Category Archives: Words

Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love

815fU8q1ldLImplausibly, I’m like six years behind on the Fables series of interwoven comics. At least, it seems implausible to me? There’s probably no good reason why, though.

From Fabletown with Love marks the second spin-off of the main series, this time focused on Cinderella. Who, awesomely, is an international interdimensional spy in the top secret employ of Fabletown’s law enforcement / governing apparatus. Aside from that premise, though, there’s nothing much to talk about here. It’s a first book, and mostly all that is established is her credentials. So, if you like the Fables series generally, no reason you wouldn’t like this, and also no reason you’d be six years behind like some people I could name. If you don’t, I don’t see this one winning you over.

Unless you really like spies, and that’s what’s been keeping you away until now, I suppose?

The Walking Dead: No Turning Back

517KPsoOcxLFor a wonder, the latest Walking Dead has a title that isn’t trite and a storyline to match. No Turning Back chronicles the aftermath of Rick Grimes’ meeting with the latest, direst threat to his community. See, everyone is scared and reactionary, because of the spoilers at the end of the last book. Now Rick has to decide how far he will go to hold it all together.

Which, y’know. Yet another big threat, I’ve seen all that before. Rick struggling to decide whether his soul or his community’s safety is more expendable, that’s the kind of human drama I can still get behind. I’d be annoyed that the question isn’t resolved in this volume, but if it had been, it would definitively be in favor of him not taking some action that crosses The Line, so uncertainty is the best I could have hoped for.

Downside: still more books coming.

Moon Fate

51B5enw1nlLApparently, the Deathlands series is completed, at 75 books, as of sometime last year. That’s kind of cool, because it implies that I might ever finish[1]. Not a habit I’m used to, what with Marvel comics that have been published continuously since 1961 with no end in sight.

I’m not sure that has any special relevance, but I learned it while doing research into the author of Moon Fate. (James Axler is a farm name, you see, assigned to any number of actual writers in the series, but not a real person in his own right.) The sad reason for this research was that there was a tonal shift so drastic, I briefly hoped there had been a change of the usual author to explain it. Here’s an implausible number of words about that.

Weirdly, even now, I can’t tell if I’m being unrealistic. In thumbnail, Ryan Cawdor is returning from the events of Chill Factor to rejoin his friends, but due to a series of the kind of tragic event that is so typical in a post-apocalyptic hellhole, they end up split once more, with he and his girlfriend captured by vengeful mutant “stickies”, so called because they are part of a common lineage in the Deathlands whereby their arms are covered with incredibly strong octopus-like suckers, strong enough to strip flesh right off any “norms” they might come in contact with.

And here is where problem one crops up. Normally stickies are, in addition to being strong and violent death machines, quite lowly ranked on the intelligence scale. Which is fine, killer mutants are a staple of any nuclear holocaust. But they were lead by an especially intelligent throwback to humanity, who of course was a figure from Ryan’s past. I don’t mind that they had a bad time together and the stickie wanted revenge. I mind that, after going to all the trouble of making him a leader who was intelligent and strong-willed enough to organize his troops instead of the usual ravening hordes, the story still treated them as mindless enemies. A story where the mutants could also be human would have been much cooler.

In any case, not enough to put me off the story, but then there was a rape scene in which a female stickie took Ryan into her quarters for to satisfy her carnally. And… I mean, there was only the one mostly human throwback, so I’m not saying I have a problem with the run of the mill mutant being a grotesquerie. And if the rape scene had been reversed, with lead female character Krysty Wroth being the victim, that wouldn’t have been any better, for all kinds of reasons. Still, the scene where Ryan was being forced to perform oral sex was just relentlessly anti-female, in a way I have thusfar thought this series was better than. And like I said, I read over the caveats and feel like I’m being way too sensitive about this; because yes the scene could have been left out entirely, but once you accept its presence, I can’t really see anything unrealistic about it. All the same, it felt skeevy, and I hope it doesn’t happen again.

Third, not that I much care about this, and especially in comparison to the other two, but I have no earthly idea what the title had to do with anything at all.

Anyway, leaving aside those complaints, the book was at least a nice change of pace from the standard “teleport somewhere, right a wrong, move on” template the series quickly fell into. I mean, yes, that is technically exactly what happened, but the trappings were all different, what with resuming from a split party, visiting friends, and staying in town for months rather than days or hours.

