Looking ahead to 2013, two of my favorite "non challenges" are coming up fast.
Once again, Little Red Reviewer is hosting "The Vintage Science Fiction Not a Challenge". Any science fiction that appeared before 1979 is eligible. It runs for the month of January.
Meanwhile over at Stainless Steel Droppings, Carl is coordinating "The 2013 Science Fiction Experience". Since it goes for January and February, it overlaps with the Vintage Not a Challenge.
The first books I will be reviewing are:
Perry Rhodan #2: The Third Power by Walter Ernsting
The Door Through Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Cap Kennedy #2: Slave Ship from Sergan by Gregory Kern
I will also be participating in the "Dragonflight" readalong.
Other challenges will be added during the year.
In 2012, I only read and reviewed 14 books. During my teen years, it was not unusual for me to read three to four books a week. For 2013, I set a goal or reading and reviewing 50 books. Based on my reading levels of the past few years, this looks like an impossible goal. But if you don't set the bar high you never know what you are able to accomplish.
I will also be tracking my short story reading this year. My goal for this year is to read a minimum of 52 stories.
In recent years I have got in the habit of watching television shows that are okay just because the television is on. I have gone back to reading even when others in the house are watching shows. I do plan on continuing to watch shows that I like (Doctor Who) or always wanted to see (Fringe). I now have the first four seasons of "Fringe". It is a show that one of my best friends (Terry) raves about. He also gave me "Lost Girl Season 1" and both seasons of the old "War of the Worlds". At some point, I plan on returning to my re-watch of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and my first time viewing of "Farscape".
As far as graphic novels go, I have the following ones ready to read:
Cerebus: High Society (this is a re-read)
The Comic Book History of Comics
Daredevil Vol. 1 by Mark Waid
GrimJack: Killer Instinct
Invincible Vol. 16 to date
Lord of the Jungle Vol. 1
The Manhattan Projects Vol. 1
Vampirella Vol. 1 (of the current series)
Warlord of Mars
Based on this list, I had best get back to reading.
Friday, December 21, 2012
|This is the start of my 2013 list of books to be read. I know I won't read all of them but it does make me realize how many books I already have. The list includes books I have but never read and books I want to re-read.
|Chasm City||Alastair Reynolds|
|Transit to Scorpio||Alan Bert Akers|
|The Tar-Aiym Krang||Alan Dean Foster|
The White Dragon
|A Hostage for Hinterland||Arsen Darnay|
|The Purgatory Zone||Arsen Darnay|
|The Siege of Faltara||Arsen Darnay|
|The Kar-Chee Reign
Masters of the Maze
|Night Walk||Bob Shaw|
|Hellhole||Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson|
|The Gates of Eden||Brian M. Stableford|
|Rhapsody in Black||Brian M. Stableford|
|Singularity Station||Brian N. Ball|
|Brothers of Earth||C. J. Cherryh|
|Cyteen||C. J. Cherryh|
|Foreigner||C. J. Cherryh|
|Hammerfall||C. J. Cherryh|
|Hunter of Worlds||C. J. Cherryh|
|Merchanter's Luck||C. J. Cherryh|
|Voyager in Night
Northwest of Earth
|C. J. Cherryh
C. L. Moore
|The Drowning Girl||Caitlin R. Kiernan|
|Floating Worlds||Cecilia Holland|
|The Inverted World
Star Trek Typhon Pact 1: Zero Sum Game
Star Trek Vanguard 1: Harbinger
|Destination: Void||Frank Herbert|
|Dune Messiah||Frank Herbert|
|Mindship||Gerard F. Conway|
|Starmaster's Gambit||Gerard Klein|
|The Quantum Thief||Hannu Rajaniemi|
