players in the final conflict only appeared very late in the book. It didn't leave me interested in the next book, it left me wondering whether the author actually has a plan.

Now, all that said, I loved the early part of the book, about Malora living on the plains with her horses. It was a bit like a fantasy Island of the Blue Dolphins, and once it lost that, I never really connected with it again. I did mostly enjoy the rest of the read, but I thought it could have been so much better.

In order to explain this a little more, I'm going to have to give away a few things.
So, Spoilers Ahead for Setting and Foreshadowing.

Pretty far into the book, it becomes clear that this is in fact not a fantasy world, but a future Earth. With centaurs (and satyrs and other hybrid folks), but no obvious magic. I'm sorry, but I have a really hard time just accepting centaurs studying 'ancient' human literature (like Shakespeare and Danielle Steele) without a hair of a hint of an explanation how we got from here to there. We find out that Malora might be the last human (not buying it, even barring some mystical foreshadowing) and that the centaurs massacred many of the humans a few generations back. Now the centaurs have a sort of weird two-tiered society, split between the useless tight-laced aristocracy and the earthy, sometimes-violent peasants. It's obvious that changing this will be part of the plot, but it isn't yet there.

There's also a race of cat-people slaves, but there's no foreshadowing that this is going to change anytime soon. Have authors somehow not learned that you really shouldn't say that a race of sentient beings likes being servile? Can you say: creepy nasty undertones?

More things that frustrated me: There's no hint of explanation why centaur perfume somehow gives Malora clairvoyance or hallucinations. There's one chapter where the satyr scholar thinks about how Malora might be some sort of destined savior. We never see his point of view before or after that, and it doesn't come up again. I hated that chapter.

End Spoilers

I liked a lot of things about this book, and I understand that the characters don't know the answers to some of my questions, and that's why the reader isn't given any explanation. Understanding that, however, doesn't mean excusing how jarring many of those unexplained things were.

In the end, I can't give this the benefit of the doubt. I hope that there is some plan for these plot elements, but too little is revealed in this volume, so I'm giving this

2 Stars - An Okay Book

Find out more about Daughter of the Centaurs on Amazon.com

Comics Briefly: Batman #5, The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #2, Wonder Woman #5

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Favorite Issue This Week: The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #2

All Issues were new in stores on 1/18/12

NB: It has been noted, in my conversations with friends about comic books, that like all of us, I am affected by my introduction to comic books and comic book characters, and that affects the kind of stories and characters I expect and enjoy. So be advised, when I get cranky about the new DCU, it's largely because what I like best in DC-based stories are interactions between heroes that have some history and/or emotional weight, legacy characters, strong friendships and galactic-level Batman. And I'm not getting a lot of that. That doesn't mean the books are bad, but it means that I don't love them.

Batman #5
Writer: Scott Snyder, Pencils: Greg Capullo, Inks: Jonathan Glapion, Colors: FCO

There are some moments with Gordon and the extended Batclan that open and close this issue, and they are very sweet and well done (minus my feelings about one panel of Batgirl with serious anatomy issues), but the vast majority of this is Bruce stumbling around going crazy in the labyrinth of the Owls. This is decently done, but I really didn't need a whole issue of it. The 'quirky panel angle equating to mental instability' motif that I liked a couple issues back is taken a bit far; at one point you actually have to flip the entire book around, and I had to jump ahead to check whether the pages were just printed wrong. I don't know, I guess I'm losing traction on the whole secret society of evil whatever plot-line. I don't feel like anything has been actually revealed in issues and issues, and I just can't believe that this is a real conspiracy of whatever or a real threat. It's just a schmuck in a stupid helmet, Bruce, stop buying into the drugged hallucinations or whatever and just hit him, already!

The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #2
Writer: Tom Hutchison, Artist: Alisson Borges, Colorist: Kate Finnegan, THAT UGLY COVER ABOVE is by Nei Ruffino

Yes, I have the variant cover, and it's frankly hideous. It was the last copy at my favored comic shop, and I hate it. So when I tell you that the story and the art underneath that cover is ridiculously great, believe me. (There's still some cheesecake, and it's computer color-ish but it it's good.) I picked up the last issue on a whim a month or two back, and frankly, I'm just tickled by the premise. This is Wizard of Oz crossed with Gunslinger. We're being introduced to a whole new spin on these characters. Gale, and her horse Toto, have spent years trying to make their way across a blasted, lawless landscape, in search of the Emerald City. Somewhere along the way she picked up a pair of ruby spurs and the matching six-shooters. We met the Tin Man in Issue #1, he carries a badge, and in this issue we see the Witch of the West for the first time. Occasional direct references to the source material keep the tone from getting too dark, but I dig the old-time western mix of sardonic fatalism and grittiness in this world. This is a fairly small-press book, and I did spot a typo in this issue. However, I loved the introduction of the Scarecrow here. She seems awesome.

