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Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns (2012).

I don't usually read comics but you know. I was that bored. And I like Batman, or at least the Arkham games and the Nolan trilogy.

"Earth One" is to Geoff Johns what "Year One" was for Frank Miller: an opportunity to reimagine the Dark Knight's origins, albeit not as radically this time. It essentially keeps the same pieces and follows the same beats, but shakes up the mythos by reimagining the characters and their relationships (everything and everyone is even more tightly compacted around the Waynes than usual). Bruce Wayne, looking more than a fair bit like Sterling Archer, overcomes the usual arc of moral testing and early-day self-tuning as the Caped Crusader while never quite maxing out in badass (I guess that's Volume 2). I was more interested in what was going on with GCPD's Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock, who appear to switch seats as the bitter cop and his idealistic counterpart. Penguin also gets a special mention for his newfound creepiness. I enjoyed "Earth One", but aside from some intriguing departures and remixes it's still also more of the same, again.

Dragon Ball: Volume 7 (3/5)

Dragon Ball: Volume 8 (3/5)

Dragon Ball: Volume 9 (4/5)

So earlier, you might have seen my reviews of volumes 1-3. I didn't skip 4-6 by choice, but rather borrowed what was available from the library I worked at. That said, I didn't really feel lost, as I quickly got the sense of what was happening. So with that said, I will say that I did enjoy these volumes more than the previous ones, because while they have their own set of problems, the issues with the previous ones are mimimized. Basically, preferring one set of issues to another.

The issues that are mostly absent is that the volumes here are far less lewd than before when it comes to sex jokes and the like. Now, that's not to say it's entirely absent - for instance, Bulma tries to flirt her way around danger, there's gay jokes, and a moment where Krillin pulls down Bulma's shirt, causing Roshi to have a massive nose bleed, which covers the Invisible Man in blood, allowing Yamcha to see and defeat him. Because, y'know, classy. Still, it is a reduced issue. What isn't a reduced issue, and is in fact a growing issue, is that by now, we're have a clear precursor to DBZ's paradigm of "you're a saiyan or you're useless." Here though, it's not "you're Goku or you're useless," but Goku's easily the strongest character here, to the point where characters are in awe of him, and he can take out the entire Red Ribbon Army by himself. I will admit though, that I found myself being taken back to the Sonic the Hedgehog comics I read as a kid and...no, hear me out. The reason I say that is because with the Freedom Fighters, while they were a team, and each had their own strengths and weaknesses, Sonic was still the 'uber' character. This is arguably a similar situation here, in that while all the other characters are outclassed by Goku, they're not at the stage of being useless yet. Like, Yamcha is actually more competent than Krillin in this run, believe it or not. So, while it does bother me, especially in the context of knowing what DBZ will bring (and as far as I'm aware, GT and Super are just as guilty), it's a level of irritation that is amplified by context, while the whole sex jokes thing were confined just to Dragon Ball, and made it all the worse for it.

Now that that's aside, I can actually delve into what I like here. Basically, it's still fun. I usually gloss over fight scenes in manga and comics, but here, it's well done. Also, as powerful as Goku is, it's a level of power that he does have to earn, such as climing the Karrin Tower to get an elixir that'll make him more powerful, only to discover that it was the act of travelling and fighting for it that made him powerful. He goes up against an assassin in an enjoyable showndown - no long drawn out speeches and powering up here folks, just 90% martial arts, 10% ki blasts. The Penguin Island sequence is a drag, but other than that, it remains fun. It's absolutely bonkers at times, such as where we have a witch deploying Universal Studios monsters to fight the heroes (Dracula, the Mummy, the Devil, etc.), but it's bonkers in a good way. So in essence, while many of the worst elements of DBZ can be found to have their roots here in some form or another, it's not nearly as grating here. So nice job there Toriama.

Aliens Omnibus 2

Didn't read the first one, don't need to. The two books in the 600 odd pages take place sometime after the Xenomorphes had infested Earth, and Humans have reclaimed large chunks of the planet. Book one follows a group of marines and a pharmaceutical exec try to find a purer form of Royal Jelly that a queen alien produces for a performance boosting miracle drug called Xeno zip. Its a good read, that seems like its going to be a strait up action film then you have a moment where things go to crap and you remember this is a book in the Alien franchise. Its also interesting to see to rival hives on an distant world go at it like two ant hives that cross paths.

Book 2 of the Omnibus is a heist story set within the Alien franchise. A dying scientist and former millionaire, a thief that is as skilled as she is beautiful, a down on his luck captain, and an android as well as an assortment of other characters go off to a distant world to snatch up a ship's worth of Royal Jelly from a Pharmaceutical group that acts as the big bad of both stories, and how things go down hill fast. Its more of a human drama, focusing on the characters and their personalities and development.

Its an easy read, probably 7th grade in difficulty, with many chapters being a page or two in length, and plenty of stopping places in case you have to. Surprisingly it has little in the way of gore. Sure aliens go splat a whole lot, but there are only a few moments when you see what they do, which I think works to its advantage. It makes the oh crap moments have more impact that way.