|The Mind Net||Herbert W. Franke|
|The Orchid Cage||Herbert W. Franke|
|Consider Phlebas||Iain M. Banks|
|The Lucifer Comet||Ian Wallace|
|Miracle Visitors||Ian Watson|
|Under Heaven's Bridge||Ian Watson & Michael Bishop|
|Forward the Foundation||Isaac Asimov|
|Foundation and Earth||Isaac Asimov|
|Foundation's Edge||Isaac Asimov|
|Pebble in the Sky||Isaac Asimov|
|Prelude to Foundation||Isaac Asimov|
|Robots and Empire||Isaac Asimov|
|Second Foundation||Isaac Asimov|
|The Currents of Space||Isaac Asimov|
|The End of Eternity||Isaac Asimov|
|The Gods Themselves||Isaac Asimov|
|The Naked Sun||Isaac Asimov|
|The Robots of Dawn||Isaac Asimov|
|The Stars, Like Dust||Isaac Asimov|
The Best of IF Vol. 3
|J. R. R. Tolkien
|Inherit the Stars||James P. Hogan|
|The Blade Itself||Joe Abercrombie|
|The Heroes||Joe Abercrombie|
|Seeklight||K. W. Jeter|
|The Dreamfields||K. W. Jeter|
|Queen of Candesce||Karl Schroeder|
|Sun of Suns||Karl Schroeder|
|The Star Fraction||Ken MacLeod|
|The Stone Canal
Land Beyond the Map
|The Disappeared||Kristine Katherine Rusch|
|Fleet of Worlds||Larry Niven|
|Inferno||Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle|
Under the Green Star
The City Machine
Lords of the Starship
Out of the Mouth of the Dragon
|Siege of Wonder
Prince of Thorns
The Handmaid's Tale
Mothers and Other Monsters
Maureen F. McHugh
|Eyes of Fire||Michael Bishop|
|The January Dancer
Theft of Swords
Star Trek Stargazer 1: The Valiant
Star Trek Titan 1: Taking Wing
Michael J. Sullivan
Michael Jan Friedman
Michael Martin&Andy Mangels
|Antares Dawn||Michael McCollum|
|Nifft the Lean||Michael Shea|
|American Gods||Neil Gaiman|
|Clay's Ark||Octavia Butler|
|The Name of the Wind||Patrick Rothfuss|
|The Quiet War||Paul J. McAuley|
|The Walls of the Universe||Paul Melko|
|The Windup Girl||Paulo Bacigalupi|
|Pandora's Star||Peter Hamilton|
|Dark as the Sun||Philip Jose Farmer|
|Dayworld||Philip Jose Farmer|
|The Wind Whales of Ishmael||Philip Jose Farmer|
|The Stone God Awakes||Philip Jose Farmer|
|A Maze of Death||Philip K. Dick|
|A Scanner Darkly||Philip K. Dick|
|Clans of the Alphane Moon||Philip K. Dick|
|Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?||Philip K. Dick|
|Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said||Philip K. Dick|
|Martian Time-Slip||Philip K. Dick|
|Now Wait for Last Year||Philip K. Dick|
|Solar Lottery||Philip K. Dick|
|The Divine Invasion||Philip K. Dick|
|The Game-Players of Titan||Philip K. Dick|
|The Man in the High Castle||Philip K. Dick|
|The Man Who Japed||Philip K. Dick|
|The Simulacra||Philip K. Dick|
|The Transmigration of Timothy Archer||Philip K. Dick|
|Valis||Philip K. Dick|
|We Can Build You||Philip K. Dick|
|Philip K. Dick & Roger Zelazny
|A Circus of Hells||Poul Anderson|
|A Knight of Ghosts & Shadows||Poul Anderson|
|The Day of Their Return||Poul Anderson|
|The People of the Wind||Poul Anderson|
|The Peregrine||Poul Anderson|
|The Rebel Worlds||Poul Anderson|
|The Trouble Twisters||Poul Anderson|
|Trader to the Stars||Poul Anderson|
|World Without Stars||Poul Anderson|
|Fourth Mansions||R. A. Lafferty|
|Blake's Progress||R. F. Nelson|
The Best of Raymond Z. Gallun
|R. M. Meluch
Raymond Z. Gallun
|The Martian Chronicles||Ray Bradbury|
|Forbidden Sanctuary||Richard Bowker|
Lord of Death and Life
Robert E. Vardeman
|The Shrouded Planet||Robert Randall|
The Best of Robert Silverberg
|Hawksbill Station||Robert Silverberg|
|Kingdoms of the Wall||Robert Silverberg|
|Project Pendulum||Robert Silverberg|
|Tower of Glass||Robert Silverberg|
|Up the Line||Robert Silverberg|
|Bridge of Ashes||Roger Zelazny|
