Friday, April 11, 2014

The Cage by Martin Vaughn-James

First Publication:  1975

Source:  Net Galley

Graphic Novel Challenge book #2

Summary (from Amazon):
First published in 1975, The Cage was a graphic novel before there was a name for the medium. Cryptic and disturbing, it spurns narrative for atmosphere, guiding us through a labyrinthine series of crumbling facades, disarrayed rooms and desolate landscapes, as time stutters backward and forward. Within the cage's barbed-wire confines, we observe humanity only through its traces: a filmic sequence of discarded objects - headphones, inky stains, dishevelled bedsheets - scored by a deafening cacophony of breaths, cries and unsettling silence.

This book is very intriguing.  The artist focuses on the cage while time might be flowing forwards...or maybe backwards around it.  The lack of people, including a protagonist, makes it difficult to understand.  Some people say that the author is not really sure what it is about.  So if you are a reader who loves dialog and the interaction between people, avoid this book.  In other words if you are someone who prefers the destination to the journey, this is not for you.

On the other hand, the "journey" of this story is amazing.  The art varies in style but is very good.  Martin Vaughn-James does a great job of using the items in and around the cage to show changes.  I would like to see what the creator could do with a more traditional type of story.  I give the art a higher grade than the story but the way it is done makes the art the focal point of the pages.  Fans who enjoy good art will like this book.

Overall, I am glad I had the opportunity to read this novel.  It is worth getting a copy.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Treecat Wars by David Weber & Jane Lindskold

First Publication:  2013

Source:  Net Galley

Summary (from Goodreads):
New York Times and Publishers Weekly Best Selling Young Adult Series. Book Three by international writing phenomenon David Weber. Two young settlers on a pioneer planet seeks to stop a war and to save the intelligent alien treecats from exploitation by unscrupulous humans.

"Treecat Wars" brings back good memories of the many young adult science fiction books of my youth.  "Two young settlers on a pioneer planet..." makes me think of many of the classics Robert A. Heinlein.  When you mix in the "intelligent alien treecats" and the "unscrupulous humans" my mind turns to Andre Norton's work.  In both cases this is a good thing.  Both authors helped to mold my love of science fiction.  I have seen David Weber's name on numerous books but never tried his fiction.  Jane Lindskold's byline appeared on her collaborations with the great Roger Zelazny.  I figured I was in for a treat.

I found this to be a solid entry into the science fiction YA field.  The authors did a good job of developing the characters.  I was puzzled by the title.  I thought the war would play a bigger part in the story.  As this is book 3 in the series, I was worried that I would be lost.  Weber and Lindskold filled the reader in while keeping the story moving.  I had no problem following the story.  The story impressed me enough that I will go back and read the first two books in the series.

If you are in the mood for a good old time Norton style book, I recommend picking up "Treecat Wars".

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust & Skylar White

First Publication:  2013

Source:  Net Galley

Summary (from Amazon):  
The Incrementalists—a secret society of two hundred people with an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations, races, and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, just a little bit at a time. Their ongoing argument about how to do this is older than most of their individual memories. 

Phil, whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has loved Celeste—and argued with her—for most of the last four hundred years. But now Celeste, recently dead, embittered, and very unstable, has changed the rules—not incrementally, and not for the better. Now the heart of the group must gather in Las Vegas to save the Incrementalists, and maybe the world.

Steven Brust is an author I have been meaning to read again.  I read his "Agyar", which happens to be another novel that deals with a form of immortality, and was very impressed by it.  In addition to that, many people have told me that since I am a big Roger Zelazny fan i would enjoy Brust's work(especially his "Vlad Taltos" series).  i plan on reading one of that series but thought I would try this book first.

"The Incrementalists" demonstrates that Brust is indeed an author who is working with similar themes to Zelazny.  And that is a compliment.  What is not to like in this book?  I enjoy adventures with immortals, a battle to save the world, and a quest to make the world a better place.  Most of the books dealing with such ideas make the immortals out to be bigger than life and fighting epic battles.  I thought this was an interesting change of pace.