[1] Given that this book is #16, I’m already 20% of the way through!

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind

513Coa7zVcLUntil a credit card error combined with an email filing error caused me to miss several issues in a row (and I was already months behind on actually reading them even then), I collected Buffy and Angel comics set after those shows had ended. In addition to those, a handful of Firefly comics were released, but these were not of the full-sized sequel variety the others had been. A three issue follow-up story with only one spoiler of any consequence, and a second batch about which I, perhaps tragically, remember nothing (but it was past stories instead of future), and then by the time the third set happened, I had already had the card failure of which I speak, I guess?

Leaves on the Wind is not only the fourth collection; it is also, finally, a full-fledged continuation of the story with (I believe) more to come. In addition to the fruits of that spoiler I mentioned, mostly this one is about the fallout of the big revelations broadcast by Malcolm Reynolds about the Reavers and how they relate to the Alliance; you know, the ground covered in the movie. There are people who don’t believe a word of it, people ready to start a whole new revolution, people looking for all kinds of bloody revenge. You know, the usual.

Definitely worth reading, but read Those Left Behind first.

Aftermath

51EAv3L9PGLSo, the one good thing about a new Star Wars timeline is I’m only one book behind now, right? Haha nope, there are already like six books, plus seasons upon seasons of animated television I never got around to watching. Oops.

Aftermath is set in the months after the Battle of Endor, in the midst of the rise of the New Republic. The main thrust of the story is a group of folks who find themselves on-world for a secret meeting of the remnants of the Empire, who are trying to figure out what their next step is now that the head has been removed from the snake. Some of the aforementioned folks want to get word out to the Republic fleet, of course, but for the most part, there are as many agendas as there are characters. (Which is, I reckon, as it should be.)

Then, blah blah speeder chases and dog fights and laser battles, you know how this stuff goes. What made the book interesting (besides that it kicked off a new continuity, I mean) was all the vignettes about the state of the galaxy scattered throughout the book, none of which were in any way related to the main plot. I don’t mean to imply that the 50 some odd books I’ve read in what I think they’re now calling Star Wars Legends did not end up making it feel like a lived in galaxy, with trillions of sentient beings going about their lives. But something about the concerted effort Wendig put into making his new continuity feel immediately as lived in was very successful. Not to mention appreciated.

Ultimately, I don’t think anyone is going to get anything deep and meaningful out of these books, but it was good enough that I’ll keep looking for them.

Z 2135

51r4bMhNxML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Once again, my review material comes from the author’s afterword. This time, apparently, the authors of Z 2134 were disheartened by people who gave them crap for gleefully stealing from popular literature to mish mash their dystopic zombie-laden future. The goal for Z 2135 was to amp up the characterizations and the plot turns and prove everyone wrong while once again exciting their true fans.

Well… first of all, the series suffers from Harry Dresden disease. Despite being named after the year in which it occurs, everything took place over the course of two or three weeks, just like last time. Which doesn’t actually matter, but I always side eye that kind of thing a little. Otherwise? The characterizations were fine, but nothing to write home about. The plot turns are frequent and dramatic, that I’ll grant. In the end, though, the problem is that there’s hardly anyone to like. Sure, the teenage couple are nice enough, but the kid brother is too annoyingly indecisive to really latch onto, and while the government were always the bad guys, of course, I ended up with no interest in the rebellion either.

So there’s just this one family in the whole world that’s especially worth a damn? That makes for a pretty lonely world, even if they figure out a way to win in the third serial novel that doesn’t reward either horrible side of the struggle and only the innocent bystanders.

I mean, I’ll read it.

Welcome to Night Vale

61b0tVzWgaL._SL300_In a first for me, I listened to an audiobook that I had not previously consumed with my eyes. I don’t expect to repeat the experience, but Welcome to Night Vale is a special case. I’ve been listening to the podcast for about two years now, after hearing it evangelized during New Year’s 2014, and when they announced the book, they also announced the the audio version would be narrated by the same person who has performed as community radio host for Night Vale lo these many years.

So, anyway: obviously the performance was dandy. If Cecil were not good at his job, I never would have gotten far enough down the rabbit hole to be aware of this book. (I mention performance mainly because I might listen to reruns of books in the future, and it will be more relevant for books not based in part on someone’s voice.)