|Creatures of Light and Darkness||Roger Zelazny|
|Damnation Alley||Roger Zelazny|
|Doorways in the Sand||Roger Zelazny|
|Eye of Cat||Roger Zelazny|
|Isle of the Dead||Roger Zelazny|
|Jack of Shadows||Roger Zelazny|
|Lord of Light||Roger Zelazny|
|The Dream Master||Roger Zelazny|
|This Immortal||Roger Zelazny|
|To Die in Italbar||Roger Zelazny|
|Today We Choose Faces||Roger Zelazny|
|Trumps of Doom
|Psychoshop||Roger Zelazny & Alfred Bester|
|Nova||Samuel R. Delany|
|City of a Thousand Suns
Driftglass and Other Stories
|Samuel R. Delany
Samuel R. Delany
|Out of the Dead City||Samuel R. Delany|
|The Einstein Intersection||Samuel R. Delany|
|The Jewels of Aptor||Samuel R. Delany|
|The Towers of Toron||Samuel R. Delany|
|The Lies of Locke Lamora||Scott Lynch|
The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum
Stanley G. Weinbaum
|Making Money||Terry Pratchett|
|The Color of Magic||Terry Pratchett|
|More Than Human||Theodore Sturgeon|
|The Dispossessed||Ursula K. Le Guin|
|The Lathe of Heaven||Ursula K. Le Guin|
|The Left Hand of Darkness||Ursula K. Le Guin|
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
In the climactic finale of The Corwin Saga of The Chronicles of Amber, the man clad in black with a silver rose at his throat takes it upon himself to draw a new pattern, so that there may yet be order in the universe, regardless of the outcome of the war between Chaos and Amber. In order to do this, he will have to travel with the Jewel of Judgment beyond the bounds of order and chaos, to a no man's land where the coming storm will not be able to harm him. But many forces are out to thwart his mission, including his brother, the traitorous sorcerer Brand.
My heart would always race when I received a new issue of Galaxy Science Fiction and the cover featured a new Amber story by Roger Zelazny. The November 1977 issue showcased a cover by Wendy Pini. Corwin is staring at the Jewel of Judgement. In the background we see a storm rapidly approaching while in front of Corwin is a more pastoral land. And the story never slows down after this point.
This one has it all. People live, people die, worlds are born, all of reality is threatened with destruction, secrets are revealed. Everything I wanted in a story was packed into this series. Including the basis for the next five book arc. Unfortunately, Zelazny was planning to write a third arc for the series when he died. A few short stories appeared but we will never find out what he had planned for the rest of the series.
The Chronicles of Amber receive my highest recommendation. I know I will return for my fifth reading in a few years.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The series is the story of star pilot Grainger, who is forced by circumstances, after his own ship is destroyed in a disastrous crash, to accept a job flying a new ship, the Hooded Swan, that is a fusion of human and alien technologies. She is faster and more manoeuvrable than any previous design, but despite the opportunity offered, Grainger resents the fact he is employed simply as a pilot but denied the position of Captain, and cannot resign at any time during his two-year contract without dire financial penalties that he regards as thoroughly unjust. In fact Grainger regards his terms of employment as making him little more than a slave, or at least an indentured servant. However, left little alternative by his financial situation, Grainger takes the job, and carries out a variety of assignments for his new masters, accompanied by the unwelcome alien symbiote sharing his brain.
