Retro Review: The Rebel Worlds by Poul Anderson

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The next story in the Dominic Flandry series brings about another change for the character. Ensign Flandrey brought us a nice war with the Mersians and showed how one world escalated a galactic conflict. A Circus of Hells showed Dominic floating around doing spy work, expanded the Mersian conflict, and it truly felt like a James Bond in space novel. This one, Flandry is given command of a ship as we set out to the frontier where a Rebellion is stirring against the Terran Empire.

It begins from the perspective of an Admiral accused of treason, who is breaking out of prison and his beautiful wife is being held captive by a local governor. Flandry goes out to investigate, finds the Admiral has declared himself Emperor of Humanity and has amassed a fleet, and through a series of really fun events, we end up on another alien planet.

What’s interesting is Poul Anderson weaves these world-changing political events into a story, but has each time moved us to a planet where we saw some strange alien species that has a big difference to them than general humanity. This one is perhaps the coolest alien concepts of the books yet — with a species that has three different creatures to it, and when they come together, they form sentience. When they part, they separate sentience. They also can combine with other creatures to form different entities. They have strange memories and a strange way of being and I loved this conceptually. They play a huge part in the book and overall story.

What’s interesting is Anderson really has the conflict of the major worlds going on in the background, while Flandry is in his own little mission doing his own thing. I like this style of writing, it adds to the space opera flare in my opinion. Flandry can influence events, but he’s not at the center of the battle because of his position. And Even as he roams around on other planets, eventually his actions do amount to solving the conflict with the Rebel Worlds.

The story also, like the others so far, centers around a woman — the wife of the rebel admiral who is so captivating, everyone falls in love with her. This subplot adds a nice dynamic to the story, and highlights Anderson’s excellent characterization in this. Flandry, of course, falls for her as well, and like the prior stories it ends without fulfillment for Flandry. A minor annoyance is that the past loves and past adventures really don’t get referenced, despite this being somewhat of a continuance from those, but these older books are all meant as standalones more than the way series are written today, despite the shared universes.

It’ll be interesting to see how this goes. This is probably the second best of the trilogy so far, with Ensign Flandry being my favorite still. There’s many short stories next in the Baen collected version of this series I’m reading, and not sure if I’ll review all of those. The next novel to take place in this series apparently doesn’t star Flandry proper, but is set in the universe.

Overall, this is some of the best space opera out there. Highly enjoyable read.

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The Continent By Keira Drake: The Book The Outrage Mob Doesn’t Want You To Read

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I discovered The Continent because of a fake news Washington Post article, which accused author Keira Drake of using “racial slurs” in her fantasy book, which actually had completely unique and imaginary peoples within the book. The Post, of course, took the most salacious of bully posts from Goodreads, where Drake was the latest in a string of authors to get harassed and bullied, before her book even hit the stands. All the outrage mob wants to do is destroy careers and get outraged over anything, and that’s what the fake new WaPo failed to report, which is not surprising.

Drake made a big mistake in agreeing with the bullies, apologizing for her “representation” and went back to her publisher with the already printed book to actually do a full rewrite on it. She thought she could take the complaints as ingenious, and make peace with the mob. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen time and time again, she was wrong.

After the article, I monitored what was going on with the release of the book over the last several weeks, and saw that she quickly learned a painful lesson: never apologize, never give an inch to these outrage bully mobs on the internet. They aren’t there out of some genuine concern, they want to destroy you and any other author they can sink their teeth into. When they smell blood, they’ll keep going for the kill.

The book was hit with several fake one-star reviews on Amazon, calling Drake a racist, etc., saying her revisions were “not enough”. I’d already pre-ordered the book in solidarity with her, but with this, I moved the book up to the top of my very extensive to-read pile to see what the fuss was about, and if it was a solid book I could recommend to my readership, as we try to support bullied authors around these parts.

The Book:

The Continent is the story of Vaela, an aristocratic girl in a fantasy society that seems to be modern-ish. They don’t use computers, so I would date them as 1940s or so if this correlated to the real world. They do have “heliplanes” to tour the continent, of which they visit but never set down upon. The Spire, the mainland, has abandoned war, and won’t have anything to do with anyone who is involved in war. They’ve achieved peace between four nations, and it’s somewhat of a Utopia.

Vaela gets chosen to go to the continent with her connected family for a tour, and, as the blurb states, crash lands on the continent. There she meets two peoples—the Xoe and the Aven’ai. The Xoe we don’t see much of other than the fact that they’re quick to violence and slaughter, but the Aven’ai are a pretty well-rounded people, with a very in depth culture.

