Monday, August 18, 2014

Vonda McIntyre, 1978

Hugo Winner - 1979

Premise: Snake is a healer traveling on her first year out of training. After a heartbreaking setback, she is determined to return to her people with something worthy of the trust placed in her.

Looking at most covers of this book, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a fantasy. The first few chapters don't do much to discourage the notion, either. The full picture of the setting and the lives of the people there is only slowly revealed.

I liked Snake - her attitudes and assumptions felt right for someone caught between being highly trained and being still pretty young. I could have done with a bit less screen time for the guy crushing on her, but he was inoffensive and made a decent spearcarrier/exposition man.

I do want to mention: part of the early set up for the plot gave me a real emotional punch in the gut. It's supposed to, so that you feel Snake's own anger and despair, but if you, like me, have a particular sensitivity to cruelty to animals and an intolerance of superstition, it'll probably hit you hard as well.

I can't decide whether I liked the overall level of exposition about the world. Part of me thinks it's perfect - that we see the outlines but are left guessing about many of the deeper questions. Part of me wants to know more. We're left, though, with just this one story, just one part of one woman's story.

One thing I’m sure of: it is a lovely, surreal journey to take.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

List of Hugo Winners

The Superior Spider-Man: Volume One: My Own Worst Enemy

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Superior Spider-Man: Volume One: My Own Worst Enemy
Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, et. al., 2013

Premise: Otto Octavius has finally defeated Spider-Man. Defeated him, and become him. Now resident in Peter Parker's brain, with access to his memories, what will he make of Peter's quest to balance power and responsibility? Collects Superior Spider-Man #1-5

This is one of those cases where you just have to go with the insane set-up. Don’t worry, Peter doesn’t stay completely dead for even the entire first issue. The tension between the reader’s knowledge of Otto’s internal motivations and everyone else trying to make sense of his behavior is pretty fun, although not the real story. The real story is whether this Spider-Man’s different tactics and priorities will actually do a better job of protecting the city. It’s a classic ruthlessness-vs.-belief-in-redemption story that’s common to a lot of superhero tales, but it’s very well executed here.

Oh, there’s also the side story about whether Otto will sleep with Mary Jane. (Don’t worry, the answer is no, it’s just really creepy for a while.)

Also, why anybody could fail to notice that something was seriously off...

Really, this guy’s a super-villain? Do tell.

With quite a bit of humor leavening the occasionally brutal action, this is a fun title, and I enjoyed it.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book