Sunday, 31 July 2016

Lucifer (Graphic Novel Series) by Mike Carey

I  have made several unsuccessful attempts to get into graphic novels but this is the first series that has really gotten my attention. Lucifer is the fallen angel (and coincidentally a spinoff character from an earlier Marvel series: "Sandman"). At the start of the series Lucifer is retired from Hell and is running a nightclub in LA with his demon sidekick / lover Mazikeen but when God comes knocking with an offer he can't refuse he is tempted to re-enter the fray.

There is some seriously inventive storytelling here populated by a great list of characters. This was originally serialised in 75 episodes but is now available in 11 volumes. I am only two volumes in so far and loving it. 

The funny thing is that I have come to the realisation that I have forgotten how to read comics despite all of the time I spent with the publications of DC Thomson and their American equivalents in my childhood. It is a much leaner form of storytelling than a written novel. It is said that a picture can speak a thousand words but in comics they have to because there simply isn't enough space to outline all of the incidental details. A few sparse panels must set the stage, develop the characters and advance the plot. It is quite a feat to interpret all of this particularly when the story and setting are as complex as the one in Lucifer. This complexity is further enhanced by the serial format in which an overarching story is filled with a myriad of mini plot lines all overlapping and interacting. I am still re-learning  how to read comics and I find myself often going back to review earlier panels for vital clues I missed. 

Two volumes read so far: 
Vol 1: Devil in the Gateway
Vol 2: Children and Monsters

Monday, 25 July 2016

The Expanse Series by James S. A. Corey

I have really enjoyed the first five books  in this thoroughly enjoyable space opera series set in a near future solar system where mankind has expanded out to the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars. The hardy "Belters" who inhabit the various ships and stations in the belt are fiercely independent and live by their wits but they have long been exploited by the United Nations of Earth and the independent planet of Mars who use their military might to keep the Belters down. Earth and Mars themselves maintain an uneasy peace always just one mishap away from deteriorating into war. The Expanse has recently been made into a TV series by SyFy. The series is well made and very faithful to the books so far which is great if you are a fan of the novels but perhaps confusing to those who are less familiar with them.

By the way James S.A Corey is actually two people: Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank writing in collaboration.
Leviathan Awakes
Caliban's War
Abaddon's Gate
Cibola Burn
Nemesis Games

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor

The story of George Lucas and the iconic franchise he created. Great stuff.

Monday, 16 May 2016

The Count of Monte Christo by Alexander Dumas

A young French sailor with a bright future ahead of him and is looking forward to an early promotion and marriage to his sweetheart when he is falsely accused and condemned to rot in prison.  The fourteen years he spends in that dank dungeon drive him to the depths of despair and the brink of madness but a chance encounter with another old prisoner gives him a new hope and sets up the greatest revenge story in literature.  

Dumas's story was originally serialised in 18 parts so the sheer size of the novel is a bit overwhelming.  To tell the truth I found it a bit long winded in parts and if it was being published today it could benefit from some enthusiastic editing. Nevertheless Dumas tells a fascinating tale that still holds up. There are also fascinating bits of history in the book - a glimpse at French society shortly after the time of Napoleon. 

One word of advice - If you are reading Monet Christo in English  don't be tempted by the free versoin on Gutenberg. It is an inferior 19th century translation.  The 1996 translation by Robin Buss (Penguin Classics) is far superior. Buss' s modern language is  more accessible to modern readers but his translation is also more complete with restored content and copious footnotes.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

What do you get if you mix medieval fanstasy with spaghetti Western? "Red County" is the answer snd it is surprisingly good. This is set in the familar "First Law" universe and even has some familar chacarcters but they are turned into pioneers travelling west in a wagon train across a land beset by fearsome tribes. ~There isn't a six gun in sight but nevertheless the whole thing has together. Recommended.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

A lone astronaut must figure out how to survive on Mars. This book has been made into a blockbuster movie which received rave reviews. It is a groping read but only if you are interested in the science and engineering aspects of the problem. Character development is non existent and the plot consists of "we are in a hole how can we use science to fix it" followed by "something else has gone wrong how can we use science to fix that". I haven't seen the film yet but it will be interesting to see how they flesh out the characters and drama for the big screen. One thing that bugs me more than it should is that there are a few obvious errors in the science that are obvious even from a high school knowledge of physics and chemistry (I spotted several related to atmospheric concentrations but there are plenty more).   Nevertheless it is an enjoyable read.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren.

Two women survive the combined ravages of a pandemic and nuclear war. They make it their life's work to save a collection of books from before the collapse of civilisation. Unfortunately when they finally come across another group of survivors that community's strong religious beliefs may be a threat to the precious cache of knowledge.

This is an excellent post apocalyptic novel that actually make you think. Is the quest to preserve human knowledge more important than the need to live in community and ensure the survival of the species?