The story progresses as Vaela gives up hope of a rescue, and starts to live among the Aven’ai, and the threat of a looming war with the Xoe grows ever the nearer, until the Aven’ai are faced with certain doom. I’ll try to keep that the limit of my spoilers for now, but it’s pretty obvious from the blurb that the plot would go similar.

What’s the REEEEEE About?

The fake news WaPo says in the original version the groups were very clearly drawn from an Indian tribe and a Japanese feudal society. I guess that’s offensive to internet outrage people. But again – these are not real. It’s absolutely idiotic to go crazy over that. Especially when the Aven’ai Japanese-ish people are very cool. From my understanding, some of the descriptions changed but their culture was not shown to be negative at all. Less advanced, certainly, but that’s what happens when you don’t have technology, you ARE less advanced. There’s nothing wrong with presenting that, and it has nothing to do with race.

In this revised version, I saw plenty of spots where Drake obviously inserted things like “that doesn’t make your culture any less valid!” after a character said something that was perhaps insensitive, but entirely realistic. These points detract from the book, to be honest, and to have honest characters would have been a bit more refreshing..

Drake also went out of her way to describe several of the more civilized peoples as “dark skinned” to try to appease these folks. At the end of the day, this book was completely innocuous and had nothing for anyone to complain about, even if these moments were obvious, there weren’t all that many of them.

Was There A Message?

If there was any message in this book, it certainly wasn’t some racist, xenophobic, cultural appropriating nonsense that the outrage mob likes to shout. It was a couple of simple things:

  1. Do what’s right even if it’s out of your comfort zone and against the grain of what the elites in your society tell you to do.
  2. Expand your horizons by trying to see other people’s viewpoints.

There’s some unintended thoughts in there that might have to do with positively portraying interventionist policies, but I don’t think it was intended. Reading into things to try to force a 21st century immediate politics narrative is destructive, and you have to reach to come to that conclusion with this book in my opinion. Her points above are the most explicit, and they’re very innocuous messages.

The Verdict:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I actually messaged Drake about a third of the way in to offer my condolences to her and to give my feedback that the pace was very slow – and for the first third, it is.  She spent too much time setting up the trip to the continent, which the real book and action only start once Vaela’s there.

That said, once it does get there, the book’s nearly impossible to put down. There isn’t a ton of action up front, but the looming sense of dread keeps you invested, and Vaela’s growth and transition from spoiled aristocrat, to someone who can manage her own house and work was very excellently done. We saw her hard work and change, and those domestic scenes were some of the best I’ve seen.  I was especially glad that she wasn’t just some magical warrior girl able to fend off the Xoe singlehandedly, as it would have been very tempting to do in this situation. She is presented very realistically, can’t stomach war at all, and it’s really great to see her in that context and grow. The character work on her was just brilliant.

Noro was also a great character, the main Aeven’ai warrior lead. He’s basically a ninja assassin, and we don’t see him do his work on screen because it’s Vaela’s perspective, but he’s a hard working man that young men can look up to. I appreciate that in a lead. He is full of honor and loyalty, also very well developed.

The world is wonderful too. Very detailed. Vivid descriptions. The setting and conflict stakes are very well defined. It’s one of the better YA Fantasy worlds I’ve seen so far. The countries in the spire being named “North, South, East, West” might be a little lazy, but that doesn’t bother me at all, and everything else was very well detailed. The Xoe and Aven’ai are the center of what matters, and very well imagined.

Overall, the story went very well. There’s a couple points where I think Vaela’s solutions are kind of dumb and naïve – but I am fine with that, as she’s a 16 year old girl. Her solutions -should- be dumb and naïve from that perspective. It’s fitting with the character which makes for excellent storytelling.

The main conflict isn’t completely resolved, and I look forward to a sequel, which I will certainly be reading.  After the opening, this is about as good as it gets for YA Fantasy.

8/10

Buy The Continent and support Keira Drake here.

 

 

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Retro Review: A Circus Of Hells by Poul Anderson

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A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Ensign Flandry, the first of the character of Dominic Flandry, and I was so impressed with the space opera that I found myself eagerly awaiting the second book. Been actually rereleased these books as 3-book omnibuses in a seven volume set a few years back, so I was able to pick up the entire series relatively inexpensively.

A Circus of Hells takes a drastically different tone than Ensign Flandry. Where Anderson set up the Imperium and the human structure against this giant Merisan structure as an epic in the first, this is much more localized. It also takes much more of a “James Bond In Space” feel. Whereas Ensign Flandry surprised me when he was suave with the ladies, in this one he is unabashedly out to get some action.

