The Girl with All the Gifts

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Girl with All the Gifts
M. R. Carey, 2014

Premise: Melanie goes to class with a group of other kids. She likes their teachers, one in particular. She learns a lot in class, but she doesn't learn why she and her classmates live in cells on the base, or why no one is allowed to touch them, or why they only eat once a week...

This book suffered a little for me from expectations that were one hundred percent not the book's fault. I had heard a lot of hype about this book, but on reflection, I only knew two things about it - it's about a little girl who is a zombie, but she doesn't know it, and it was really popular.

I extrapolated from there that it would be a psychological book, full of unreliable narration, twists, and theories. I thought it would be entirely or mostly from her perspective, that the adults around the character might not know what was going on, that there would be a slow-burn reveal, and maybe she was the beginning of an outbreak.

It's not that book. Instead, it's a perfectly fine thriller with a decent theme.

It takes place some time after a zombie outbreak, and although the children in the compound are a mystery of sorts, everyone but the kids themselves knows that they are zombies. You read plenty of the perspective of the teacher, the scientist, the military leader and his men.

I liked it well enough, it was well written and clipped along at a good pace. The mythological parallel is a little forced at times, but works overall. However, by the time I got to the end, I thought that it might be a better movie than it was a book. The emphasis on action set pieces and occasional awkward expository dialogue meant that it felt like a movie pitch first and a novel second.

And it turned out that not only is it a movie, but the screenplay was being written concurrently with the novel! (I haven't tracked the movie down.) So, I guess, that's good.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Patsy Walker, A.K.A Hellcat: Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline, Vol. 2: Don't Stop Me-ow, Vol 3: Careless Whisker(s)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Patsy Walker, A.K.A Hellcat: Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline, Vol. 2: Don't Stop Me-ow, Vol 3: Careless Whisker(s)
Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, 2016, 2017

Premise: Patsy has been through a lot. She's been an Avenger. She's been to Hell. Now she just wants to figure out how to make enough money for rent, and help other people out along the way. Collects Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat #1-17 (complete run).

Aww. Shelve this book next to Squirrel Girl, they're both great examples of friendly comics with diverse casts of interesting characters that deal with emotion and action without losing a sense of hope and camaraderie.

Patsy Walker is a really interesting character in a meta sense. She was created as a teen humor comic that turned to romance as the characters aged. (There were many of these comics in the 40s and 50s; the Archie comics are nearly the only surviving example of the type.) A cameo in an superhero title established that the characters might exist in the Marvel universe, and later another author took that cameo and folded the character in by giving her a hero identity.

Yet another series later established that the original humor/romance comics existed in-world, written by Patsy's mother. This modern title comes full circle by establishing other characters from the original comics, having the publication of them be a major part of the plot, and generally melding Patsy's superhero life with humor, romance, and interpersonal stories that wouldn't be out of place in an all ages comic.

(More recently the character appeared in the Netflix show Jessica Jones, although she went by Trish and was only beginning her journey toward becoming a hero.)

I enjoyed all of the minor characters, B-list villains, and entertaining twists of this book. It was just good hearted and pleasant to read. (Also both funny and exciting!) Even when a very light tie-in to a major crossover event meant that the characters had to face some dark events in the larger world, they faced it the way real people do: some denial, some tears, and a lot of muddling through to the other side.

This book also gets bonus points for the most fun version of vampire-Jubilee I've read and copious cat puns,

4 Stars - Very Good Books

Final Girls

Monday, August 14, 2017

Final Girls
Seanan McGuire, writing as Mira Grant, 2017

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

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

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

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

3 Stars - A Good Book

A Fire Upon the Deep

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Fire Upon the Deep
Vernor Vinge, 1992

Hugo Winner - 1993

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Stars - A Good Book

List of Hugo Award Winners