Here, I'll give you a pretty page from inside so you don't have to take my word on the art:

Dorothy finally gets to kick ass!

Wonder Woman #5
Writer: Brian Azzerello, Artist: Tony Atkins, Colorist: Matthew Wilson

Some decent moments here, but I am still not liking this story. (The less said about the stupid plot from last month, which I skipped writing about then, the better.) New artist this issue, and I like the style, except for the dead-doll eyes on Diana much of the time. Those are not helping me connect with this character. And then at the end I think there should be an awkward laugh track or sound effect or something because of the (unintentional? intentional?) silliness of the last panel. Plus it took me way too long to figure out what was going on a little bit before that because of the layout, and is Wonder Woman hovering standing still or walking on water? I know I'm practically the only one, but I just don't get this book.

Double Star

Monday, January 16, 2012

Double Star
Robert A. Heinlein, 1956

Premise: Actor Lorenzo Smythe is tapped by spacer Dak Broadbent for a job: impersonation, no details. Lorenzo has no idea that he's about to be swept up in the  intrigue of interstellar politics. Because if he had an idea about that, he'd have run in the opposite direction.

This book was so much fun. The prose style is delightful, the storyline interesting, the politics even compelling!

I really enjoyed it, and this is the first of the Hugo winners (chronologically) that I can say that about without reservation.

All of the characters are complicated and interesting, and despite plenty of tension, there's very little action, since most of the plot hangs on character growth. It's a great example of one of my favorite kinds of sci-fi: human characters, with human problems, complicated by future scale.

The Martians here are intriging, if never described too closely. I mostly get the sense of how alien they are, but they're still completely sentient, completely people.

The ending isn't that surprising, although the epilogue is beautiful. As a work of entertaining sci-fi, as a character study of actors and politicians, and as a meditation on identity and progress, I give Double Star high marks.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

List of Hugo Award Winners

Comics Briefly: Batgirl #5, Batwoman #5, Demon Knights #5, Wolverine and the X-Men #4

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Favorite Issue This Week: Wolverine and the X-Men #4 (Demon Knights is a close second, though)

All Issues new in stores on 1/11/12

Batgirl #5
Writer: Gail Simone, Pencillers: Adrian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes, Inker: Vicente Cifuentes, Colors: Ulises Arreola

I liked this issue more than I've liked the early ones, but I'm still not big on this title. The art has been decent overall, but I really disliked the first splash page in this issue from a posing standpoint. About the plot: did we need a new super-badass mystery chick? It just feels a lot like the lackluster parts of last year's Birds of Prey. Babs' internal voice is funny and occasionally sweet, but boy does she need some consistent supporting cast so this book can stop being My So-Called Self-Pitying Superheroic Monologue.

Batwoman #5
Writers: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, Artist: J.H. Williams III, Colors: Dave Stewart

So I guess that was the end of the arc? I don't get this book. I mean, everything that happened followed from what happened before (except for the parts which tie back to the previous series), but in a way that felt dull and by-the-numbers to me. Suddenly Kate knows how to take down the bad guy, but that just leads to the clue for the next MacGuffin bad guy to chase. And then there's a scene to split her book further off from the other Bat-books. Maybe it would have a better pace collected as a graphic novel? There are some decent moments and some pretty panels, but overall I just don't care about anything that's going on.

Demon Knights #5
Writer: Paul Cornell, Pencillers: Diogenes Neves, Inkers: Oclair Albert & Diogenes Neves, Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo

This is more like it! This is a great issue because it takes the part I didn't like from last issue and gives it context and makes me appreciate it. I was a little disappointed with Savage (hope that plot will twist in the next issue) but I really liked this one overall. The bad guys try to tempt our heroes out of the town they're defending, and so we get some great character bits with some of the characters who had been neglected thus far, including confirmation of Exoristos' origin and some gorgeous work with the Horsewoman.

Wolverine and the X-Men #4
Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist: Nick Bradshaw, Colorist: Justin Ponsor

Woo! Continue the crazy! I haven't loved an X-Men comic as much as I love this title in a long time. It's got great humor, great style, and the art on this issue was slicker than last issue. I enjoy both styles, though. This week's installment brought in some new characters, some new twists, and a brief possible-future-flash. I just want to pat new student Genesis on his melancholy little head (you know, carefully), and the new plot with Angel is jaw-dropping. Plus now I want to read the tie-in part over in Uncanny X-Force. Darn you, clever comic makers! (Also, they're on Twitter. @JeanGreySchool This book is awesome.)

