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June 30, 2009

Just After Sunset by Stephen King

CoverStephen King, I've come to realize over the years, is a bit of an acquired taste. Now, this isn't to say that he doesn't deserve his place in the elite of his generation's canon of popular literature, but there are some kinks that may rub readers the wrong way. King has, on occasion, called himself a "hack" and, while he may not be one the world's greatest writers, he is one of its best storytellers which, for my part, goes a hell of a lot farther.

Certain things can't be argued when it comes to his work. The Dark Tower was his opus and one of the best sagas to come along in recent memory. His work adapts well, better than most, to both screen and the pages of comics. But to me, where he has always really shined, is in his short fiction, where the bounds of the medium force his talent into a rare and often powerful focus. His newest collection, Just Before Sunset, is no exception.

As he states in his introduction, this is his return to the form after too long an absence, and his exuberance over that fact comes through loud and clear. The prose is precise and evocative. It is never wordy, never drags and the subject matter ranges from outright horror to subtle depictions of simple humanity.

From the very first tale, King proves that in a good supernatural story, the otherwordly is woven so subtly into the narrative that it feels more like a piece of the backdrop, allowing the reader to focus on the really important stuff. In those like Willa, a sweet, old-fashioned love story with a twist, and perhaps my favorite of the collection, it becomes a way to add emphasis to the underlying themes.  In the Lovecraftian N., he blurs the line between possibility and reason to a terrifyingly uncomfortable degree.

All in all, there will be sleepless nights, to be sure, and there may likely be a few tears shed for the raw humanity on display. King has grown up as an author and expanded his talent for connecting reader with character to the level of true literature, whether it is looking at the fragile nature of reality, comprehending tragedy, both massive and acutely personal, or just plain wanting to dance with your girl forever, Just Before Sunset manages it all.

June 26, 2009

Terrier: The Legend of Beka Cooper by Tamora Pierce

CoverAnyone interested in young adult fantasy will recognize the name Tamora Pierce. She is well known for her many series featuring strong willed female characters, wrapped in worlds of magic of all kinds, a world where fantastic creatures often roam. The stories are known for their great story telling, and the imagination and care put into the design of the magics that are used. And Pierce's new series, Beka Cooper, is no exception. With the introduction of this new character in Terrier, it promises to live up to the expectations her other work sets.

Beka Cooper is the ancestor of Aly Cooper, whom many of Pierce's readers will remember from Tricksters Queen and Tricksters Choice. It is easy to see that Aly comes by her attitude honestly.

Beka grew up in the darkest, poorest district of Corus, called the Lower District. Her mother was sick, and dying when her boyfriend beat her badly, and took everything of value in the house. Beka followed the man, and hunted him until she found his hideout. Discovering that he was a member of a pack of thieves, one that the local Dogs had been trying to track down for months, she reported him to the Dogs, and wrapped up the tragic crime spree. When the Provost, the man in charge of the Dogs, discovered that it was a little girl with a splash of magic in her who caught the thieves, he moved her and her siblings into his home. Their mother was welcomed as well, but she passed away soon after. 

All of this lead Beka to become a Dog as soon as she was old enough. She is given to a team of senior Dogs named Tunstall Goodwin, the two most well known Dogs in the Lower District. They are set in their ways, and none too happy to be saddled with a Puppy, as trainees are called. But, that's before they realize that their Puppy is very different from her fellow trainees. For one thing, she hears dead spirits that cling to the backs of pigeons. For another, she has a cat named Pounce, who is far more than meets the eye.

Thanks to Beka's special power, it soon becomes apparent that there is more to watch out for in the Lower District than just petty thieves. There is someone lurking in the night, taking children from their beds, and holding them hostage for things of value. Those who don't pay are getting their children back dead, or simply never seeing them again at all.

Finishing this book was disappointing only because the story was over.  I loved it, and can not wait to read the next story about the strong, and intelligent Beka Cooper.

June 24, 2009

American Gods, some re-reads, looking for some manga

CoverIs this turning into a summer of re-reads, again? Perhaps. I was in a bit of a book blah, where nothing was keeping my attention. The English Patient? Beautiful, haunting, heart breaking, but too depressing to read when I've been in such a good mood lately. Perdido Street Station? Also beautiful, haunting, and a little heartbreaking, but too drug trippy.  Dan Brown's Angels & Demons?  Eh, I recently saw the movie so I know what happens at the end. What to read on a hot summer's day? Gaiman? Manga?