It starts out where he’s assigned on a backwater planet, and he gets pulled into some mob scheme to investigate the planet Wayland, completely off the radar to see if there’s mining potential for profit. A woman, Djana, is assigned with him. She’s a hooker, but a very noble one with a passion for Jesus. It’s an odd character, but she works.

They go together, get shot down on the planet which they find is infested by robots. It takes a 180 as they go and get captured by Mersians on another planet where there is intelligent life that some only awaken during certain climates of the year–a very interesting concept. Anderson likes to explore the hot/cold environmental aspects of what makes civilization tick, like he did in Fire Time, and that theme is developing here.

I gloss over Wayland because though he presents and interesting planet there, he drops the thread for the Mersian plot. I found the development of the new world after Wayland a little boring for awhile, it takes a bit to get jump started as if it’s a completely separate story. However once Flandry forms his escape plan, it starts to get interesting again.

The ending is really interesting, if unfulfilling. Djana gets left in the cold to some degree, and we see a flaw in Flandry’s character, which he blames on the job, but it’s a little more than that. It made me lose my liking for Flandry a bit, but, if he’s going to be a James Bond, he can’t be tied down.

Overall, I liked it, but enjoyed it a lot less than Ensign Flandry.  It’s a solid book, and it’s actually standalone so if it sounds more interesting to you, you can actually start here without any trouble. There’s no much reference to the first book beyond in passing.

It’s also very short. So it’s a quick read, despite the slowed pace when it shifts gears in the middle.

8/10

If you like Poul Anderson’s space opera, or my thoughts on it, you’ll probably like The Stars Entwined. It’s got a spy with a bit better of a moral compass when it comes to women. Check it out here.

 

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Book Review: Dream Of The Iron Dragon by Robert Kroese

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I’ve been a fan of Robert Kroese for a couple of years. I discovered him with The Big Sheep, which is an excellent novel, and went into his Rex Nihilo adventures, which are a star wars-ish parody that really is a love letter to sci-fi. What they have in common is a lot of comedy, and I almost would think of Kroese as the Terry Pratchett of Sci-Fi (if that weren’t already Douglas Adams).

He launched The Saga Of The Iron Dragon as a kickstarter last year, to a lot of buzz. Vikings in spaaaaace! I thought I might find something ridiculous and off the wall as his other concepts, but the more I read into it, this was more of a serious venture.

Kroese did a lot of research on this as well. He took a trip to the Nordic countries last year, and I saw the stacks of books he posted when he was reading up on Vikings. He put the work in, had a cool concept, and is definitely a very smart guy to be able to piece together some cool history and make a story. But would he succeed in a more serious venture with his work?

The Dream Of The Iron Dragon opens in modern times, a prologue of people investigating what appears to be a space ship crash in Iceland in modern times. Not what I expected, but I was interested in that perspective. It set up a mystery, and just as I was getting comfortable, we shifted to the future.

In this future, humanity is at war with a single alien race, who’s been kicking our butts. Earth is all but uninhabitable, and humans are struggling to survive. There’s alien jump gates that allow us to go from system to system, and we find our story taking place on a science vessel who is investigating an asteroid out in the middle of nowhere. They come across the alien race and something mysterious, and it’s a really awesome space opera war set up that takes a good portion of the book. As much as I’d been waiting for vikings, this surprised me how much of the book this took up, but I was very invested in this greater world by Kroese’s expert characterization and gripping suspense. As this part drew to an end, and i knew what was coming–they were being flung back in time, I almost didn’t want this portion of the story to end– and i hope he gets back to it in future books.

Without giving too may spoilers from this point, a shuttle from the ship crash lands on Earth in viking times, and hijinx ensues. The crew is trying to survive, and also to get back, but plans go desperately wrong. We switch perspectives to crew we met before, but didn’t have intimate time with, as we were dealing with those running the ship, which I was sad for at first, but I quickly became just as attached to these characters as any of the others. The vikings get a few perspective points as well — and they’re just as deep and intricate of characters. I really can’t speak too highly of how well Kroese did on that front.

Kroese teaches us quite a bit about the history of the Nordic countries from this time too, just in little snippets so it’s never too overwhelming. There are points where there’s a bit of infodump, but it’s interesting, and mostly history we don’t hear a terrible amount about, so it’s a learning experience that almost feels like earlier Heinlein novels when he drifts into his scientific concepts.

Through the first half of the book, it’s about perfect. There’s a big battle mini-climax at a point which is just awesome. I will say from about half to two thirds, the pace bogs down a little bit. I’m still trying to avoid spoilers, but there’s points when goes into montage-explain mode where the crew needs to perform a task, they use some science to do it, and they complete it. This is done three or four times and along with the history lessons, slowed down this portion of the book to where maybe some of it could be cut or glossed over. I understand the necessity of most of it, but it did make for some skimable material.