They'd Rather Be Right

Monday, January 9, 2012

They'd Rather Be Right
Mark Clifton and Frank Riley, 1954

Premise: A telepathic college student helps two professors to create a machine, called Bossy, that can answer hard questions, do complicated tasks, oh, and make people young and beautiful indefinitely. Of course, it only works on you if you can let go of your deeply held prejudices about how the world should be. Obviously, everyone wants the machine.

I don't think this was nearly so bad a book as it has a reputation for. It's not good, but “Worst Book to win a Hugo”? Maybe. I'll tell you when I'm through the list. It was easy to read, tripped along, and was so cheerfully straightforward about its own weird brand of philosophically flavored cockeyed optimism that I had to enjoy the ride. There's a lot of didactic description about how people get stuck in thought patterns; that people refuse to acknowledge things that don't fit their preconceived notion of the world. Which is true, but not especially well described here.

The dated chauvinism is less pervasive than in The Demolished Man. It's mostly confined to two egregious examples of belittling language, that seem weirdly out of place with the general “we're all going to become enlightened, isn't that peachy keen!” sense that seems to be the default attitude.

I thought there were a few lines that resonate still, about people's assumption that the rich and powerful will get the main benefit of any new technology, such that “average” people start to think it's no use trying to fight for equal access. Also the character of the PR person was highly amusing in his mix of cynicism and good cheer.

This book does have a fairly fatal amount of Telling instead of Showing, causing it to often come off as a simplistic philosophy lecture by someone who hasn't quite thought through his thought experiment. Still, it was just two hours of my life to read, and the solution that the characters come up with to the problem of who should control Bossy was well presented.

Also amusing to me: the conclusions drawn at the end of the first two novels to win a Hugo award are essentially the same: “One day we'll all be telepathic and then everything will be great.” Okay, if you say so.

2 Stars – An Okay Book

They'd Rather Be Right, also known as The Forever Machine is available (just barely) at Amazon.com, although the copy I read was at a reference library. As in, you have to read the book there in the building, because they only have the one copy.

Fireborn: Embers of Atlantis

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fireborn: Embers of Atlantis
Tracy Hickman, 2011

Recent Release! Copy for review provided by Netgalley.

Premise: Based on the Fireborn role-playing game. Ethan Gallows, ace cameraman, liked his life and his job, until his footage of unbelievable events was 'proved false' and no one believed the truth. He's been making the best of it in a world gone mad until his dreams start leaking into his waking life. Plus people start telling him not only is he a reincarnated dragon, but he has to rescue his brother, who is trying to kill them all.

This is a decent book, fun and fairly interesting, with well drawn characters and a very intriguing world. It just doesn't completely pay off by the end.

The best part is probably the setting. It is set in a modern world with magic, but not the kind where magic has secretly always existed, or where a select few know about the magic world. When it starts to flirt with those tropes, the tone becomes dull and lifeless. Rather, it is a world which once had magic, lost it, and then all of history happened, and now magic is suddenly exploding back onto the scene, alongside but surpassing all of the other problems of modern life. The way that the setting is introduced is pretty fantastic, and was probably my favorite part of the book.

It suffers from one of the problems that plague most novels based on role playing games: some aspects of the setting work really well (possibly better) than they do in the game, while some fall flat and awkward. The book is trapped by these elements, and has to make the best of them. For example, the stubbornness of civilians to disbelieve magic feels a bit like a cheat; something like that would only work for so long unless it was necessary for the game mechanics. Despite a valiant effort by one character to justify this, it feels too static for a literary world.

The characters are mostly fun, although there are a few easy ways out taken here and there.

Overall, this was a fun read, but it didn't quite live up to its early intriguing premise.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Check out Fireborn: Embers of Atlantis at Amazon.com

Comics Briefly: Action Comics #5, Animal Man #5, Huntress #4, Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #4, Swamp Thing #5

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Favorite Issue this Week: Huntress #4

All Issues new in stores on 1/4/12

Action Comics #5
Written by Grant Morrison, Pencils Andy Kubert, Inks Jesse Delperdang, Colorist: Brad Anderson
Backup Story: Writer: Sholly Fisch, Artist: ChrisCross, Colorist: Jose Villarrubia

Ha, I knew if you left Grant Morrison in charge things would get weird sooner rather than later. The beginning of this issue is pretty good, a quick and pretty retelling of the launch of Superman's rocket from Krypton, and his discovery by the Kents. This is elaborated on in the backup, which focuses on the Kent's marriage and desire for children. The end of the main story veers off into the zone of "this feels like it might make sense if I had a lot of obscure information." And who is that on the last page? Spoiler: Grown up Legionnaires? I... am honestly not sure how I feel about this. In the next issue, the level of insanity could turn awesome, or just get more disjointed and confusing. We'll have to see. Side note: does this have anything to do with last months' issue? Oh, right, the end of that issue said that storyline wouldn't return until #7.  Okay, whatever, I didn't like or understand that story anyway.

