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Fanboy Friday! Grandville, Bete Noire: Luscious Art Creates Good Escapist Fun

Grandville, Bete Noire by Bryan Talbot

Grandville, Bete Noire, Bryan Talbot’s third steam-punk themed graphic novel, has the same lavish detail and striking use of color as the first two. English Badger D.I. Archie LeBrock is back, as rough-and-tumble as ever, and in this book we spend a bit more time with Quayle or “Q,” a brilliant inventor adept at stealth weapons, like a smoking pipe that is really a bomb. It’s a nice wink in the direction of Ian Fleming.

The plot is slimmer and more predictable than the first two, and a large part of the story is taken up with the exploration of LeBrock’s relationship with the beautiful prostitute Billie, who he met in Grandville, Mon Amor. We find out a bit more about Billie, especially, in one hilarious and naughty frame, what her particular work “specialty... Read More

Honor’s Knight: More trouble for Devi

Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach

Honor’s Knight is the second book in Rachel Bach’s PARADOX series. Don’t even bother to pick it up until you’ve read the first book, Fortune’s Pawn. (And you might not want to read past the second paragraph of this review, either, because it will spoil some of the plot of Fortune’s Pawn.)

This series is best described as romantic space opera. It’s light on the science (it doesn’t even try, in fact) and heavy on the relationship drama. For me, the best aspect of the story is the mystery. Our protagonist, Devi Morris, has gotten herself into a strange and dangerous situation and though I don’t care about her romance — as I explained in my review of Fortune’s Pawn, the “love” doesn’t feel real to me — I am interested in where the story is going.
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Fire with Fire: The main character mars this fun Nebula-nominated adventure

Fire with Fire by Charles E. Gannon

I don’t read a lot of military science fiction, and Fire With Fire is definitely military SF. It’s also an intelligence thriller and a first-contact story, at least part of the time. Charles E. Gannon’s book was good fun, but could have been forty pages shorter (limiting the verbiage of the talking heads) without losing anything, and the main character was a problem.

Caine Riordan, the hero of Fire with Fire, is a little like Jack Ryan from the old Tom Clancy books. Riordan is not a military guy; he’s an analyst, and a writer, or both. He likes to roll up his sleeves and get hands-on, though, so he has a lot of varied experiences. He’s a polymath; educated in a number of areas. Riordan is uniquely without attachments; thirteen years earlier, Riordan uncovered a ... Read More

The Fifth Elephant: The Watch goes to Uberwald

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

Lord Vetinari is dragging Ankh-Morpork and its City Watch into the modern age, but not everyone is happy. Now, instead of just leaving their carriages on the street, people that stop traffic and business will have to watch as a troop of trolls hauls their carriage away (unless they can afford to bribe Sergeant Colon). And although many of Ankh-Morpork’s dwarfs still cling to the old ways, others have begun to act radically: female dwarfs like Cheery Littlebottom not only admit that they are women but have also begun to wear… dresses!

Times are changing, but crime continues. Commander Sam Vimes and his team discover that a replica Scone of Stone has been stolen. The Scone is a Dwarf a... Read More

Fanboy Friday! Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel

Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel

So while I keep saying that I appear not to be the person for whom graphic novels are created, as I have hardly ever found one I strongly respond to, I’m also stubborn (or dumb) enough to keep trying now and then. The most recent attempt was Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain. Alas, I’m still that guy.

Set on a steamer traveling up and down the Hudson during the late 1800s, Sailor Twain is the story of two men — Twain, the captain of the Lorelei; and Lafayette, the French-born owner of the steam line — and the intersection of their lives with a pair of women, one of whom is a wounded mermaid Twain pulls aboard one night and nurses back to health. It is also a story of obsession, love, sacrifice, duality, and the lure and danger of becoming entangled in the unseen/fantastical world.
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The Compleat Crow: Short stories of Lumley’s master occultist

The Compleat Crow by Brian Lumley

Subterranean Press has gathered a collection of Brian Lumley’s stories in The Compleat Crow. As you’d expect, nearly all these tales feature Lumley’s occult detective, Titus Crow.

