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July 27, 2013

Review Amnesty

It's been too long and too many reviews have stacked up. The longer I leave it the harder gets. So it's time to clear the decks with a blitz of short reviews.

The Secret History Of Science Fiction
An anthology of short stories, mainly by writers from the literary edge of the genre. Overall I felt unmoved by the stories, turning to disappointment when reading the stories by Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon (too high expectations perhaps?) and I didn't even finish the Gene Wolfe story. The stand out stories were by Thomas M. Disch and Maureen F. McHugh, both of whom I'd like to read more of.

7 Against Chaos
Written by Harlan Ellison with art by Paul Chadwick and colours by Ken Steacy, and published by DC comics, 7 Against Chaos is an old fashioned tale of trans Solar System futuristic heroes. I guess the old fashioned bit was supposed to be part of the style but overall the story and universe failed to interest me, leaving an overwhelming feeling of tiredness.

The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
The sequel to The Quantum Thief, whose ideas I liked more than the story, suffers from much of the same. The ideas are wonderful, the plot is really complex and there's great stuff going on. And yet it failed to grab me emotionally and I never really felt like I cared for the characters. Disappointed.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
A YA Science Fiction novel following a crackdown on civil liberties in San Francisco after a terrorist attack. Being YA means several things, the language is basic with no literary poetry flourishes, the plot motors along and the heroes are all teenagers. The teenage characters are exactly the right age to resist the crackdown, both in technical expertise and righteous outrage. It's a novel full of important ideas which is extremely relevant to right now and the revelations of the PRISM surveillance. There are plenty of infodumps, a deliberate decision, but presented in an almost chatty style, which never feels like a chore and instead like our young hero patiently teaching us technical concepts. Definitely worth reading. Double so if you feel at all concerned about retaining liberty in the face of terrorism.

The Walking Dead
The TV series has continued to get better, with series three and the arrival of The Governor being scary, gripping, exciting and shocking. If you haven't seen it yet you really should, but you probably have.

Having liked the TV series so much I decided to read the comic version, courtesy of the two massive compendiums, a couple of the volumes and finally four single issues. Reading the story in a few weeks instead of the real time elapsed of about ten years is obviously a different experience, and yet I still ended up caring about the characters (and getting upset when they inevitably died). Overall it's a great comic, the story keeps hurtling along from one disaster to the next whilst our heroes struggle for survival. As with all great apocalyptic fiction the real heart of the story is how humans and society cope with rebuilding after the disaster. Not that the zombies are a mere inconvenience, especially since they can be drawn in their hundreds on the page, but as has been revealed in the TV series, humans are a greater threat. Excellent stuff.

Waiting a month between issues was proving to be hard work, but fortunately the comic is going bi-monthly from Octiber for a while. Hurrah.

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This page contains a single entry by James published on July 27, 2013 8:03 PM.

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