If I had any complaints, I think its how it does sex. It has American sensibilities in that it glosses over it, or we get to the day after. The closet we get is the Executive in Book 1 putting the moves on a soldier in a moment of weakness, even copping a feel on her, only to get cock blocked by the tough broad, hard drinking hard fighting brod of a comandign officer. Even then it has its moments, as its mostly to show how he puts on a show of confidence and drowns his sorrows in hot women and expensive liquore.

I'd give it a read.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (3/5)

This is the first of two LoZ mangas I read recently, and I'll deal with this one first. Short version is...I don't like it.

That's not to say it's bad, but I have too many gripes to say that this is "good." First, it's adapting its story from the Oracles games. Now, I've never played them, but as early 2D Zelda games, I'm guessing that they don't have much in the way of story. Given how thin the plot feels, I have a feeling that a lack of narrative in the source material has transported itself to the adaptation. This in turn leads to the second issue I have with it, the character of Raven - Link's ancestor from 300 years in the past. Now, thing is, I actually like this idea in principle, the idea of Link meeting one of his ancestors. However, it's an idea that at this point in time, I feel needs to have certain acknowledgements to work, among them that Link is fated to be constantly reincarnated due to Demise's curse. What's weird is that the manga actually touches on this through some words from Nayru, that Link is basically fated to keep appearing through infinity, but Raven...sorry, he looks like Link, arguably acts like Link, but he's not Link. And because he's basically perfect, he reminds me of a self-insert type of character. The type of characters that I'm just as guilty of writing way back in the day. In the end, it's taking a nice idea, but not fully engaging in it.

Third issue is that the manga feels designed for kids. Now, granted, it almost certainly is (it's listed in YA after all), and the Legend of Zelda series has undoubtedly had children as its primary audience for at least some of its games, and that aside, it's never been inaccessible to them (not in my experience at least). But given the story, and how it's presented, there's the sense that this is not only targeted at children, but that adults needn't bother checking themselves in. This is seen in the story itself (simple), how it's presented (simply, very binary), and in its characters (two-dimensional at best). So, while not outright bad, it's easily my least favourite LoZ installment out of all the ones I've read.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (4/5)

This is the second of the two LoZ manga installments I read. This only barely manages to get into "good" rather than "average" territory, but it's there all the same, and there's one reason for that - Linebeck.

With the original Phantom Hourglass, it's a game that lurks near the bottom of all the LoZ games I've played. Linebeck, as he's portrayed in the game, isn't really a major reason as to why that is, but he's not a character I'm fond of either. Reason for this is that his character arc is insanely predictable - coward becomes a hero. Yay. In the case of the manga however, it does alter things slightly with how it portrays his arc. It isn't really a case of X to Y, but more the idea that Linebeck's inherently a good person, and he's dwelling with the guilt of that one time he was a coward. It's a slight difference, but it makes his arc all the better for it. Plus, unlike the Oracles games, Phantom Hourglass has a bit more story to draw from, so the adaptation's working with a much stronger foundation.

That's not to say it's perfect though - Ciela's my favourite fairy companion (suck it Navi), but here, she kind of gets the short end of the stick. Plus, at the end of the day, it's still a manga aimed at kids. But unlike Oracle of Ages, I didn't feel barred from admission, so to speak.

I'm doing the "Super Powered" series on Audible. I'm on year 3 and loving it but did the spin off between 2 and 3, "Corpies". https://www.amazon.com/Corpies-Super-Powereds-Spinoff-Book-ebook/dp/B01D9C21DE/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=corpies&qid=1555971372&s=books&sr=1-1-catcorr Terrific narrator, compelling characters in a well fleshed out sci fantasy world. The Super Powered series itself is like a serious version of the movie "Sky High" with super hero candidates in a 4 year college program. Can be silly in that they have "healers" by to fix people after they have been injured in training combat. Sorry but in real life, if people are intentionally causing others to have broken limbs, even the shock from that can kill someone.

Corpies was a lot of fun: taking place where a hero grad joins a team of corporate supers that are not licensed heroes but use their powers to rescue people. Glad I "read" it. (3 hour a day round trip commute. Audible helps.

Dragon Ball: Volume 4/5/6 (3/5)

So, finally got volumes 4-6, after skipping from 1-3 to 7-9, as I described earlier. Question is, did I miss much?

Well, in terms of plot, not really - as I stated, starting from volume 7, I'd already got a good idea of what was going on. In terms of the collection itself? Well, it's a mixed bag. With the martial arts tournament, let's cut to it - Jackie Chun is Roshi, and the manga does a terrible job of hiding it. I'm not even sure if it's actually trying to hide it, though I did think that it wasn't going to reveal that they're one and the same, because that would be too obvious a plot twist, but no, obvious plot twist is obvious. On the flipside, something that's remained true throughout the manga is that the fight scenes are fun to read (is read really the word?) Usually I gloss over action scenes in manga and comics because so often it feels separate from the plot. And while that's arguably true here as well, here, I felt entertained by them. If the arc can be considered an excuse plot for martial artists beating the crap out of each other, than well done, it's at least entertaining to watch them beat the crap out of each other. Also, the sexual innuendo jokes have been toned down - not removed, but I'm glad for the reduction regardless.