It picks right back up for an epic climax… and ends on a cliffhanger. We aren’t resolved at all beyond getting past a single hump in this history section that was set up about 30% into the book, which is a big one, but it leaves this feeling like a part of a book rather than complete because of it. Now, Kroese never set expectations otherwise, so it’s very much as advertised and is imminently forgivable — it was billed as a trilogy going in, and the way the books are titled it’s kinda obvious they wouldn’t just get back into space and come back into the present in this first installment, so I don’t feel cheated as a reader. but I hate cliffhangers! That’s just me. Some people won’t have a problem with this at all, but definitely go into this knowing you’ll need 3 books for the complete story.

It did work, the cliffhanger. I’m interested. I’m hooked. I really want the next one to come out. That last battle in the book was epic. The stakes were high throughout, and the danger is real to the characters. I can’t offer more without massive spoilers, but even with the slow down in pacing and my lack of closure, frankly this is the best book I’ve read this year and I think it’ll be hard pressed for me to find one in 2018 that I”ll enjoy more. Of course, now he has to top this for the next one.

Overall, the complaints are minor, and this book is solid science fiction. World building is A+. History A+. Characters A+, can’t really ask for more than that. I haven’t firmly concluded my Dragon Awards list yet, but it’s currently my frontrunner for Best Science Fiction category.

You can check out Dream of the Iron Dragon here. 

5/5

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Review: Balanced On The Blade’s Edge By Lindsay Buroker

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I’m always on the lookout for quality steampunk fantasy I saw Lindsay Buroker’ss name on several different top lists on Amazon for several months and so I’ve been meaning to check her out for a while. Balanced on the Blades Edge was (and is) free on Amazon the first book in the Dragon Blood series so it seemed good time.
The book starts out with a sorceress who awakens deep within the mines that have been turned into a prison after a 300 year slumber. She meets a fellow by the name of ridge who is removed from his assignment as an airship pilot to be the warden of the prison mines. The sorceress Sardelle is bonded with what’s called a soul blade which is also hidden trapped within the mines she is trying to get to the soul blade and win the affections of the warden while trying to survive a culture that burns it withes somewhat Puritan style.
As Ridge gains control over the mines enemies are attacking via an airship. The enemy has a sorcerer aboard who is trying to get at the soul bode. they attacked several times and Sardelle and Ridge have to defend against it. What follows is two parts romance and one part action through the rest of the story.
I really love Lindsay‘s writing style. While Ridge can come off somewhat cocky and almost a romantic version of Han Solo he still ends up pretty likable throughout the story and Sardelle really carries her weight within the story. The enemies have good and clear motivations characters are well defined all around.
At first I thought the world building was a little bit lite but it’s very similar to the way I unfold my worlds with my writing and it gains depth as the story goes along and necessitates it.
Pacing wise, I thought it was very well done. I found myself wanting more of the book and not wanting to put it down. It had great airship action, romance was very exciting ,and I find myself genuinely caring for the characters and wanting more at the end of it.
The world and book overall had a fantasy feel to it more than steam punk as the focus was more on magic then on technical gadgets. I still found that this is one of the most enjoyable steam punk worlds I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far.
Overall, this book was fantastic. I am excited to get to the next installment in the series and look forward to reading more. It’s about everything I want out of steampunk fantasy.
10/10
If you like my taste in fiction, you might like the fiction I write. Check out For Steam And Country today!
 
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Quick Shot Comic Reviews: March 1 Edition

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My pull list was fairly small this week, so I only have 3 books to review:

Ninja-K vs. The Valiant Universe #2

This is an underrated little title. I’m not sure it takes place within the general Valiant continuity, as I believe this was originally meant for a tie in for a live action web series Valiant was going to try to do with the character, but that project went off the rails. We ended up with this comic instead. Ninja-K is on the run after having stolen some weapon from MI-6. All the valiant heroes are after him and he’s just trying to survive.

It’s really fun, high action, good character development, it’s really everything I want out of the Valiant universe but have trouble getting in the main titles that seem to get bogged down in politics or boring backstory in the main titles as of late,  not living up to the beautiful art they typically procure.

This art  is  a little more standard comic  than their big books, but it works really well. I highly recommend this series but I’d read a little of the first Ninja-K series (complete already), Unity, X-O Manowar so you can familiarize yourself with some of the characters first. It works without that, but you may care more if you know them.