I finished Neil Gaiman's American Gods and love love loved it. I read this book a few years ago, and it is 100 times better the second time around, not in spite of but because you know what's going to happen at the end. In fact, i might go read it again.

I'm still looking for a new Manga series to grab me, so i've been getting the first two volumes of random manga from the library. We'll throw some stuff at the wall and see what sticks.

King of Hell by Ra In-Soo, was suprisingly, a comedy. But not a very good one. Lightly amusing, but artwork left something to be desired. Majeh is a servant of hell, and part of his job is to escort new souls to the underworld. Sarcasm abounds, which i appreciated. Soon Majeh is sent on a quest to banish all evil spirits from his plane. much monster fighting ensues. Is this manga more than just swordfights?

D Gray Man by by Katsura Hoshino. Also a bit of a comedy, but more the dark Trinity Blood type of comedy (as in, not). The steampunk elements of D Gray Man are very cool, and the bad guy, the Millenium Earl is creepily awesome, I shall have to track down some more of this. Main character is Allen, a blonde teenager (who is a carbon copy of Edward Elric, and that is just weird!!) who is an exorcist. Allen has a metal cross burned into his disfigured hand, which makes him a natural adept for exorcisms. After the first 2 volumes I can tell you it's good, but odd. possibly odder than gooder.

Shutterbox, by Tavisha Simons and Rikki Simons.  It's by Americans!  How weird! Megan just graduated high school and can't decide what she wants to do with her life. Work? University? Community college? She doesn't really care.  When she dreams, she ends up at Merridiah University, a sort of multiverse university for the dead who are trained to become muses. Megan has been chosen to be a "Shutterbox exchange student," where she can be a mortal attending the school (and occasionally wake up back in the real world). A little gothica, a little St Lunatic High, this one's got some potential.

June 22, 2009

The Summoner by Gail Z. Martin

CoverThey say never judge a book by its cover, however in this case judge away! The attractive cover art for Gail Z. Martin’s The Summoner is dark and ominous. It was the final push that sent me into her realm of magic and betrayal.

The boundaries between life and death are thinning and Martris Drake finds himself the heir to his grandmother’s position as Summoner. He must learn the craft and fill her enormous shoes while surviving an all out assault by his half brother, Jared.

Martris is confronted with a word of caution from the palace spirits, who seem to be dwindling during the kingdom’s Feast of the Departed.  As the celebration commences Martris finds his mother, father and twelve year old sister murdered at the hands of his half brother. With the king dead, and Jared now sitting at the throne, Martris must escape or lose his own life. Two of his closest friends, Ban Soterious and Carroway the bard, accompany him in his fight for survival and for his kingdom.

The trio must find out or who is imprisoning the palace spirits, evade Jared’s demand for their lives, and find a way to unseat the nefarious brother from the throne.The story immediately grabs hold with sublime settings and charmingly real characters. Martin’s style is easy to read but never lacking in detail. I found it a chore to put the book down rather than to pick it up.

Martin cultivates an engrossing tale with the perfect combination of character development and gripping action. The Summoner will take you to a place you will want to return to again and again. The story is tinged with romance, but not so much to eclipse the sword fighting and dark undertones of the world of the undead.

The only con of Martin’s novel is that it is so difficult to put down. Chapters roll by quickly carrying you to the books conclusion. But fret not! She has crafted the next two titles in the series, The Blood King and Dark Haven.

Fans of adventure fantasy called and Martin answered, securing her place as a benefit to the genre. Her strong characters, beautiful imagery, and fast paced action make The Summoner a staple for your summer book list.