What I'm not as glad about is the absurdity of Roshi destroying the moon. Like, that's a thing. That's actually a thing. Like, serious question, is Toriyama even aware what destroying the moon would do to Earth? Tides? Axial tilt? Debris? The cultural impact? The manga makes a joke about moon pie, Moon Festivals, and werewolves, but no-one even really mentions it. No-one seems to even care. The manga's played fast and loose with physics up to this point, but this is the point where it well and truly jumps the shark into any credibility.

Moving onto the Red Ribbon Army stuff...well, already know how it ends, so can't comment much. It's fine. It's okay. Goku's still a Gary Stu and the other characters are left without much, if anything to do. Characters like Krillin and Yamcha may get the odd victory, they may get their odd moment of triumph, but by Shenron, don't ever consider that they could rival Goku in power. This problem is more pronounced in volumes 7-9, as I described in my review of them, but it's clear that at this point, there's a 'paradigm of power' that the manga can't (or won't) move away from. I've given DBZ a lot of flak for this, but I have to concede that the 'power paradigm' DBZ portrayed had its origins in Dragon Ball Vanilla. And while Dragon Ball is far from the only series to have this problem. key difference is that here, it's far more pronounced, in part because it actually revels in it.

So, yeah. Despite all this, I did enjoy the volumes. It's fluff, at the end of the day, but enjoyable all the same.

StarCraft: Soldiers (4/5)

This was very nearly a 3/5. That's what comes when the last issue of a series is basically one giant action scene. Remember in the last review how I explained why Dragon Ball's fight scenes engaged me when so many comics/manga didn't? This is the case of "didn't."

Still, at the end of the day, I do feel the series does earn a 4/5, even if it's more a 3.5 (but I don't do decimals). It's better than Scavengers in that it's paced better, and has a more engaging main character - Shivani at least undergoes a character arc, even if the arc itself is quite simple. On the flipside, I'm left to ask how this factors into the wider StarCraft universe. So far, almost all new lore has come from the Dark Horse comics, and I'm kind of reminded of how Dark Horse handles the Xenopedia IPs - you can state that they're in canon with the films, but in many ways, they feel like their own sub-universe. Since we've gone Scavengers, Soldiers, then the upcoming Survivours, this appears to be the case. So, yay for Dark Horse ,but not sure how it factors in otherwise.

God, am I out of things to say? Well, whatever. Comic's good. Not great, but good.

Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 by Lynne Olson (2013)
Back into the non-fiction realm with this one. After dealing with all the bile, divisiveness, and general partisanship that plagues today's news, it was rather refreshing to dive into a work pointing out how we have been here before. In the years before the United States' entry into the war, we were as bitterly divided then as today. I can only hope it doesn't take another world war to finally get people to snap out of their tribalistic headspace and deal with the world again.

As for the book itself, I can highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the this particular period. It is very well written and researched. I learned quite a bit of the behind-the-scenes rivalry and maneuvering that took place in the fights between the isolationists and the interventionists (as they called themselves). In looking back at American history, the general unity that the U.S. had during WWII overshadows the divide that existed beforehand. The perspective offered by Lynne Olson is very interesting indeed.

Been reading the Stormlight Archive by Brian Sanderson, currently in the middle of book two.

Series is epic western style fantasy. Very slow paced and rich world-building, interesting magic system. It does the multiple protagonists thing where it tells various stories from various people's lives and slowly (very very slowly) brings them together. Themes are of leadership and honor as well as an interesting critique on social mores and even war profiteering.

My favorite thing about the series so far is the system of spirits that exists, it's kind of like animism taken to extreme degrees, with things even like gravity having a conceptual origin and nothing being purely there because of physical laws. Don't wanna spoil much but if anyone's looking on being immersed in a behemoth of a book (both books I've gotten my hands on so far were over 1000 pages each) I'd highly recommend it.

Dreiko:
Been reading the Stormlight Archive by Brian Sanderson, currently in the middle of book two.

Series is epic western style fantasy. Very slow paced and rich world-building, interesting magic system. It does the multiple protagonists thing where it tells various stories from various people's lives and slowly (very very slowly) brings them together. Themes are of leadership and honor as well as an interesting critique on social mores and even war profiteering.

My favorite thing about the series so far is the system of spirits that exists, it's kind of like animism taken to extreme degrees, with things even like gravity having a conceptual origin and nothing being purely there because of physical laws. Don't wanna spoil much but if anyone's looking on being immersed in a behemoth of a book (both books I've gotten my hands on so far were over 1000 pages each) I'd highly recommend it.

How would you say book 2 differs from book 1, if at all?

Reason I ask is that I read part 1 of book 1. You can see my review of it earlier in the thread, but among all else, it moved way too slowly for me.

Hawki:

Dreiko:
Been reading the Stormlight Archive by Brian Sanderson, currently in the middle of book two.

Series is epic western style fantasy. Very slow paced and rich world-building, interesting magic system. It does the multiple protagonists thing where it tells various stories from various people's lives and slowly (very very slowly) brings them together. Themes are of leadership and honor as well as an interesting critique on social mores and even war profiteering.

