Category Archives: Words

Vortex

51OaY2ueMYLOkay, I got fed up. It’s time to actually catch up with all my old partial serieses. At least this time I’m only a little over a year between books, instead of three? Anyway, right. Star Wars. Luke and his son Ben versus ancient evil older than 25,000 years of civilization, plus also uneasy Sith alliance, plus also Jedi Order in political quagmire, plus also slavery.

Vortex is totally a middle of the series book. Plots advance in retrospectively inevitable ways (at least, if you want the series to ever end, and at the two-thirds mark, turning a corner was something that had to happen), Sith apprentice Vestara Khai continues to be the best thing about the book, and… you know what, something just occurred to me. I think the series may be trying to finally take a hard look at the difference between the light and dark sides of the Force.

Because, look. It’s easy to say Sith are evil and Jedi are good, and that’s the Lucasian end of the debate. And that kind of works if you also say that there are only ever two Sith, because of how they hoard their power and their trust. What would be the point of a non-evil apprentice if you yourself are evil? But when you expand it to a society (the Sith used to be a species, even if that is no longer particularly the case), well, everyone isn’t evil. Not possible. That doesn’t mean that you can’t fuel your power with anger instead of peace, and of course not all anger is evil. Righteous anger is a concept that exists for a reason. So on the one hand the series is showing multiple Sith, all of whom are shaped by their society, some of whom are evil, but some of whom are looking for revenge for probably real slights at most, understandably mistrustful of their longtime enemies at least. And on the other hand, the series is also showing Jedi who have reached different but clearly ethical conclusions about an intractable debate, and then being forced to proceed.

If Jedi can disagree unto death without either of them going “dark side” and Sith can assist in preventing the ascension of an insane god out of enlightened self-interest instead of going “light side”, then the Force is as complex as it ought to be. I’m amused that a fundamental change in how the Force is understood by Jedi and Sith alike might be on the verge of occurring in a timeline that will collapse this December.

Chill Factor

51Z1R4iI8nLIt is pleasing that I have basically infinity comics to read, because sometimes I fail to plan trips correctly and run out of book too fast. In part this is certainly due to being kind of sick and not wanting to do anything besides read, unexpectedly, but also in part this is because the Deathlands books are comic-like in their own way. Obviously, they read extremely fast, but also they are similar in that they have recurring villains and in that they lay the groundwork for future books in the current book, so the overall story tends to feel seamless instead of purely episodic.

Chill Factor sees one-eyed killing machine Ryan Cawdor off somewhere in the extreme north to rescue his son from a sulfur mine run by Russian slavers, while dodging the tender affections of a series of badly thought out but extremely lethal, er, killing machines. Like, you know, hunter-killer security droids. T-800s by way of R2-D2. Because of handwavy reasons, he’s performing this task by himself instead of with his usual crew, and while I don’t mind that, it’s certainly time for one of the other characters to get a spotlight book.

Anyway, if you like this kind of thing, the series continues to deliver. I especially appreciated, in this case, how convincing the environment was, with most everyone’s lives measured in days or weeks rather than months. Between, you know, the constant sub-zero temperatures, the radiation, and being a slave in a sulfur mine. That said, the books don’t exist digitally, so probably it’ll only ever be just me reading them.

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man – Revelations

41464JNINZLRevelations is an excellent Ultimate Spider-Man book that fulfills the promise of its title by answering every meaningful question raised in the previous book and then some. It answers both the questions I had already asked and the ones I didn’t think to, and it answers them in satisfactory ways. Just as I would always expect Bendis to provide, crisis of faith aside.

And then, just when it is setting up a whole series of new questions, Marvel as a whole took a sharp turn to the left and is collapsing their multiverse in upon itself, with the plan being basically only one Ultimate book left after this one? At least, I think so. It’s going to be hard to know what to purchase to wrap things up, for certain. So, the flaw of this book is that it ended in a deus ex rushica instead of setting up the latest big deal in the Ultimate universe. This is not the book’s fault, but it sure is jarring.

So, um… I guess the majority of my comics reading will be happening issue by issue in the late 1970s now? Sorry about that.

Unwritten: On to Genesis

81p2Syxd-YLRight after being concerned that I had no clear idea about what anything actually means in the Unwritten series, I accidentally forgot to read the next book for more than a year, due primarily to a shelving logic failure. This is unfortunate in part because, man, I’m just bad at keeping up with most of these series, but especially because as of the current book, I feel like I have a handle on things. Which says something good about Carey’s ability to know when to stop spinning the plates, at least long enough to explain himself. (Also, he’s better at metaphors than I am.)