June 21, 2009

Catching up on booktalk: Louis L'Amour, Neil Gaiman and more

CoverThe librarians are probably wondering what happened to me, this weekend i renewed books from one library online, and returned some others after hours at their drop box. I'll have to stop in sometime during the week, just for kicks. Here's what made it from the "out of control to be read pile" to the "finished reading, or am reading right now pile":

Iron Council, by China Mieville
Sackett's Land, by Louis L'Amour
Artificial Light by James Greer
Unintended Consequences of Constitutional Amendments, edited by David E. Kyvig
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

thoughts on the above:

Iron Council - omg, loved it, see my review on the main page.  Simply put, Iron Council is about a railroad worker's strike, and as city dissidents are inspired by them, the city government fears and wishes to destroy them. but of course, that's not what the story is really about.  I love Mieville's take on criminal justice, human rights, and just his commentary on society in general.  as i mention at the end of my review, this is not a book for those who are satisfied with the status quo. but if you're not so satisfied? give Iron Council a try.  My favorite Mieville novel ever is The Scar, and this one comes in second. As Goto Dengo is Neal Stephenson's most honorably tragic character, Judah Low is Mieville's.  Mieville may have his faults, but i keep coming back to him, so he's go to be doing something right. 

Sackett's Land, by Louis L'Amour - the opening novel in L'Amour's grand series of the settling of America by immigrants, this novel was just Okay.  Set in 1599, Englishman Barnabas Sackett gets into some trouble and can choose possible death, or the New World.  guess which he chooses.  Honestly, I found most of the novel simplistic and contrived, but I'm hoping L'Amour did a lot of that on purpose, to quickly and easily set the stage for a series that now has over 30 novels in it, following a handful of immigrant families.  I'm not going to say this was a good book, but I like L'Amour's style, I was able to finish the book in 3 days, and I do want to read the next few books in the series, because I'm interested in early American history and can't say know to a nicely written historical novel.

Artificial Light by James Greer.  eh, it's going back to the library unfinished.  Taking place in Ohio in the early 90's,  this is the diary of a young woman named Fiat Lux who meets Kurt Cobain and feels responsible for his death.  I didn't start listening to Nirvana until  maybe 5 years ago (after I realized the guy from Foo Fighters came from Nirvana, actually), but I respect their musical style, and it's too bad about Cobain.  it's also too bad that this book really isn't that interesting. Most of what I read was just Fiat's internal monologue about this and that and the other thing, with minimal details, and it just didn't grab me.

Unintended Consequences of Constitutional Amendments, edited by David E. Kyvig -  Wow, what a title!  and a collection of surpriseingly fascinating essays on constitutional amendments that were designed to do good things, but did some not so good things as well. the road paved with good intentions, eh?  Beyond the Bill of Rights, many newer amendments that were designed to help people and make their lives easier just ended up pitting faction against faction, increasing government beaucracy, and making things way more complicated and political that needed. I could seriously write a full review on each essay, but isn't this a fiction blog?  anyway, I'll be searching out more essays written by some of these same folks.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.  ahh, the perennial favorite. When i'm staring at my bookshelves, looking for something satisfying to read, i know I can always grab a Gaiman, and life will be good.  I've read this book before, so I kind of know what to expect, but I forget what happens at the end.  Shadow, recently released from prison to find his wife killed in a car accident, is "hired" by a mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who takes Shadow to meet his mythical friends. This is Gaiman's take on Gods and sprites and mythologies that immigrants brought with them from the old country. but as those immigrants aged, and children and died, what happened to the memories of the old gods?  and what about the new American Gods, television, money, technology?  I'm halfway through the novel and loving every page.


Iron Council by China Mieville

CoverSimilar to some of China Mieville's other novels, Iron Council has a bit of a rough start. First we meet Cutter and his crew of rebels who are leaving the metropolis New Crobuzon. The city is embroiled in a war with neighboring Tesh, and there is obviously more going on than the governments of both countries are letting on. Two factions in New Crobuzon work towards their goal: One faction believes in a coup, and then there is Cutter's faction, who believes the Iron Council is their only hope.

Among Cutter's group is an older gentleman named Judah Low, who claims to know the whereabouts of the Iron Council. Everyone follows Judah, and he knows too much. None of the rebels know who they can trust, so the opening few chapters are full of code words and doublespeak. Great for the characters, but confusing for the reader.