My favorite thing about the series so far is the system of spirits that exists, it's kind of like animism taken to extreme degrees, with things even like gravity having a conceptual origin and nothing being purely there because of physical laws. Don't wanna spoil much but if anyone's looking on being immersed in a behemoth of a book (both books I've gotten my hands on so far were over 1000 pages each) I'd highly recommend it.

How would you say book 2 differs from book 1, if at all?

Reason I ask is that I read part 1 of book 1. You can see my review of it earlier in the thread, but among all else, it moved way too slowly for me.

Most of book one is kind of a prologue, whereas book 2 has the characters move past their establishing states and advance. It is very slow but at the same time it's one of those things where you realize you only have another 500 pages and it feels like it's not gonna be enough never mind being too slow due to just how interesting everything is.

If you think of all books in the story, book 1 is kind of like act 1, it establishes a lot of the things that the others will get to play around with and does a ton of worldbuilding that the second book feeds off of (and it's actually about 100 pages longer!). Also near the end it has some extremely epic moments with especially Kaladin that it's worth reading for those alone imo.

Oh and you may have read up to part 2 if you read 500~ pages since the books are split in 4 parts but yeah it's just gonna take a while for things to happen but once they do they happen all at once. The Shallan chapters are especially slow and it does feel like a drag to read about her at first when you're in a high action story with Kalladin or Dalinar but she grows the most out of everyone, especially since she's so young. She gets her flashbacks in book 2 (like Kaladin did in 1) which shed a lot of light to her as well.

Sanderson of Metro (2/5)

This is a prequel to The Wraith novel/graphic novel series. The writer, who's a colleague of mine at work, offered me a chance to work on said series. I said yes, and borrowed some installments for background reading. Having done that, I've soured on the prospect.

To be fair, this installment isn't written by the main author himself, but that aside, I've got to admit, it really isn't my thing. The series takes inspiration from 70s pulp action heroes, and that's an era I wasn't even alive for. Which wouldn't be so bad in of itself, but the writing, the plotting, the worldbuilding, is extremely amateur. Being generous, let's boil this down to execution rather than concept, but even then, we've got villains who chew the scenery, fridged love interests, and white saviour syndrome. Now, normally any one of these things is something I could live with (personally I think the term "white saviour" is used far too liberally), but I can't deny that this is every cliche packed together with writing that's simplistic at best. And, look, maybe that's the point, to emulate the style of the genre right down to the writing. But if that's the case, it's writing I can do without.

I plan to read some main series installments, but so far, not warming up to this.

Rereading One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read this like a decade ago and now that there's some talk of it getting adapted by Netflix I felt I should give it another go. It's much as I remember it, this wierd blend of muti-generational epic set in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Colombia in what's probably the 19th century(but since there's only allusions to events most non-colombians wouldn't be aware of it's hard to tell). There's also this weird sense of magical realism amongst the soap opera like drama, but there's also this tragic emotional core of mistakes being repeated every generation as well.

So yeah, a good book but I have no idea if it's possible to make a good series of it. There's a lot going on and there's very little actual dialogue. Apparently the Author didn't want an adaptation for screen at all if it couldn't be made to match the spirit of the book, and boy is that gonna be tough to pull off. Since he's dead, his kids apparently made the deal with netflix.

Fairy Tail: Volume 1 (2/5)

Remember everything I said about Dragon Ball? Basically take all the bad stuff and amplify it, and remove any of the good stuff to offset it.

Like, am I a prude? Am I the only one put off with the fetishization of young girls in these things? FFS, we can't even get to volume 2 before Lucy's forced to dress up as a maid because hey, pervs exist in this world. Am I the only one who's put off by how Fairy Tail (the guild) is basically a bunch of assholes who do collateral damage, and whose guild master says "screw it!" as to the suggestion that hey, maybe the people who don't want collateral damage have a point? Am I the only one put off by the summon sequences that remind me of Final Fantasy Unlimited (bleh)? Am I the only one put off by how the manga feels very 'gamey?' like, here's a board, take a quest, get a reward, rinse and repeat?

Well, considering how popular the manga is, quite possibly so. But I'm not fond of it. Even Dragon Ball, at the very least, had cool fight scene artwork, but this manga doesn't even manage that, and like many such mangas and comics, I just glazed over the action parts. So, no. Can't say I like this.

Fairy Tail: Volume 2 (3/5)

So, against my better judgement, I borrowed the second volume of Fairy Tail. This, despite my dim view on the first. Question is, is it better? Well, you can tell by the rating that it is, but that isn't to say that it's "good," far from it. Rather, it's simply average.

But make no mistake, I really didn't like this. Some of the worst elements of the previous volume are toned down. For instance, Lucy is slightly less of a sex object (key word being "slightly"), and does get some agency. Also, there's Erza, who's not only a better character, but actually calls out the Fairy Tail guild as effectively being a bunch of morons at best, or assholes at worst (except Happy - Happy is awesome). However, just because some of the worse aspects are mitigated, it doesn't mean I'm left engaged. Like the first part of the plot is basically "burn a terrible book that my author father wrote." Which means infiltrating a mansion belonging to an insane man who has giant hairy maids that he's attracted to (yes, really). Like...I don't...I can't...