Animal Man #5
Written by Jeff Lemire, Art: Travel Foreman & Steve Pugh, Inks: Jeffrey Huet, Colored by Lovern Kindzierski

I really don't care about this book any more. I think the plot is silly, and the amount of gross-out horror really turns me off. It's explicitly crashing head-long into Swamp Thing now, although while the characters have been fighting the same bad guys for 5 issues, it still isn't technically a cross-over. I think that's part of why I've felt like both books are painfully slow. This had a little more action than last month, I suppose.

Huntress #4
Writer: Paul Levitz, Pencils: Marcus To, Inks: John Dell & Richard Zajac, Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse

Some nice humor and some well paced action in this issue. Nothing amazing, but solidly enjoyable, in my opinions. Although I have to know soon: Is this Earth 2, guys? Or are you just teasing me with all these sly little hints in the art and the writing? (Don't think I didn't notice that she hasn't once given her full name.) I loved Huntress pre-reboot, but if we're going back to Earth 2, this book just gained a bunch of brownie points from me, just because.

Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #4
Writer: Chris Roberson, Art: Jeffrey Moy & Philip Moy, Color: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.

I'll admit it. As much as I love Star Trek, this sent issue sent me scrambling to the internet for info in a way that I didn't need to do for the DC side. As soon as I had that info, I laughed out loud. Okay, this crossover officially makes sense. You know, sort of. The reveal of the villain is half what I expected (and half I had to look up, but then it was obvious). Not much more to this issue though, besides the build-up to the reveal and a few cute bits of dialogue.

Swamp Thing #5
Writer: Scott Snyder, Art: Yanick Paquette, Colors: Nathan Fairbairn

I kinda liked this issue, except for the beginning and the cliffhanger. So I guess I'm saying the middle was decent. Alec acts super-heroic, finally, and the scenes between him and punk-style-Abby are almost sweet. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of resolution soon.

The Demolished Man

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Demolished Man
Alfred Bester, 1953

Premise: Ben Reich, industrialist and CEO is determined to destroy his hated rival D'Courtney. But there hasn't been a  premeditated murder for over seventy years, so he'll have to find a new way to trick the mind-reading Espers working in every level of society. Powell is an Esper 1, an extremely powerful mind-reader working with the police. These two powerful men clash explosively, but it will all come down to the secret of Ben's nightmare nemesis, The Man With No Face. First Novel to win the Hugo Award.

This is a very intriguing book with a weak ending. It's an interesting mesh of a sci-fi world with a very hard noir tone; the style is rooted in that exploitative world of dames and gangsters that no one can really pull off nowadays.

In some ways this is a mystery with no hero or villain; both Reich and Powell act only for their own interests and for what they want out of society. Reich is a lot more murderous, but Powell is no boy scout.

Personally, I found the subplot of Powell's relationships (or lack thereof) with Mary and Barbara distasteful, and that kept me from really warming to the character.

I really enjoyed the way that the Espers communicated, and there are several lovely sections near the beginning where complicated word art on the page tries to imply the intertwining conversations and different nuances that are available in mental speech. Bester apparently coined the term esper (ESP-er) in an earlier short story, and everything to do with the telepathy is interesting to me because of how exploratory it feels. Ben Reich's counter-plotting against the cops is fun to follow as well.

The ending section was dull, though. The revelations were foreshadowed heavily enough that they weren't interesting when they finally came, and some of the explanations for characters' actions made little sense. The explanation for why Powell is so keen on Demolishing Reich is all fluffy language that doesn't seem to say much. I'm sure that when it was written the reveal on "Demolition" would have been new and interesting and creepy, but as it is, it's just silly, dated and obvious.

All that said, up until the end it was an interesting read for an early look at psychic cops. Even if I do think it was awfully convenient for the sake of the length of the plot that 'peeped' (mind-read) evidence wasn't submissible in court.

3 Stars - A Good Book

There are a few cheap copies of Demolished Man on Amazon.com

List of Hugo Award Winners

Announcement: Hugo Project

Last year, I started following the blog Dreaming About Other Worlds, and was really intrigued by an plan on that blog, to read and review all of the novels that have won Hugos. I thought, what a great idea! I'd love to try that. But I didn't, then.

About eight months ago I actually read through the list of Hugo-winning novels, and found I've already read about half of them. But I didn't add to that list... then.

A few months ago I decided to give it a shot. When I've got a few posted I'll set up a page to collect the reviews. I am NOT going to go straight through, that would be crazy, but I'm hoping to slowly get through the list.

Wish me luck.