On to Genesis, in addition to being a clever play on words, lays bare all the questions you may have had about Tommy Taylor and the mysterious organization with which he has been vying for lo these many years. And it leaves plenty of room for whatever will be happening next, proving that you don’t have to be mysterious all the time to avoid running out of story. I guess most authors already knows this, and I’m looking at television show runners here. Either way, it’s a good lesson!

I won’t be saying anything about the actual answers he’s discovered, because they’re cool enough to deserve not being spoiled. I’m just pleased to be able to report that the series isn’t wandering aimlessly after all. Next time: less than a year away, I reckon!

Finders Keepers

81EJz58T3CLStephen King books seem to be coming out faster than ever these days! It’s been two a year for… well, a while anyway. But the thing is, mysteries are shorter, so maybe that’s why? Like, these are his “chill out and procrastinate” novels. Of course, now I’m making Finders Keepers sound lazy, which it wasn’t.

I think I remember reading that Mr. Mercedes was the first book of a trilogy. I could be wrong, but if so, it’s because it’s the first book of a series instead. Honestly, if Finders Keepers has a failing, it’s that it can’t make up its mind whether it’s a sequel or not. Two-thirds of the story is a game of cat and mouse between a murderer and a high school kid, but what it’s really about is literature and obsession and maybe a Salinger/Updike hybrid? And it’s pretty good! The other third is a sequel to Mr. Mercedes, and except for where the two stories mash up against each other, that third is a “Where are they now?” slice of life, which was fine but ultimately unnecessary.

Except for the part where there’s a guaranteed additional sequel that is the actual sequel to the first book, and which I very much want to read. But this book was good too. I just kind of wish it had gotten the chance to be completely its own thing.

Jack of Fables: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack

71DrhQKXp1LSo, the last thing that happened in Fables was all of reality was saved from uncreation. Which, y’know, cool. Now that that‘s dealt with, time to see what’s going on with Jack Horner and Jack Frost (who were fairly major characters in that particular endeavor, you see).

The New Adventures of Jack and Jack are… well, they are new adventures which star Jack and Jack, that much is true. If you are sensing some kind of overlap between the two eponymous characters, well, that is what we in the industry refer to as a mislead. Jack Frost has wandered off into the storybook worlds to be a real hero, while his father has wandered off by himself (well, not by himself, his sidekick is always there, but you know, still away from everyone else) to revel in the fact that he finally has a big treasure all his own. And that’s pretty much all that happens! Admittedly, it’s a five issue trade, but after all that has gone down in the past of this series, you kind of expect more than a single heroic quest and a single… well, while admittedly Jack Horner does almost nothing, there is a major plot progression that occurs, so I shouldn’t complain too much.

I do wish to complain that they’re both named Jack, though. The whole point of a dude having a name is you can refer to him by name, and the people listening know who you’re referring to! ….not anymore, I guess.

Z 2134

z-2134-coverIn the afterword to the book, the two authors discuss how, in the wake of a few successful turns as serial authors (a la Dickens, Doyle, or once, briefly, King), they decided that a good idea for their next plot would be, “What if The Hunger Games had zombies in it?” And, you know what? Yep, that is exactly the book they wrote.

Okay, that’s unfair in at least two ways. 1) The teenage female character is nowhere near as unlikeable as the book version of Katniss Everdeen. 2) The authors developed a world that is… okay, look, neither this world nor the Hunger Games one hangs together very plausibly if you actually start staring at the underpinnings. But this world makes at least as much sense after correcting for the zombies, and honestly maybe a little bit more, even.

Still, though. You cannot really define derivative more precisely than a book whose authors gleefully admit they combined a different successful book with a pop-culture staple. And as much as I’m a sucker for Rube Goldbergian arena combat to the death, that wasn’t even more than a third of the focus of the book. I guess I actually liked the characters and the premise enough to want to know how things turn out? Huh. Okay.

Warning: Z 2134[1] has two sequels and ends on several cliffhangers. Anti-warning: I think maybe there are only two sequels? And they’re all published, so. I know it sounds like my standards have plummeted here, but a) let’s be honest, they were never really so high as that, and b) it’s always nice to have a mindless book to read at a burn.