As for the story… I’m not sure how accessible it was (or was meant to be) to a new reader, but to be fair, the podcast is barely accessible, unless you just love it right away. It tells the story of a couple of previously named bit characters as they interact with each other, the town, and a mysterious, previously unnamed major character. Which I think was the best way to handle it. Give the fans something to chew on while giving the newcomers people who have never really mattered before, so they can come in fresh.

Overall: it’s a good book, about time, family, parenthood, and the different ways these things affect each other and also, of course, how they affect people. Plus, there are terrifying librarians and tarantulas and video stores to contend with. There’s no good reason why you wouldn’t like this book. But then, there’s no good reason for anything, really.

Ultimate End

510TQ731k4LWell, I am straight up disappointed by the ultimate final novel in Marvel’s Ultimate continuity. See, the other times there have been big crossover events, I’ve read all of the affiliated books (in publication order, natch) because they were crossed over in, y’know, the same publication line. Whereas Secret Wars is a crossover among multiple Marvel continuities, none of which I am current on other than this one.

Which means that I was reading a sideline on the main story, without any context for what was supposed to be going on. I’m not saying there wasn’t any emotional impact; Bendis knows his job. But when I don’t know why things are happening[1], it’s hard to get involved enough to really get it. So, that was lame.

Bright side: I’m only 37 years behind on catching up with the other continuities so I can reread this with the proper context! So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

[1] Example: An army of Thors flying around enforcing God’s will. Um… what? Why? Who? So, yep. Also, the entire final issue was predicated on something a character learned in a different book. Sigh.

Hawk

91I7kmF-y7LThe only upside of accidentally reading the newest Vlad Taltos book a year late is that it probably indicates a proportionally shorter wait before the next one. Well, no. There’s also the upside that it’s even harder than in most long series to discuss the Vlad books without spoilers, so yay that anyone I know who cares about them has read this ahead of me, right?

Anyway, Hawk. Some Vlad books are about wars or gods or really amazing dinners or the dissolution of relationships, but my favorite ones (and, I think, the author’s favorites as well) are the ones where Vlad gets to wax rhapsodic about how very clever he is, doling out bits and pieces of his plan timed for maximum effect. You know how, if Holmes rather than Watson were tasked with writing down all his stories, people would think him a huge asshole? Vlad’s narration is just like that, but since he’s obviously an asshole from the start of things, it somehow works.

So yeah, it’s a caper book, and you know by now if you like Taltos books, so you’ll either read it or not regardless of what else I’d say, so I won’t say a lot more. Thing one: obviously if for some reason you don’t know if you like Taltos books, don’t start with this one. (I’ve covered this ground before.) Thing two: I am always most pleased when the story moves forward instead of jumping back, and this was one that moved forward. Thing three: There were hints of previous stories that I either don’t remember or haven’t been written yet, and both options itch maddeningly at my brain. It may be nearing time for a reread? At least they go fast. Thing four: The itch puts lie to my thing two; the real truth is that I am most pleased by whatever Vlad book is in front of me at the time. …except maybe Teckla.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

81fc9NgRyuLThis is the first King short story collection I’ve really liked in quite a while. My first instinct is to claim it’s because the last couple, I had seen a lot of the stories in other publications, and so they were old hat to me. But then I think, no, I’ve read other, older collections lately and my familiarity with those stories bred no contempt. Plus, also, I’d already read a handful of these as well.

So, what makes The Bazaar of Bad Dreams a return to form? Man, I wish I knew. I’m so terrible at reviewing short story collections; it is pretty much my greatest weakness as a reviewer[1]. But here’s what I’ll do. Looking at the table of contents to refresh myself[2], I remember and actively like more than half the stories. Ur (originally published as a Kindle exclusive and which only briefly flirted with being a paid advertisement, right at the beginning) has possibly the coolest conceit a consumer of fiction could imagine, but even the stories whose ideas did not blow me away, I am nodding in fond memory of.

Or maybe he caught me on a good day. But I’m pretty sure this is a solid collection instead.

[1] Well, besides inability to get paid and sometimes falling days or weeks behind on reviews. Not this time, though. I finished the book in line for Star Wars, and I’m writing the review in line for Star Wars. (This should not be taken as a contractual obligation to provide a timely Star Wars review. ….but maybe?)
[2] The book took me most of a month to read, which is a reflection on how well I’ve been reading lately and not on the book. I mean, short stories have natural breakpoints between them, y’know?