The novel follows a handful of story lines, the most important being that of the birth of the Iron Council. Twenty some years ago, a businessman in New Crobuzon received government financing to build a transcontinental railroad. The city government believed this would help them in quick deployment of troops, city defenses, and would allow them to bring neighboring territories under their umbrella. The rails and ties went down over miles and miles, destroying everything in their path, all in the name of progress. The slave construction crews, mostly reMade, were typically shackled at night. Mieville's reMade are the criminal class – citizens found guilty of anything from murder to petty crimes to dissent, and sent to the punishment factories where they were thaumaturgically, chemically, and physically reMade into something that may be a mockery of their crime, or may help them in their future as a slave laborer, or may be random, or may be simple cruelty. If they survived the punishment factories, they could look forward to a lifetime of forced labor. No pun intended, but the reMade are a supernova of a trainwreck – you just can't look away from the additional limbs, animal parts, coal fed engines, alien protrusions and the utter insult to the soul these people have been turned into. On purpose I'm sure, reMade are often Mieville's most human characters, especially in The Scar.

Every huge construction project has it's hanger-ons, and the transcontinental railroad is no different. The great worker strike begins when the prostitutes go on strike. Cash for payroll is slow coming down the line, and the girls just won't do it for free anymore. When the employees realize it's not the prostitutes who are their enemy, but the financially pained railroad company, they strike too. After the company militia treat the reMade slaves as scabs, a riot ensues. A lot of violence and a little bit of luck later, the workers, prostitutes, and reMade have taken over the train, leaving the militia behind with one piddly train car and a long ride home. That was the day the Iron Council was born. From here on out, they lay down their tracks in the direction in which they wish to go, and pick up their tracks afterwards. The Iron Council – a socialist community that reflects equal rights for all races, honest justice, and a burning hatred for governments who fear their people. Everyone works, everyone eats, and no one gets left behind or treated like a second class citizen. After a few years, the railroad company goes bankrupt, New Crobuzon stops chasing the Iron Council, and the Perpetual Train becomes a myth prayed to by dissidents.

Judah Low the golemist is intimately involved with the strike. Originally hired by the railroad trust as a scout, he spends time with a tribe of Stiltspears, who teach him their esoteric brand of Golemetry – giving life to inanimate matter for a short period of time. In a true fantasy novel, this would probably be called magic – in a Mieville novel it's called science. Why Mieville has been lumped under the fantasy genre, I'll never know. As the railroad inches closer to Stiltspear land, Judah tries to convince the tribe to leave, and rebuild their homes elsewhere, but they won't leave their ancestral home. The railroad comes, bringing dynamite, militia, and guns with it, and the Stiltspear community is mostly wiped out. Later, it is partly due to Judah's unusual golemetry skills that the strike is successful, however after many years of living with the council, he decides to return to New Crobuzon where he quickly hooks up with the political dissidents. When the dissident faction decide the Iron Council is their salvation, Judah volunteers information on it's whereabouts, but keeps the rest of his tragic history secret. The group treks across the continent looking for the perpetual train, while the New Crobuzon militia has gone by ship around the continent and is also searching for the Council from the other side.

Something I love about the “Mieville style” is the expense his characters are forced to go through – everything costs something, and nothing is cheap. If you really want something to happen, you better really want it, because it's going to cost you something, you can't just snap your fingers and have it. Judah can't just snap his fingers and have a golem at his command, everytime the priest Qurabin requests a secret from the patron god Vogu, it costs Qurabin something – first knowledge, then memories, then senses, then anything that remains.

One of my favorite things about Mieville is that he's got the balls to write stuff I don't think anyone else wants to touch – deviant sexuality, political commentaries on crime and punishment and recovery, amorality, drug use and dependence, obsession and bone numbing fear. Sure, other authors write about all those things and more, but not in the oceanic quantity and intense quality as Mieville. On the other hand, the thing that hurts him the most as an author is that he doesn't seem to feel the need to be fully coherent. His stream of conscienceness synaesthesia-esque M. John Harrison style descriptions mixed with Lovecraftian horror prose can be a painfully acquired taste, and could easily be a turn off to many readers.

I'm often annoyed by political fiction. After enjoyed a novel and telling all my friends about it, I'll learn it was a propaganda vehicle for the authors political platform. Nothing against an author who has a message they want to get across via fiction, but I don't appreciate being turned into an unwitting preacher feeling stupid for falling for a free advertising trick.