My first exposure to Stableford's writing was his short story "An Offer of Oblivion" that appeared in Amazing Science Fiction. It is part of a loosely connected series that is followed by the very good "Captain Fagan Died Alone" from "The DAW Science Fiction Reader". They are worth looking up. After I enjoyed his short story I went in search of his novels. In the 70s, i was limited to what was in the library and new books on the newstands in our small town. That is when i first found the last two books of this series ("The Hooded Swan"). The final two books were some of my favorites from that era.
Now I am going back and reading the series from the beginning. I found this first story a disappointment. Stableford violates one of the rules of writing. He spends much of the early part telling us about events instead of showing them to us. The elements of a good novel are all there but the execution undercuts the effectiveness of the story. Based on my memories of the later books, I think this is just a temporary problem that the author corrects with future books. I will find out when I read book two ("Rhapsody in Black").
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Book four of The Chronicles of Amber features Corwin on a trip to the true Amber. He discovers the source of the Black Road and finds out what it will take to repair it. He also determines that his father (Oberon) is still a master strategist. His hand is guiding the pieces into place for the final battle. The final page had a big revelation that had me anxious to read the next book when I first read it.
Rick Sternbach supplied the cover to the May 1976 of Galaxy Science Fiction that featured part 1 (of 3) of the serial. One of the many reasons I loved Jim Baen's time as editor of Galaxy was because he published "Sign of the Unicorn", "The Hand of Oberon", and "The Courts of Chaos". This is not the kind of story you would expect Sternbach to draw the cover for but it is a fascinating different type of cover for him.
The first five books of the original Amber series remains one of my favorite series. It is hard to discuss events from this book without revealing too much.
The author appears as "Roger" a pipe smoking guard in the dungeons of Amber. The guard is writing "philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity." This is fitting since one of the main themes is the true nature of reality.
All I will say is that Zelazny plays fair with the big final revelation. When re-reading the series you can see where he planted the clues to this one. Like all good mystery writers, he gave the reader a chance to solve the puzzle.
Anyone who likes fantasy epics, parallel worlds, hard boiled main characters, and great mysteries will love this series. I can not recommend the first five books too highly. The second five are still good but are a step down from the original five.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
As a sign of my age, I have to admit that I remember picking up J. M. DeMatteis’ original stories of I, Vampire. It ran as a series of short stories in the old “House of Mystery” title in the seventies. Marvel Comics had the excellent “Tomb of Dracula” by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. DeMatteis came up with a new vampire series that featured original characters. Although it did not live up to the Wolfman/Colan classic, “I, Vampire” was a good series in its own right. I had my doubts as to how good the new series would be. They were laid to rest when I read a creator owned book by the same author (Joshua Fialkov).
Fialkov is rapidly climbing my list of favorite current comic book writers. He kept the same basic idea for the basis of the series. Andrew, a vampire, opposes the other vampires. He wants to live in peace with the humans. His lover, Mary also becomes a vampire but she embraces the dark side of the curse. Over the ages she has taken the name Mary, Queen of Blood. The two have been locked in a love/hate relationship. Mary wants to take over the world. Andrew goes after her forces and tries to destroy them.
In this first story line, the battle makes its way to Gotham City. Guess who becomes involved? Of the DC superheroes, Batman is one of the better fits for this series. The mood and atmosphere seems perfect for Batman. As the story ends, an even bigger threat emerges…
The combination of excellent characterization and story telling by Fialkov and the moody art of Sorrentino make for a very interesting book.
Highly recommended for fans of vampires, or just well told stories.
Friday, November 30, 2012
One hundred and fifty years from now, Africa has become the world’s dominant technological and economic power. Crime, war, disease and poverty have been eliminated. The Moon and Mars are settled, and colonies stretch all the way out to the edge of the solar system. And Ocular, the largest scientific instrument in history, is about to make an epochal discovery…
Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his long-running studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey’s family, who control the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans for him. After the death of his grandmother Eunice—the erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur—something awkward has come to light on the Moon, so Geoffrey is dispatched there to ensure the family name remains untarnished. But the secrets Eunice died with are about to be revealed—secrets that could change everything...or tear this near utopia apart.