And to think I thought Bulma's bunnysuit in Dragon Ball was low brow. Little did I know that that was apparently the pinnacle of refined tastes.

We at least get a dark guild to work with, but they're still filled with psychopaths who have nothing better to do than chew the scenery, and who want to commit mass murder because hey, they're evil (yes, there is a reason, but it's trite). Also, the fight scenes are a bit better, but still fairly dull. It might be that I'm already familiar with the characters with Dragon Ball, as to why I was more invested in them, but whatever the case, I just glazed over them here. That, and people just WON'T STOP SHOUTING IN THE SCRIPT! CAN YOU HEAR ME? DID YOU GET THAT?

All this aside, the question can be asked whether this is a manga for me. And in fairness, the answer is "no." I'm not the target audience. So in that sense, and given that the manga/anime's already insanely popular, I figure why bother?

Crossfire (3/5)

So, this is another book I read in the Wraith novel/graphic novel series - another way of getting me more up to speed with the setting. You might remember Sanderson of Metro and if you recall, I wasn't too keen on it. Still, Crossfire is written by the series's loremaster/main author/whatever, so the question is whether it's better written as a result?

Well, I can't say it's better written "as a result" (not without inference at least), but it's certainly better written. Again, this isn't really my stuff, and I have to say, the plot, while thin, would work much better as a graphic novel, because it's clearly harkening to superhero traditions. Like, the Wraith is akin to Batman, Crossfire is akin to Deadshot, Bob Sloan is akin to Jim Gordon, and so on and so forth. So while it's not really my thing, if I evaluate it on the terms of the genre, it certainly functions. It's paced well, and for better or worse, does adhere to tropes of the genre. Which, given that it's trying to harken back to 70s pulp fiction, I guess is the point.

So, yeah. Make of that what you will.

One Piece: Volume 1 (3/5)

Kind of on a manga splurge aren't I? Well, it's not Fairy Tail this time, it's One Piece. I mean, surely, thought I, there'd be something for me here. I mean, everyone seems to love One Piece, right? Right?

Well, I don't.

That's not to say it has the same issues with Fairy Tail for me, but in a sense, I found it far more obnoxious, if less...problematic? I dunno, maybe I'm a prude, but at the very least, when it does introduce female characters, they don't appear there for the purposes of sexualization. But I get to deal with a whole new set of gripes, namely that people just won't...stop...SHOUTING!

DID YOU GET THAT? DID YOU SEE ME USE CAPITALS TO CONVEY THAT PEOPLE SHOUT A LOT IN THIS MANGA? SHOULD I SHOULD LOUDER?

Y'know how manga and anime often use exagerated facial expressions? Think that, ramped up to eleven. Doesn't help that Luffy is a boring protagonist. His goal is to become the Pirate King (or lord, whatever). He has absolutely no idea how to do that bar drifting around. Also, he's practically invincible. So, unless you're attached to idiotic characters who can't be harmed (and I'm not), Luffy isn't going to be a character for you. Also Zeno. Zeno, who gets forced tragic backstory thrown in as a flashback that breaks down the flow. Plus there's kid who wears glasses (can't remember his name), who wants to join the Navy (just "the Navy," we're never given a name), despite the Navy also being manned by idiots and over the top, overly effiminate villains. Because...yay for law and order? Say what you will about Fairy Tail, I can at least remember the characters' names and motivations.

So, is One Piece bad? No. Not really. But it IS designed for a younger audience. Granted, it's marked YA, but I figure with it being so popular, it must have some broader appeal, right? Well, if it does, I'm not among it.

Tiamat's Wrath the 8th book in the Expanse series.

The spoiler free version is: The Expanse is a great book series, that consistently delivers engaging sci-fi drama and action. Tiamat's Wrath is no exception, coming hot off the heels of Persepolis Rising and continuing the story of that book.

What I like about the Expanse in particular is that it is a book series that deals in themes that easily gets authors nihilistic, like the vastness of space, the question of if other sentient life exists in the universe, the frailty of human life and how power corrupts, yet it never becomes bleak, grimdark or nihilistic. The recurring theme of the Expanse is that humanity is at its best when we work together, try to bridge our differences and don't just look out for ourselves. The Expanse are books about space adventure but they describe those space adventures from a deeply human point of view and it is one of the few book series that repeatedly has me emotionally touched by the beauty of its character portraits and positive view of humanity.

Basically, go read these books.

The spoiler part is below, so spoiler:
I am pretty amazed by how the Expanse started out as "near future" sci-fi, with humanity unable to leave the solar system and has since progressed into more traditional intergalactic sci-fi. It is a transition that could easily have floundered the entire series, especially as it is done by introducing alien technology as a sort of deus ex machina (and oh boy that protomolecule is a doozy of a deus ex machina in terms of plot devices), yet the series manages to keep its' tone and air of scientific authenticity and never looses its emotional core. To be eight books into a sci-fi story that's increasingly about intergalactic threats humanity doesn't understand and still managing to maintain the same emotional and thematic core is pretty impressive, especially as the storylines aren't wheel spinning and there's no status quo that the books cling to.