Some of the other reviewers have commented that this is not like Brust's other work.  That it does not have the grand scale.  While I enjoy the big adventure stories, I found this smaller love story to be a good change.  Brust took a chance on this story and it paid off for me.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tales of High Hallack Vol. 1: The Collected Short Stories of Andre Norton

Author:  Andre Norton

First Publication:  2014

Source:  Netgalley

From Goodreads:
For the first time, the Grand Dame of science fiction—Andre Norton—has her short stories gathered for her fans’ reading pleasure. Tales reach back to the 1930s, as fresh and relevant today as they were when she wrote them . . . such was Andre’s skill. High fantasy, fables, science fiction, coming of age stories, and more fill three volumes. This impressive, must-have collection includes stories of Witch World. There are cats sprinkled here and there, as Andre treasured them so. And there is magic in the writing, unequaled prose to delight readers of all ages.

Andre Norton quickly became a favorite of mine when i first discovered science fiction and fantasy.  Many of her books were available in our school library.  Her novels were fascinating glimpses into what it would be like to live "out there".  At the same time I was reading the Heinlein juveniles and her work was every bit as good as those classics.  Over time, her science fiction seemed to fade into obscurity but in recent years it seems like many bloggers have started talking about them.  Unfortunately, I never seemed to read her short fiction.  I believe the only one I read appeared in "The DAW SF Reader" edited by Donald A. Wollheim.  The announcement of this series of collections was good news for me.  It gives me the chance to go back and experience many new adventures with this author.

Of the many good stories in this book, I found that "The Last Spell" captured my imagination.  It is a different look at Merlin and Nimue.  Any stories I read with these characters will be impacted by Norton's interpretation.  She makes you think about events from Nimue's point of view.  

"Eastborn:  A Witch World Story" was a fun trip back to the Witch World series.  It is similar to meeting someone who grew up in your home town but that you never knew.

For fans of the Crystal Gryphon books, "Sword of Unbelief" is a pleasant surprise.

The rest of the stories range from science fiction to reworkings of legends.

Overall, I would rate this as a very good collection and a good introduction to the writing of Andre Norton.  I know that I will be looking forward to the next two volumes in this series.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Graphic Novel 1: Masks

Author:  Chris Roberson
Artists:  Alex Ross, Dennis Calero
Publisher:  Dynamite Comics

  I enjoyed this team up of many of the classic pulp characters. Most of my early pulp reading was in the Doc Savage universe but I also read some of the Shadow reprints with the Jim Steranko covers. This series brought back fond memories of those books. The villain was a surprise to me. I am anxious to start reading Roberson's "The Shadow" in that character's regular series. Recommended.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Doctor Who Time Trips: Into the Nowhere

Author:  Jenny T. Colgan

First Publication:  2014

Source:  Netgalley

First off, let me say that I have been a huge fan of Doctor Who since the reboot by Russell T. Davies.  The latest Doctor and his companion Clara have been some of my favorites.  When I had the chance to read and review this title, I could not pass it up.

This is a rare case of the Doctor and the T.A.R.D.I.S. landing on a planet that neither one can identify.  The planet appears to be a giant death trap with large snakes, walking skeletons, and other deadly surprises.  

The author does a great job of capturing the voices of the characters.  When I was reading their lines, it sounded like the actors were saying them.  The Doctor was spot on.  Clara seemed a little more afraid than usual but then I remembered that this was mainly told from her point of view.  Usually we did not see that in the television series.

Unless I missed something at the end, we were never told the answer to one of the big mysteries.  Due to that omission I would not rate this book as high as I thought I would when reading most of it.  It is still highly entertaining and worth the read but this is a case of the journey being better than the resolution.  In typical Doctor Who fashion, the resolution was not scientific but was brought about by human emotion.  We have seen this in the television show so it is a traditional ending in some respects.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

State of the Blog Address

As regular followers of this blog can tell, I have been "off the grid".  Due to arthritis in my hands it has been hard to type in the evenings.  Does this mean I quit reading and following other blogs?  No.  It just meant that by the time I was through working, it was difficult spending my evenings on the keyboard.

It now seems like my hands are doing better so I will be back to posting on a regular basis.  In the near future I will be posting reviews of a couple of television shows I have been enjoying ("Orphan Black" and "Continuum") as well as novels ("World Without Stars" by Poul Anderson) and some short stories.  I am looking forward to my return to blogging.