[1] Oh, also, the title is super-imaginative, right?

The Walking Dead: Whispers into Screams

81+TMcOUkvLBravo, Kirkman. You’ve done it again.

That is to say, he has lived up to and/or refused to live up to (depending on your perspective) the immortal words, Set me free, why don’t you babe? Get out my life, why don’t you babe? Woo-oo-oo-ooo. ‘Cause you don’t really love me, you just keep me hanging on. 

So, it’s like this. I still believe that he has reached the natural end of his story possibilities like two books ago, and that all of this is superfluous at best, wasted opportunities at worst. That said, I will continue reading the Adventures of  Carl Grimes and His Incredible Hat until the cows come home, and that was about 75% of the focus of Whispers into Screams. So, y’know, that’s cool I guess? Or incredibly diabolical, again depending on your perspective.

Powers: Secret Identity

71c4PfYYnGLA thing you may or may not know is that there is a TV show based on the Powers series of comics. It is available to Playstation Network users, which gives you an idea of just how variegated (or perhaps I should say splintered) the streaming landscape looks these days. But hey, people are making enough money to get more and more niche-interest programming created, and that’s fine by me. I’ve only watched one episode so far? But that’s what summer is for.

Anyway, that has almost nothing whatever to do with Secret Identity, which is so far ahead of where they could have gotten in one season that I may as well assume it will never actually be filmed. (Also unlikely to ever be filmed: the literal monkey vagina from a few books ago.) This? This is the book where things get weird. And I say that in full knowledge of my parenthetical above. It starts with yet another superhero team imploding, and ends with Christian Walker’s and Deena Pilgrim’s deep dark secrets all but exposed, just in time for a cliffhanger about how they will deal with the fallout.

That’s not the weird part. Here‘s the weird part.

Along the way, Walker maybe learns something important about his shadow-shrouded past and confronts[1] the multi-pronged cock of Satan. You know, like you do sometimes.

[1] I swear I am not making it up, and I think it’s possible nobody has ever said this phrase on the internet before.

Reaper Man

51qK2OscKWLThe odds that you are a) reading this and b) do not know that Sir Terry Pratchett died last month or b’) why that is tragic and relevant are astronomically low. I’d have read the next Discworld book soon regardless, but I read it sooner still because of the tribute factor that seemed necessary. And then I’ve sat on it for a week or more, because… well, this is not a because that can be finished in the back half of a sentence.

I guess the first thing to be aware of is that Reaper Man is about Death. “I know, I know,” the hypothetical you who is reading this review without being aware of the intersection of facts above is thinking, “of course it is, it says so right there in the name that it’s about death.” Well, by coincidence you’re right, and that’s relevant too, but I mean to say that it’s about the personification of the force of death in the universe, who is about to be forcibly retired by whatever it is that audits the universe, for the crime of being a personification instead of an impersonal force as would be good and proper. So, he decides to take a vacation while he still has the accumulated time off to do that, and then everything stops dying, with probably less predictable results than you’d think.

It’s possible that you’ve already spotted what happened to me over this book, but us nodding knowingly at each other across the miles of fibers and routers is not really the stuff of which a good review is made, so I’ll pretend you have not and continue. You see, I’m reading this book, by an author I like and I know many of my friends love, who has recently died, and the book is about death. About not wanting to die, or about living beyond your term and trying to decide how good or bad that news is, about the impact of death on the world, about the impact of no death on the world.

So, you know what happened, right? I was disappointingly, but also inevitably, underwhelmed. How could I not have been?! Perfect storm, right? But it wasn’t just that. See, the book has three completely unrelated stories in it. There’s the Death on holiday thing I already mentioned, and a wizard who has lived on past his appointed time, and a threat to Ankh Morpork (the biggest city on Discworld) that the other wizards must band together to fight. And okay, I technically lied. All of these events are caused and/or affected by each other. But from a story viewpoint, no. They are not intertwined, they barely come together, and the city threat / wizard fight story that does the most to bring them together at all is by far the worst.

Basically, what I figure is, he had two really good story ideas (and they are, both of them, quite good!) that he figured were each too short to hold a book, but since they were related they could be tied together… and then he came up with nothing much of a much at all for how to accomplish that. But some editor incorrectly thought the joining story was funny and/or relevant, and here we are, with the worst tribute review in history.

Sigh.