Crow is the main character of a couple of novels by Lumley. He is a “white wizard,” a force for good who struggles mostly against those in league with the Cthulhu-cycle elder gods. Lumley’s style skates between Lovecraft-lite and an almost Holmesian tone. These eleven short stories were published mostly in the UK and range from 1969 to the early 1980s. Most involve Crow as the main character. Some are third-person; in some Crow is the first-person narrator, telling his own tale, and in a few he is the story-teller, relating events that have nothing to do with him. Notably, two tales use a third person narrator that is not Crow.

“Inception,” the first story in the book, follows a fugitive ... Read More

Fortune’s Pawn: Romantic space opera

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

Devianna Morris is the most ambitious mercenary you’ll ever meet. Her life’s goal is to join the Devastators (the super-elite king’s guard) and the only way to get there fast is to sign on to the security team of the merchant ship called The Glorious Fool. Devi doesn’t know why The Glorious Fool is so dangerous, but she knows that it manages to kill just about every member of its crew, so just surviving for a year should be enough to bring Devi to the attention of the Devastators.

At first Devi is not too impressed with her new job. Her security partner is brave and competent, but he’s a jerk. The captain’s strange chess-playing daughter is aloof and unfriendly. Devi’s roommate is a loony hippie. The ship’s cook is totally hot, but he is not responding to Devi’s advances in the normal way, which is annoying, not to mention embarrassing.

Things get more interesting ... Read More

Lord of the Shadows: Continues to thrill

Lord of the Shadows by Darren Shan

Lord of the Shadows is the penultimate book in Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK series. If you haven’t read the previous books, but plan to, I recommend that you don’t read this review until you’ve read them, for I will certainly spoil the plot for you.

Darren Shan’s adventures in the vampire world began when he made a series of bad mistakes. First he stole money from his parents and snuck out of the house to visit the Cirque du Freak, an illegal traveling circus. Then he stole a poisonous spider from the show and kept it in his bedroom. Then the spider bit Steve, Darren’s best friend. Then, while Steve lay dying in the hospital, instead of ‘fessing up and telling the adults what happened to Steve, so that perhaps they could have found an antidote, Darren made a deal with Mr. Crepsley, the vampire who owned the spider: Darren had to become a half-vampire to get the antidote fr... Read More

Swords of Good Men: An action-packed debut

Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson

Swords of Good Men is a pretty good siege story. That’s about as much as I’d feel bound to tell someone if I was, for instance, asked about it in a bookshop. Pretty good. Not a light for the ages, not bad by any means. Not even mediocre. It’s just… pretty good. It has some notable strengths and a few troubling weaknesses. I’ll go into all of that below, but if all you were wondering about is whether Swords of Good Men is a reasonably diverting Viking fantasy novel to hang around with for a little while, there’s your answer. It is, but it operates pretty much just as advertised. It’s not a diamond in the rough, but nor will you be too disappointed.

Anyway, on with the show. The premise of Swords of Good Men is that a young king named Olav has ari... Read More

Contagion: A bang-up resolution to the TOXIC CITY Trilogy

Contagion by Tim Lebbon

Contagion provides a sad but satisfying resolution to Tim Lebbon’s TOXIC CITY series. Jack, the hero of the books, comes to grips with his new powers, while outside quarantined London, Jack’s mother and sister spread the truth of the mutation agent Evolve.