Senlin Ascends / The Arm of the Sphinx / The Hod King - Josiah Bancroft

I'd been aware of the good press behind these for some time, but hadn't got around to them until last month. They are the first three books of a quadrilogy (last one out next year) about a mild-mannered headmaster, the eponymous Senlin, who loses his wife Marya whilst visiting the Tower of Babel and sets about trying to find her, unpeeling the mysteries of the tower as he does so. The tower is vast - miles wide and miles high - with each level an independent "Ringdom" with its own quirks, although we only see a dozen or so. As Senlin makes his way through the tower, he must adapt to each to progress.

This isn't the Biblical tower of Babel (although plenty of the names and some concept is derived from the myth). It's kind of steampunky - the tech is roughly Victorian, although the Tower of Babel itself is rather more advanced. It is deemed a peak of civilisation, from which the fruits of knowledge, fashion, and much else spread to the rest of the world. As Senlin soon finds out, it is a corrupt, venal place full of bizarre cultures, with strange ritual, slavery, crime, greed, envy, and vanity. Our lead character, Senlin, is a flawed but empathetic character. He starts stuffy and starchy, if intelligent and well-meaning; he grows throughout the series to uncover his hidden depths. One of his main virtues - and which much of the tower lacks - is empathy for others. That empathy is key to his progression, as he draws other victims of the tower to him, inspiring them to more moral conduct. The rest of the team he gradually picks up, as well as many of the antagonists, are well fleshed out.

These books are beautifully written, switching effectively between action, drama and humour, whilst retaining good emotional punch. The characters are well constructed, and the different ringdoms are attractively imagined. It is nice to see fantasy that is creative - not just another set of well-worn cliches. In some of the stylings, particularly the odd, even grotesque cultures and humour, it reminds me perhaps of the likes of Mervyn Peake and Jack Vance - both two authors I have greatly enjoyed.

Anyway, well worth the time spent reading.

Dalisclock:
Rereading One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read this like a decade ago and now that there's some talk of it getting adapted by Netflix I felt I should give it another go. It's much as I remember it, this wierd blend of muti-generational epic set in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Colombia in what's probably the 19th century(but since there's only allusions to events most non-colombians wouldn't be aware of it's hard to tell). There's also this weird sense of magical realism amongst the soap opera like drama, but there's also this tragic emotional core of mistakes being repeated every generation as well.

So yeah, a good book but I have no idea if it's possible to make a good series of it. There's a lot going on and there's very little actual dialogue. Apparently the Author didn't want an adaptation for screen at all if it couldn't be made to match the spirit of the book, and boy is that gonna be tough to pull off. Since he's dead, his kids apparently made the deal with netflix.

Well his son is a film director, I always figured he'd be the one to helm it. Marquez was famously against adaptations of his work but that didn't stop the (horrible) Mike "Harry Potter 4" Newell from making Love in the Time of Cholera.

I imagine the problem with a series would be there's no central character to outlast the whole story.

Legends of the Dark Knight Vol 3: Jim Aparo. I love Jim Aparo, his signature artstyle was the Batman of my childhood, together with Norm Breyfogle and Kelley Jones. Unfortunately it seems only Jones is still left alive. Aparo is probably most popular for A Death in the Family, infamous for having the readers decide if Jason Todd lived or died. The book mostly collects his earlier work at the end of the bronze age in 80/81 Detective Comics and The Brave and the Bold. Espescially Aparo and Denny O'Neill were such a great team. Though there were more excellent writers working on Batman at the time like Mike W Barr and Gerry Conway. It's cool to see how they re-envisioned Batman by taking the character seriously and started to modernize the storylines way before Frank Miller, Bruce Timm or Alan Moore. DC keeps making these awesome collections. The Breyfogle and Mounch collections were really good as well. Very high quality paper and sublime printing quality.

Gethsemani:
Tiamat's Wrath the 8th book in the Expanse series.

The spoiler free version is: The Expanse is a great book series, that consistently delivers engaging sci-fi drama and action.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nvuEw9XcuU

Yeah, really not a fan of the books (or at least the first four, never bothered moving on from there). Really liked the TV series though.

Hawki:

Yeah, really not a fan of the books (or at least the first four, never bothered moving on from there). Really liked the TV series though.

They're strangely old skool. Sometimes it works in their favour, other times not. Fundamentally, there's a problem with credibility that some dude, his ship and crew manage to find themselves constantly in the middle of the action even when they're not trying to be: a good ol' down to earth, aw shucks, speaks as he finds it type sorting out the galaxy's problems with homespun philosophy and can do spirit, umpteen crises on the trot.

William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Songs of Innocence, and Songs of Experience. I have to say, a pretty great read of poems. I heard Blake was a cool guy too. When I get the chance, I'll check out the Book of Urizen. You can thank V for me checking Blake's works.

Johnny Novgorod:

Well his son is a film director, I always figured he'd be the one to helm it. Marquez was famously against adaptations of his work but that didn't stop the (horrible) Mike "Harry Potter 4" Newell from making Love in the Time of Cholera.