That said, Iron Council is a political novel. And I liked it. And I'm telling all my friends about it. It was a major bonding moment when I saw it on a friend's bookshelf. Mieville has some things he needs to say about slavery, human rights, socialism, and criminal justice, and I like the sound of his voice when he says them. He takes “Of course criminals should be punished to the full extent of the law!!”, culture shock, and social class-ism to the nth degree, forcing readers to really think about how people should be treated. Unfortunately, Mieville is probably preaching to the choir, as people who are interested in reading this book probably already agree with most of what he's saying.

This not a book for the squeamish, hawkish, conservative, or those who are perfectly happy with the status quo.

June 10, 2009

Finishing Chabon and some love for China Mieville

CoverShortly after my recent post about how weird I thought Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road, I finished it, and let it percolate through my brain for a few days. It took about a week, but now that i've read the book and thought about it, it's weaknesses have mostly drained away, leaving the wonderful, if bittersweet end. Review to be posted soon.

And maybe I just have a thing for stories about girls who dress up as boys to save the world. Oops, did I just spoil the story for you?

Girls who dress up as boys to save the world . . . . Gentlemen of the Road, Revolutionary Girl Utena (although there is never any question that Utena is a girl!), Mieville's Iron Council. . . yup, looks like that calls to me. Gender issues? Power issues? I'm leaning towards the latter.

Oh China Mieville, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Perdido Street Station had major issues but The Scar made up for all of them. Un Lun Dun was adorable genius and King Rat was wonderfully gruesome. You put the fantasical back into fantasy, you give me the white knuckled imagery I crave along with the Lovecraftian horrific descriptions and consequences of getting everything I asked for, you give me characters who have been destroyed, deformed, enslaved and turned into monsters and they are more human than I am. I'm nearly done with Iron Council, when is your next book in the Bas Lag universe coming out?

Iron Council had a rough start. We've got a small group of rebelious misfits leaving the metropolis of New Crobuzon to find the possibly mythical “Iron Council”, to protect the council from the city militia. No one is sure who they can trust, so dialogue is vague and full of code words. Great for the characters, not so great for the reader. We've also got a group of rebels inside the city who believe if they assassinate the Mayor, they will be able to take over the town and stop the war with the neighboring Tesh.

Judah Low, a middle aged (but he must be older than that!!) member of the group looking for the Council is a golemist. I adore Mieville's fanstical sciences. Golemists are trained to make golems out of clay, earth, mud, water, whatever. a little like Earth-bending. Sure, fans of high fantasy are welcome to call this "magic", but Mieville treats it as an academic, university driven science. When Mieville goes into a multi chapter flashback of Judah's life and how he ended up where he is, i stop caring about anything else that happens. May this flashback never end, I just want to know about Judah.

nearly done, and I hope the end is as good as the middle. Sure, Mieville tosses some of his personal politics into it, but as I can't find anything i disagree with yet, politik away! reading this makes me want to read The Scar again.

In quickie manga news:

Et Cetera volume 1 - cute, but not that good. Taking place in a sort of Wild Wild west, Mingchao's inhertance is the magical Eto Gun, which is powered by the essences of animals of the zodiac. Hoping to get to Hollywood, she ends up travelling with Baskerville, who claims to be a priest, but surely isn't, as his "bible" is full of blueprints of the Eto Gun. This was too slapstick for my tastes.

Nodame Cantabile volumes 1 & 2 - or as my husband calls it No Damn Catbile. ewww! it's not that bad. Shinichi Chiaki is a top piano student at a music university. He's excellent at piano, but really wants to be a conductor, and transferring into that program won't be easy. After meeting his next door neighbor Nodame, Shinichi starts to learn that maybe the world doesn't revolve around him and what he wants. Again, a cute story, and i really, really appreciate all the music stuff, but this will be returned to the library unfinished.

back to the library with you Et Cetera and Nodame!

June 09, 2009

Patricia McKillip: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

CoverI’ve always liked McKillip’s writing style and this book is no exception. It’s lyrical tale about a wizard woman, her adopted son, mythical beasts, and how hard it is to live in the human world.