In the TOXIC CITY series, two years ago on a date now called Doomsday, a scientist named Angelina Walker released a virus-like compound in London. It changes people. Some people it gives extraordinary powers; other change into beasts or monsters. London was evacuated and quarantined, patrolled by a group called Choppers. Jack, his former girlfriend Lucy-Anne, and a group of friends entered the city to find his mother and sister who were being held captive. In the second book, Reaper (reviewed here) Jack confronted the altered man who was his father b... Read More

Have Space Suit — Will Travel: Appealing space adventure for kids

Have Space Suit — Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

More than anything, Kip Russell wants to go to the moon, and that means he needs to go to college first — the best college he can manage to get into and pay for. So, with the encouragement of his father, who has (gleefully) pointed out the deficiencies in Kip’s public education (and complained extensively about taxes), Kip educates himself and works hard to earn money. When he enters a slogan contest for a national soap company, he hopes to win the money he needs for tuition, but instead he wins an old space suit which he engineers into a functional suit.

During a trial run in his new decked-out suit, Kip gets picked up by ugly evil aliens. On their spaceship he meets an eleven year old American girl named PeeWee and a cute cuddly alien they call The Mother Thing. Kip, PeeWee and The Mother Thing must foil the plans of the evil aliens. In the process Kip, who thought all he ever wanted... Read More

The Well’s End: Inspired by Baby Jessica

The Well’s End by Seth Fishman

Mia Kish held the attention of the country when she got stuck in a well when she was four years old. Everybody knows about Baby Mia. Now, at age sixteen, Mia is a scholarship student at the elite Westbrook Academy. She’s one of the world’s best teenage swimmers, which is why she’s hated by some of her peers. When there’s a deadly virus outbreak at Westbrook and the teachers and students start rapidly aging, it’s Mia who may be able to protect her classmates. First they have to get past the quarantine guards to escape the school. Then they have to trek through a harsh winter landscape to get to the cave where Mia’s father works. Mia doesn’t know exactly what her father does at the cave, but she thinks he’s the only person who can save their town from the virus.

Although Seth Fishman’s The Well’s End contains many of the YA tropes that I’ve come to despise, I have to admit tha... Read More

The Lake of Souls: A side-quest

The Lake of Souls by Darren Shan

In The Lake of Souls, the tenth book in Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK series, we take a little breather after the horrid events at the end of the previous novel, Killers of the Dawn. Darren has just lost someone who’s really important to him and he’s grieving. So, when Mr. Tiny shows up and tells Harkat it’s time to find out who Harkat really is, Darren wants to go with him. They embark on a quest where they cross weird landscapes, meet weird people, and complete weird tasks. Some of it is like a scavenger hunt.

We do, indeed find out who Harkat is, and the answer will almost certainly surprise you. It shows that author Darren Shan has been careful with his plotting so far and it will be interesting to see what role Harkat plays in the future. The little guy is growing on me and I appreciate his developing sense of humor.

Personally, I don’t particula... Read More

The Prince of Lies: Satisfying, but needed more skraylings

The Prince of Lies by Anne Lyle

Warning: This review may contain spoilers of the previous books.

The Prince of Lies, by Anne Lyle, finishes up the NIGHT'S MASQUE trilogy with plenty of magic, adventure and suspense. I wish it had more skraylings in it. I should be more specific. I wish it had more skraylings in their native form. Instead Mal Catlyn, his wife Coby and twin brother Sandy  must uncover and defeat the skraylings known as “guisers;” humans who are possessed by skrayling souls that entered their bodies instead of a skrayling infant’s, the normal process for their race. This particular group of guisers, who have been in Europe longer than most people realized, have plans to rule England.

Lyle tweaked the historical line of succession in the first book, The Alchemist of Souls, by creating a seventeenth century England where Queen... Read More

Mary Poppins: Perhaps not what you were expecting

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Having recently seen Saving Mr. Banks, a film that purports to examine the strained relationship between author P.L. Travers and film-maker Walt Disney when it came to adapting Mary Poppins for the big screen, it was only natural that I finally got around to my long overdue reading of the classic children's story Mary Poppins.

Having grown up with the Disney film, it's quite shocking to realize how little one resembles the other. Of course, I knew there would be significant differences — the film is filled with animation and musical numbers, for a start. But I... Read More

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