The ideas are right up there with the other stories. The individual scenes on the moon and beyond are amazing. Unfortunately I was disappointed with the segments that took place in Africa. I realize they were important to Geoffrey's character but I thought Reynolds dedicated to this part of the story. My favorite scenes were the ones on the moon with his sister. The culture that he develops there is very interesting.
If that was the only drawback I would have liked this story more. Unfortunately the main, driving plot was pedestrian and disappointed me. I expected better from Reynolds. Arthur C. Clarke is one of his inspirations and I have found some of his books to be more of a travel log than a novel. This suffers from some of the same shortcomings. Hopefully books two and three will have a better plot.
If you prefer idea driven books, i would recommend this one to you. If you like plot driven books, I would take a pass on this and pick up one of his other titles.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Rick Remender has taken Marvel Comics by storm. He is a critical success. So far I have not been as impressed as others have been. His first work on X-Force is one of his better efforts. Remender does a solid job with the personalities of the various characters. I thought he did his best work with Psylocke. Her personality is dead on. The plot was inconsistent. At times he seemed to change direction for no reason. The main plot was a variation of the old "if you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby would you do it?". The plot twist at the end was handled very well. Remender is showing some promise but I am still not impressed.
The part that was very impressive the art of Jerome Opena. Opena stepped up his game and turned in the best work of his career. If you are a fan of great art, pick up this collection.
John Byrne's return to super-hero books is a fun look back at the classics he did at Marvel and DC. Mostly this book will remind the long time reader of his time on Fantastic Four and Danger Unlimited.
The art is done in a very good traditional style. The buildings and special effects are also done in a classic style. It depends more on the artists line work than letting the colorist fill it in.
The least interesting part of the art are the main characters. Rock, Paper, Scissors are the weakest designs in the book.
The story takes a couple of chapters to get the reader to care about the characters. My favorite of the four chapters is the final one with the villain from the past.
If you want to read a fun old school super hero title, try this one.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Joshua Dysart is one of the most underrated writers in comics today. This reboot, as part of the new Valiant Comics, is very good. Peter Stenchek has the power to make others do what he wants by his force of mind can be scary. Dysart shows what can go wrong in the first story. Many of the characters from the original series are re-introduced here but he is not just copying the original story. He makes this a similar but new story. The only fault I had with the first arc was the art in the final chapter. The artist keeps a consistent style throughout the series until we get to the final battle. Then he chooses to use a slightly more cartoony style that distracts the reader. Overall it is a great story that I will definitely be following.
I'll admit it, I love reading an occasional old school pulp adventure. I have read stories about Doc Savage, the Shadow, the Spider and the Green Hornet. When I was growing up, my only exposure to the Hornet was in the old Adam West Batman show. The Green Hornet and Kato (played by a young Bruce Lee) guest starred in a story. They pretend to be criminals to work behind the scenes to stop the other bad guys. The concept was intriguing but I did not hear of them again for many years.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Saturday, November 17, 2012
BATTLE HYMN: Another Image superhero read. This is a B. Clayton Moore/Jeremy Haun take on the World War II superhero teams (such as The Invaders, All-Star Squadron, The Liberty Legion, and The Freedom Fighters). My impression is that this is probably closer to reality than the way the story has been presented in many comics. The closest comparison to this title would be James Robinson and Paul Smith’s class Justice Society series “The Golden Age”. If you like more realistic takes or the World War II era, pick up this title. I know I will be looking for more from these creators.