I imagine the problem with a series would be there's no central character to outlast the whole story.

I read Love in the Time of Cholera but never saw the film. I guess I didn't miss much. The closest thing to a persistent character is the Matriarch, Ursula, who makes it all the way to Generation 7 before finally dying(at over 120 years old), but she doesn't drive the plot much. I just hope they do a good job at casting or costuming or something to help everyone keep these characters distinct, because the book comes in a family tree for a reason(7 generations that keep using the same names over and over again).

Agema:

They're strangely old skool. Sometimes it works in their favour, other times not. Fundamentally, there's a problem with credibility that some dude, his ship and crew manage to find themselves constantly in the middle of the action even when they're not trying to be: a good ol' down to earth, aw shucks, speaks as he finds it type sorting out the galaxy's problems with homespun philosophy and can do spirit, umpteen crises on the trot.

Maybe my read on Holden is wrong, but isn't his conceit as a character that he can't stop himself from interfering because of his ideas about moral responsibility? That someone like him would keep cropping up doesn't seem too far fetched for me, especially not as he gets some powerful friends along the way.

But I get the criticism and can somewhat share it, especially the later books requires the reader to just go along with the idea that the Rocinante somehow is in the center of the action again. But as far as conceits go in Sci-Fi, I find it pretty easy to swallow.

Agema:

They're strangely old skool. Sometimes it works in their favour, other times not. Fundamentally, there's a problem with credibility that some dude, his ship and crew manage to find themselves constantly in the middle of the action even when they're not trying to be: a good ol' down to earth, aw shucks, speaks as he finds it type sorting out the galaxy's problems with homespun philosophy and can do spirit, umpteen crises on the trot.

Of all the terms I could use to describe The Expanse, "old school" wouldn't be among those that immediately come to mind. If I'm thinking of "old school" sci-fi, stuff like Star Trek TOS comes to mind, or going further back, stuff written by Wells and Verne. The Expanse doesn't fit that, because unlike a lot of that stuff, it's very much on the "hard" end of the sci-fi spectrum, with great attention to worldbuilding and making the functioning of the world as realistic as possible. It's actually the one key thing I think the books do well, least initially. And as for Holden, I can't agree with that assessment. He spends a lot of time blundering around (least in the first book), and whatever the Roci crew accomplishes, it's usually in service to an authority, such as Fred Johnson and the OPA, or Avasarala.

Dalisclock:

Johnny Novgorod:

Well his son is a film director, I always figured he'd be the one to helm it. Marquez was famously against adaptations of his work but that didn't stop the (horrible) Mike "Harry Potter 4" Newell from making Love in the Time of Cholera.

I imagine the problem with a series would be there's no central character to outlast the whole story.

I read Love in the Time of Cholera but never saw the film. I guess I didn't miss much. The closest thing to a persistent character is the Matriarch, Ursula, who makes it all the way to Generation 7 before finally dying(at over 120 years old), but she doesn't drive the plot much. I just hope they do a good job at casting or costuming or something to help everyone keep these characters distinct, because the book comes in a family tree for a reason(7 generations that keep using the same names over and over again).

I guess they could do the Cloud Atlas thing of flipping back and forth in time, designating 4 or 5 focal characters as protagonists. Although it would make things even more confusing, probably.

Johnny Novgorod:

Dalisclock:

Johnny Novgorod:

Well his son is a film director, I always figured he'd be the one to helm it. Marquez was famously against adaptations of his work but that didn't stop the (horrible) Mike "Harry Potter 4" Newell from making Love in the Time of Cholera.

I imagine the problem with a series would be there's no central character to outlast the whole story.

I read Love in the Time of Cholera but never saw the film. I guess I didn't miss much. The closest thing to a persistent character is the Matriarch, Ursula, who makes it all the way to Generation 7 before finally dying(at over 120 years old), but she doesn't drive the plot much. I just hope they do a good job at casting or costuming or something to help everyone keep these characters distinct, because the book comes in a family tree for a reason(7 generations that keep using the same names over and over again).

I guess they could do the Cloud Atlas thing of flipping back and forth in time, designating 4 or 5 focal characters as protagonists. Although it would make things even more confusing, probably.

The book already kinda does this, where it outright starts with a flashback and occasionally jumps around while generally progressing forwards. The problem being, yeah, it makes a work much harder to follow. Catch 22(the film and the book) did it, but apparently the Hulu series doesn't(I haven't had a chance to watch it yet). Gravity's Rainbow is also infamous for jumping around like crazy in the timeline, though Gravity's Rainbow is just confusing as hell in general.

Cloud Atlas gets away with it because the time periods are fairly visually distinct from each other with notable differences in character costuming and such, while 100 years would all be set in the same town in different decades with the cast being the main differences.

And again, the problem with the same names being used over and over again. Having to refer to a family tree in the series like the book practically requires might not be the best idea.

Gethsemani:

Maybe my read on Holden is wrong, but isn't his conceit as a character that he can't stop himself from interfering because of his ideas about moral responsibility?