Sybel comes from a line of wizards who live alone on the Eld Mountain except for the unfortunate women they lure to themselves through magic. Her mother died after giving birth to her and her only companions have been her father Ogam, an old woman called Maelga, and a collection of mythical beasts. She doesn’t care for other humans at all and is not used to dealing with them.

However, some time after her father died a young man comes to her door with a baby. He claims that the baby is kin to Sybel and also a bastard. He asks Sybel to take care of the boy. Reluctantly, Sybel agrees.

For twelve years Tamlorn lives freely on Eld Mountain. Then one day, the same man comes back to Sybel and tries to convince her to let Tamlorn return. It turns out, that Tamlorn isn’t really a bastard at all but a king’s son and many people would like to use Tamlorn in their own plots and plans. However, Sybel doesn’t want Tamlorn to be used and refuses. But eventually, Tamlorn wants to know about his father and in the end both Sybel and Tam have to deal with the human world.

Once again, McKillip turns fantasy traditions on their ear. Many writers would have (and have when they use the most common trope where a farm boy is the long lost heir) taken Tam as the main character: a twelve-year-old boy who is the rightful heir to a kingdom which has strong enemies. But this is Sybel’s story. While Tam is, of course, a significant character because Sybel loves him like a son, she is still the only view point character who makes all her own decisions and have to face the consequences.

The magic in this world is different from many fantasy books. Basically, Sybel has mind powers: she can call animals and humans to her even from a long distance as long as she knows their name. She can also wipe out memories and presumably influence people’s minds in other ways. Her most prominent power, however, is her ability to mentally control the mythical creatures she has. She can talk with them silently and they must obey her. The creatures aren’t animals as such, though. They talk coherently in their minds and the Boar even talks out loud in riddles.

The mythical creatures are very interesting bunch: the Black Swan of Tirlith, Boar Cyrin who sings and talks in riddles in a sweet voice, the Dragon Gyld, the Lyon Gules, the black Cat Moriah, and the Falcon Ter. Ter is the one we see most often because he’s Tamlorn’s companion and protector. All of the creatures seem quite well-behaved although we are told that they long for the time when their names will be remembered and spoken of again. The Dragon even does something about it. Through out the book, Sybel tries to call to her Liralen which is a huge, white bird.

As is usual to McKillip, the characters face hard choices which have no easy answers.

June 07, 2009

Michael Chabon and some comics.

One of CHabon's  lesser well known works is a little novel called Gentlemen of the Road.  in the afterword written by Chabon, he jokingly says the working title of the book was "Jews with Swords". Jokingly indeed.  Taking place around 950 AD in the Caucuses mountains, Gentlemen follows Zelikeman and Amram, two Jewish soldiers for hire.  When there isn't a war on, the two friends make ends meet via a handful of quick con jobs. After making the aquantance of a dethroned prince, Zelikman and Amram have to decide if it's worth their skin to help the prince (who isn't exactly who he says he is either) avenge his family.  Parts of this book are impossibly for me to take seriously, and others are smooth and beautifully rendered. I vastly appreciated the references to ancient Jewish practices, but I felt lost when Chabon was talking about obscure cultures that I know nothing about.  I think in parts, Chabons similie filled writing style gets in the way of him getting his message across.   I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, and i loved the end, but the middle left something to be desired. that said, i must read and experience all things Chabon!

In other Michael Chabon news, I picked up a few more issues of his Dark horse comic The Escapist. Very good, and very fun. Highly recommended. sure, they are obviously contrived and more a "fan project" than an actual series, but that doesn't bother me. I’m hoping I can convince the library to buy this for their graphic novel collection.  If you enjoyed Chabon's The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, then you will appreciate The Escapist.

In fun Manga news:
Fullmetal Alchemist #18 is out, and I have a copy!! I’ve read it twice now, and things really are starting to come to a head. All the pieces are in the right place, if you know what I mean. Kimblee is politely holding Winry hostage, and offers Ed the philosophers stone in exchange for Ed becoming a human weapon. Kimblee is the perfect sociopath, no wonder the homunculi support him. Speaking of, how is Riza going to share her secret? Perhaps little Hayate may be of some help.

I just can't get enough manga. my house will be full of it, and i will still be aquiring more.