HALCYON: Mark Guggenheim’s Image title was a very good 5 issue series. All violent tendencies have disappeared from the world. Villains turn themselves in. The heroes know that it was a man-made event but have no clue as to who orchestrated it. It turns out to be the perfect revenge plan as a villain gets back at a hero. If you were a Batman style hero and a villain’s master plan had this as a side effect, would you stop him? Like the villain says, if you stop me you will be responsible for every crime (including murder) that happens from here on out. What is a hero to do? This is by far the best writing I have read from this author. The art is very similar to Frank Quitely’s. Overall it was a good series that should have received more press.
THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 15 (“We Find Ourselves”): The titles are very reflective of the stories. This volume collects issues 85-90. Kirkman keeps the focus within the existing group. A lot of character development in this volume. Rick becomes a “man with a plan”. It seems like Rick is on the path to become a Governor-style leader. Readers of previous arcs know that this is not a good thing.
THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 16 (“A Larger World”): Issues 91-96. The best way to summarize without ruining the story is to say this is the volume where Jesus comes to town. Rick is either smarter than everyone else or is going for a ride on the paranoid bus. “A Larger World” is another great collection. I’m running out of superlatives for Kirkman’s masterpiece. Let’s just call this one “Rick has a field day”. He is scaring me more with each story arc.
THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 17 (“Something to Fear”): After reading the first two chapters, I became very curious whether the “Something to Fear” is a group of outsiders or Rick. Based on the recent arcs, I am starting to think that Carl is a ticking time bomb. It would be impossible to grow up with what he has lived through and be a “normal” kid. He is also patterning his behavior on his father’s and that is admittedly not the most stable example. In the past if you had told me that a zombie comic would be one of my favorites, I would never have believed it. This was one of the most disturbing arcs in this series. Readers are in for a treat. The world and the cast change with the next arc looking like an even more brutal one. You don’t do what his enemies have done to Rick without suffering through a payback. And we have seen Rick’s revenge in the past. The next arc looks like a blood fest as Rick reacts to events in this one.
I have been reading a ton of books over the last month but did not have time to blog about them so this is the first of many short catch up reviews.
INVINCIBLE VOL. 9 (“Out of This World”): Issues 42-47. Invincible flies to the Moon as a “safety net” for a team of astronauts who are setting up a base to be on the lookout for invasion fleets (due to events in previous issues). He is called back to Earth to fight a new menace until the Guardians of the Globe can arrive, then it is back to the Moon for the rest of the mission. Kirkman also fits in a press conference, time at college with Invincible’s best friend, a summary of his love life, and time to throw the baseball with his little brother who…I can’t say more without giving away too much. And that is just in the first issue. This is a fun superhero series that combines old school plotting with modern characterization. Kirkman is one of the masters of comic writing. The more I read the more I am impressed.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Gaiman captured my imagination from the opening when a man named Jack enters a family's house and kills them. The only thing that goes wrong is an infant boy escapes his crib, crawls outside and disappears. Where did he go? Why can't Jack find him? That is the tale this magical storyteller crafts in "The Graveyard Book".
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli
What happens when Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, a werewolf, a mummy, a vampire, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon team up? You get one of the best comics on the market. It sounds like a classic movie monster slugfest but Jeff Lemire chose to go in a different direction.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
What happens when the Doctor decides to stay with the Ponds? An invasion of course. The catch this time is that little black boxes appear all over the Earth...and do nothing. Months later they have still not done anything. But then things go bad...
Monday, September 24, 2012
It is bad enough that Brian Cohn is being medicated for schizophrenia but he also struggles with his father suffering from Alzheimer's. On his deathbed, Brian's father confesses that he was a serial killer. He gives Brian instructions on how to find the evidence. Brian finds the victims' remains in his childhood home. Now the murders begin again. Is Brian's schizophrenia causing him to follow in his father's footsteps?
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Think back to some of your fondest memories of childhood. Most of them involve playing with your friends. Remember the carefree days at the playground? But, what if the playground was a place of terror? What if the other kids mistreated you? Then you grow up and have a son. Your wife dies. And circumstances lead to your son being sent to the same playground you grew up at. It is scary enough...but then you see a familiar child at the playground...and he calls you by your childhood nickname...