I totally agree. But even still, he's in the right place at the right time suspiciously often, and happens to have been bequeathed an abnormally competent crew as survivors of what was a basic frieghter. For another example, that Naomi conveniently enough just happens to be the ex- of someone who turns out to be incredibly important in a later book.

Hawki:
Of all the terms I could use to describe The Expanse, "old school" wouldn't be among those that immediately come to mind. If I'm thinking of "old school" sci-fi, stuff like Star Trek TOS comes to mind, or going further back, stuff written by Wells and Verne. The Expanse doesn't fit that, because unlike a lot of that stuff, it's very much on the "hard" end of the sci-fi spectrum, with great attention to worldbuilding and making the functioning of the world as realistic as possible. It's actually the one key thing I think the books do well, least initially. And as for Holden, I can't agree with that assessment. He spends a lot of time blundering around (least in the first book), and whatever the Roci crew accomplishes, it's usually in service to an authority, such as Fred Johnson and the OPA, or Avasarala.

Think books, not TV. Star Trek was a little soft as SF goes, but vast amounts of 60s SF literature is "one man (+ team) and his spaceship" space opera with plenty of hard SF trappings. The other aspect that strikes me is if we think in terms of the sea change introduced by Gibson's Neuromancer, and how computers exploded in terms of relevance to SF, this is in many ways a throwback to the pre-Neuromancer era, full of humans with wrenches solving the universe's problems.

Tuf Voyaging (3/5)

So, did you know that George R.R. Martin used to write stuff other than A Song of Ice and Fire? Chances are you do, but if you don't, well, now you know. And one of those books is 'Tuf Voyaging', a collection of short stories focused on Haviland Tuf - a social recluse who comes to control a powerful starship, and who has a love of cats. Cats who are psionic in this universe, because go cats.

I'm not going to review every short story individually, but looking at the stories as a whole, they're okay - some are definitely better than others. I should also note that Tuf is pretty much a Gary Stu, in that he's infalliable, but I don't mind too much, because he does succeed with his intellect rather than brute force, so that's a change from what you might expect here. I should also comment that the worldbuiliding is very broad - broad enough that you get a sense of history, but not so focused that it can be called in-depth. Also, some of the short stories do connect between each other. The stories can't be called deep per se, but there's certainly intelligence to them, touching on themes such as biodiversity and overpopulation. If we take Tuf as Martin's viewpoint character, it's fair to guess where he stands on certain issues in the real world, especially when it comes to organized religion.

So, yeah. Decent set of reads. Took me ages to get through them though, but that's no fault of the book itself.

Anthem: A New Verse (3/5)

So, this is weird. From what I can tell, this was meant to be a 4 issue comic series, but it seems to have become three. I don't know if the plot was compressed, or 3 ended where it was meant to, but either way, reviewing it now.

It's...okay. Actually, post-issue 1, it's better than I thought it would be. Certainly the two main characters are reasonably engaging, and the comic does a reasonable job of standing alone. Like, it's framed as a prequel to Anthem, but without any knowledge of the setting, you could probably get the gist of it. And it does have some emotional punch. However, what it also has is pretentiousness. Like, I can't (or won't) comment on the "correct" way to write a comic, but the comic here relies a lot on text blocks within the frames. As in, there's a lot of passive narration. Which wouldn't be so bad if it didn't use overly flowerly language for a lot of it. Um, Dark Horse? Don't know if you noticed, but this is a setting where your average hero is basically Iron Man. People flying around in powered suits fighting other people in powered suits, along with insects that shoot at the people in powered suits. There's a limit to how deep you can make it, and even beyond that, this doesn't reach the limit, it mis-shoots the limit.

So, yeah. Decent, better than I expected, but nothing special.

The Wraith: Dread Avenger of the Underworld (3/5)

So, still familiarizing myself with the Wraith universe per my work with Trinity Comics. And by "work," I mean "god damn it, I really need to find time to actually write this, because it's hard to find time when you're working every day of the week.

Anyway, there's not too much to say about this that I haven't already. I will say though that per its nature as a superhero universe, it certainly works much better as a graphic novel than as a written novel. Also, maybe it's just me, but in addition to the Batman vibes (and obstensibly those of the 70s such as the Spider), I was getting vibes of the Phantom as well. Something about the black and white, coupled with the Wraith's headwear, coupled with the supernatural elements. I mean, it's not great, but it's lacking the more obnoxious elements of the manga I've read recently where ALL THE CHARACTERS SHOUT HALF THE TIME IN BIG BOLD LETTERS!

That aside, I'm not sure if I can really reccomend this graphic novel as a first entry to the setting, because it's effectively a collection of single issues that don't really connect with each other, and ultimately end on a cliffhanger. But, if you want to support indie comics, then it isn't the worst place to start either.

The Soldier by Neal Asher.

Honestly, if you've ever read a Neal Asher book, it's just like all the others you've read. It might even have some of the same characters, which sporadically recur across his main body of books about an AI/human space empire called the "Polity". First part of a new mini trilogy within that wider series. Think hugely powerful AIs, massive battleships, world-wrecking weapons, wisecracking assassin droids, secret agents, interstellar war and peril written, all written with an exuberant, cracking pace. Good, lightweight fun, like nearly all his novels.

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