Sunday Status Update: October 12, 2014

Yes, it’s Supergirl again. This happens when I read DC.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Supergirl: I arrived too late for all the fun stuff. I’ve been reading some history this week, about how society is sort of this cyclical thing, back and forth between prudishness and debauchery, or reason and superstition, or whatever else. But the thing is, I think superhero society had a really fast pendulum swing, and I popped in too late. Superman used to travel in time, apparently. He got contacted by secret-agent signal watches. Now all he wants to do is punch things, lecture me, and make out with Wonder Woman. It’s not just him, either. At one point, Batman apparently decided the one thing his super-secret batcave needed was a giant dinosaur model. So, god knows how or why, he must have spent hours (days?) manhandling and assembling a T-rex. He used to slide down a fire pole. How come I came around after everyone grew up? Where’s all the fun cape-and-dagger stuff these days?

But seriously, Batman wouldn’t like me telling you this, but it’s not just the dinosaur. He has this huge penny, right, and a backlit computer chair in front of a screen that looks like it started life as Godzilla’s iPod, and there’s this ridic… {This content has been removed due to a claim from Wayne Enterprises. The account of “Linda Danvers”, 1045239, has been terminated for rights violation in accordance with subsection 238.2. Don’t criticize the dinosaur}

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews BradThis week I’ve been reading old, pre-comics code collections from EC, including the powerful anti-war and pacifist stories of Two-Fisted Tales. I’ve been particularly focusing on early MAD issues, which were comics until issue #24, when MAD became a magazine so it could avoid the comics code and could continue its critique of American culture and expand to politics. I have always thought MAD a silly-looking piece of junk sitting on the magazine rack, but I’ve been revising my attitude quickly as I study its beginnings, along with most comics, as a Jewish creation put out by New York Jewish writers, artists, and publishers in post-WW II America. That EC’s comics were among the first to be burned across the U.S. now seems much more ominous than it used to seem. There was more than a little anti-Semitic attitude and rhetoric involved in these burnings (though not all individuals involved in the burnings were anti-Semitic themselves). If you follow the path of pulp fiction and comics, particularly EC, you will find that aside from the superhero genre, the two were closely aligned both in the types of genres AND target audiences! Pre-code, one-in-three comic book readers were over 18 years of age! The comics code shut down all the adult, mature pulp-like comics. In other words, comics are not newly aimed at adults: they have merely returned to those roots.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kat: My reading habits have changed in the past couple of weeks. I realized that I’ve started dozens of series that I will never manage to finish if I keep taking the new books that publishers are dangling in front of me daily. All these unfinished plots and characters are still roaming around in my brain, mingling with each other and, I suspect, spinning-off new unauthorized characters and plots. It’s confusing. Also, I assume that our readers would like us to actually complete some of the series we’ve begun to review, so I feel like it’s time to put some of them to rest. So I made a list of books I need to read to either close out or get caught up with series I’ve started. There are hundreds of books on this list and I hope to concentrate on them in the coming months. If you see me waver in this resolve, please remind me to get back on track. This week I caught up with Wesley Chu’s TAO series with book two, The Deaths of Tao. I closed out Libba Bray’s GEMMA DOYLE series with Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing. The best book I read was Alex Bledsoe’s latest TUFA novel, Wisp of a Thing. Publishers, please don’t tempt me with anything new!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews KateThis week I finished Monstrous Affections, an anthology of beast tales edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant. I didn’t love all of the stories, but most of them were enjoyable and a few were unforgettable. Eerie and tender by turns, it was a well-done anthology and I look forward to reviewing it this coming week. Since finishing that, I’ve picked up William Gibson‘s The Peripheral. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read Gibson before. I’m finding this tough to understand–I have to go over paragraphs and even pages more than once before I connect the dots–but it’s rewarding and interesting when I do. I think it’s that he plunges you into a world with lots of complicated terminology at play without bothering to explain it. But, like any good writer, he’s able to give you enough context clues so that you can figure out (roughly) what he’s talking about. 

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: 2014 has been a year of outstanding books and this week I finished a great one, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. Read Bill’s review, here, and then go read the book. Now I’m about halfway through Hide Me Among the Graves, by Tim Powers. I feel as if I should like this book more than I do. Christina Rossetti is a character; how could I not love it? But somehow, even though the writing is detailed and everything is in place, I just haven’t warmed up to it.  Then I was distracted by a new-to-me graphic novel, East of West, a bloody, post-apocalyptic western that features the Four Horsemen and the child of Death.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews SandySince it is October, and the Halloween season in general, I am immersing myself in some decidedly spooky fare. Right now I am reading Dennis Wheatley’s truly unputdownable 1948 novel The Haunting of Toby Jugg, another of his Black Magic books that were so hugely popular in the middle of the last century. I have also recently posted a review of my main man, Robert Silverberg’s, excellent ‘70s novel The Second Trip. Hope you are all having a great and ghoulish season!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews TerryI started Robin McKinley‘s Shadows some time ago and put it down after the first chapter because it wasn’t working for me — I found the narrator to be too much of a teenager for me to keep comfortable company with. I picked it up again this week, though, and somehow it feels like a totally different book, and I’m enjoying it enormously. There must be some sort of scientific explanation for why a book can be anathema to you one month and the perfect read the next, but I don’t know what it is. Perhaps the government should give me a hefty grant to study the issue! Otherwise, I’ve been reading the latest issues of Black Static and Interzone. I especially love the way both these publications pile on the book, movie and television reviews.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week, I began reading John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick, because… it’s seasonal? Not really sure, actually. I read Rabbit, Run back in undergrad and haven’t read any Updike since, but it seemed like time. I’ve also begun reading Robin Sloan‘s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, fairly fun if a bit… yuppie? Hard to tell if that’s the novel or just the protagonist. Also, I read the complete version of Scott Snyder’s Court of the Owls from his Batman run. I enjoyed it a good bit, though I preferred his later Death of the Family. Overall, I’ve basically guaranteed that I had the most eclectic and bizarre reading week in a while — jumping between Sloan and Snyder in particular was enough to give me tonal whiplash — but I had fun.

 

Bill:  The boatload (0il-tanker size) of grading continues this week, so not a lot of non-essay reading.  The one book was an excellent one however–George O’Connor’s YA graphic novel Ares: Bringer of War.  This is the sixth in his OLYMPIANS series and so good in its retelling of the Trojan War (with a particular focus on Ares) that I’ll quickly be picking up the others. I also started listening to Diane Ackerman’s The Human Age, which is wonderfully written as is every thing by Ackerman, even if it’s enthusiasm for human technology and impact on the world sometimes seems a bit too cheery (especially coming after just finishing The Sixth Extinction)


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TIM SCHEIDLER, who’s been with us since June 2011, holds a Master’s Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he’s an athlete.

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5 comments

  1. Marion Deeds /

    Tim… Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is not “a bit” yuppie!” It’s also a nice celebration of geek culture, too, though.

  2. Kate, Gibson ALWAYS does that to the reader.

    • Good to know. I’m about a quarter of the way in, and he just threw another twist at me, and I’m feeling overwhelmed. Will press on bravely, now that I know I’m not alone.

  3. Marion,
    I’m so glad you liked Station Eleven. I’ve been evangelizing that book ever since I finished it (actually before finishing it). It’s always a good feeling when someone whose reading taste you respect likes something you’re pushing.

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