Revolutionary Girl Utena – the best way to describe this manga is pure zany. Tomboyish Utena is raised by an aunt who lets her get away with just about anything, including designing her own fuschia colored school uniform in a boys cut. Every year, Utena gets a rose scented letter from a mysterious man. Each letter is written on the back of a picture, and the final picture is of the wealthy prep school Ohtori Academy. Utena is accepted into the school, and immediately, accidentally picks a fight with a member of the school council. The fight turns into a duel, and as winner of the duel, Utena “wins” a young woman named Anthy, who is the “Rose Bride”. Anthy becomes Utena’s personal servant, and “belongs” to her. As melodramatic and somewhat sexist as this sounds, it really is a comedy, with Utena constantly questionting the sanity of everything going on around her. Determined to meet the mysterious sender of the letters and protect Anthy from abusive members of the student council, Utena stays at the academy. I’ve read two volumes, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Blame . . I'm slowly purchasing this series as I can find it. It's out of print, and i'm pretty sure i'm the only one who enjoys it. Killy is working his way up through abandoned cities, where humans have been wiped out by the machines (think the matrix meets terminator, plus insane AIs?). I really enjoy this manga for the artwork and the cyborg designs, and pretty much the design of the whole thing. Sure, there isn't much said, but it's mostly just Killy and his gun, so who is he gonna talk to anyways? he's a pretty shy, quiet guy. Not a series most people will gravitate towards, but i like it.

June 05, 2009

Welcome to Read Rinse Repeat!

Welcome to Read Rinse Repeat, a column featuring slightly random snippets, commentaries and reviews of scifi, fantasy, comics, manga, general fiction, the occasional history book, and my fangirlish worship of authors who rock my world, which include Scott Lynch, Hiromu Arakawa, China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Robert Silverberg, and increasingly Michael Chabon.

I have an apartment that is overflowing with books, 3 active library cards, the attention span of a meerkat, a snarky sense of humor, and a happy obsession with libraries and languages and all things dark and mysterious.

If this column inspires one person to read one book that they never thought they would enjoy because "it's not their thing," then my mission is complete. Until then, come along for the ride and enjoy yourself!





June 01, 2009

The Tudors Season 2

CoverI just finished watching Season 2 of The Tudors, and my only complaint is that it was not as deliciously fabulous as I expected it to be... but what kind of a complaint is that, right? I had previously watched Season 1 a few months ago, and so I knew fundamentally what I was getting in for, though the buzz I'd heard surrounding Season 2 painted it as even more of a wickedly watchable soap opera, loved by fans while looked upon dubiously by critics. Honestly, it was a bit more engaging and faster paced than Season 1, though not quite the compulsive guilty pleasure I had hoped for.

For those who might not know, or might not have guessed, The Tudors is a Showtime network series based on the tumultuous relationships and politics of England's King Henry VIII. Rather than a yawn-worthy historical biopic, the show aims to be a sexy retelling, free to take a few liberties with history for the sake of telling a good yarn. Liberties are indeed taken, but mostly they are measured, chosen carefully with good story sense in mind, and ultimately pretty few considering that the show otherwise sticks closely to known history.

Please don't get me wrong, The Tudors is very enjoyable and great fun to watch. I was looking forward to popping in the DVD when I got home from work every night last week.Cover Often, however, one episode scratched the itch, and I found myself switching to lighter fare after one installment. I suppose that hits at the crux of one problem in The Tudors. I felt that the show made too forthright of an attempt to cast the atmosphere of a serious historical treatment, while at the same time spinning a sumptuous story. This cohabitation of the two sides diffused the drama for me at times. Also, the pacing of the entire two seasons seemed problematic to me. Too much time was spent on the King's getting a divorce from Katherine of Aragon, and the downfall of Anne Boleyn happened too quickly. How delicious it would have been to see power slip more slowly from Anne's fingers, to watch her make decision after decision to dig a deeper hole for herself.

All in all, The Tudors is great program in the grand Showtime network tradition, fun and sexy and intellectual; those who follow my reviews will know that I often have the most critique to offer of media I most enjoy. So please pick up these DVD's if you're a fan of historicals, fantasy or just good television.

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