8/10

Silencer #2

DC’s  John Romita Jr. Book  is back for its second issue. I feel like he settled into the art a little better in this issue which makes it flow a lot more nicely. When I read this, I thought, “wow, here’s a character with a motive, who’s developing, who can change and isn’t stagnant for ‘iconic’ status, and it’s a breath of fresh air for the DC Universe.”

And that  about sums it up.  Silencer was visited by Talia Al Ghul last issue, trying to force her into her old life as an assassin, even though she’s trying to raise a family. This issue deals with fallout from that as she takes an aggressive stance toward trying to get away from it. Great action, cliffhanger ending, and I’m excited to see where this series goes. Best new character from the Big-2 in over a decade.

9/10

X-O Manowar #12

If you’re familiar with  me at  all, you know this is my favorite comic out there. I tell people on  repeat to pick it  up. In this arc, Aric has become Emperor of a planet Gorin — and in peace, things have gone drastically wrong. There’s a planet-wide famine,  and his most trusted advisors have plotted  to remove him from his position, and succeeded. He’s left stranded and naked in a desert, and has to fight his way out.

This issue hit on every emotional cyllinder. Matt Kindt, the writer, spent so long setting up this world building and emotional stakes for what occurs here, it’s pretty amazing, and  here it’s  really starting to pay off on  the personal level for Aric. I’m pretty sad that we’ll be leaving the planet Gorin after all this is done (the next arc says it’s Aric’s return to Earth) but this has been a masterpiece so far.

My only complaint is the art quality on this arc has dropped pretty drasticlally. The first 3 arcs had some of the best art I’ve ever seen in comics, so it’s a tough bar, but they should have rotated back to one of those rather than bringing in someone with such a drastically different style.

9/10

If you like my taste  in comics, help me make some. Contribute to my patreon.  you’ll get short stories and other content that I make, including comics as they get done. Check it out here. 

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Retro Review: Conan The Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

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I was perusing Half Price Books about a week ago and saw a stack  of a 2010  edition of Conan The Barbarian by Seven Oaks Press, taking a collection of Robert E. Howard’s classics.This is not the complete works volume which I’ve seen since researching — and if you’re looking for more complete, I suggest getting that one. I wish I had more Conan adventures to read at this point so that might be more worth  your while. Many Conan stories are also available on the free archives site that is online.

However, this collection does have excellent stories, and at Half Price, it was good value.

I’d never been much of a Conan fan. I’ve seen portions of the cheesy movie from the 80s, but that didn’t inspire me to want to pursue it further .It took a long while of the Pulp Revolution talking up how great Robert E. Howard was as a writer for me to check it out.

And I’m glad I did. I was gripped  through these adventures like none other. Now none of them really tie together. Conan could be a pirate, a city guard, an explorer, a treasure hunter, any smattering of jobs or backgrounds. He’s always mentioned as Cimmerian and a barbarian, however. Different women are in distress, and he’s interested in whatever one happens t o be in front of him.  The sense of continuity is loose at best. A couple of stories mention he’s had all of these different jobs, and some regions of the world or peoples are referenced from time to time, but it’s best to view each of them as more stand  alone than as a progression.

Howard does create a great sense of dread and a sense of fun in each of these. Conan is fairly light hearted, but he’s a serious warrior. He goes about his tasks with unwavering purpose. He fights worth a dozen or more men every time. Parts of it are almost horror-like, with looming creepy things in the background that can end up ordinary apes or men for Conan to fight, or something supernatural. it all blends together to create a feel and impression that helps keep tension rather than often being explicit about whether a wizard actually has powers or not — the lack of explaining is something we wouldn’t see in modern fiction, where we are obsessed with defining things for “realism” effect. In fact, I think the way Howard does it is better for storytelling as it keeps the reader guessing  what is real, what isn’t. When coming to wizards  and illusions, that serves the story well.

This book opened with an essay by Howard – The Hyborian Age, which  sets  a lot of the background of the world/myth. While it’s the slowest and least interesting part of the book, it is worth a read  just to familiarize yourself with some terms for later stories. It should be viewed more as an appendix than a story itself.

My favorite stories were probably “Shadows In The Moonlight” – it being the first in the volume, it hooked me on Conan. It may be one of the weaker ones if I went and read it again, but the feel there was perfect. “Queen Of the Black Coast” was also great, showing Conan’s love  for a pirate queen. “A Witch Shall Be Born” I thought  was a very solid one dealing with magic, and finally “Red Nails” is probably my favorite of all of them. Valeria is a great character and I wish she would have continued through other stories.

Some are stronger than others, but I can’t say one in the volume was particularly bad, just not as exciting as the ones I listed. It’s got 10 tales in all including the Hyborian Age, and serves as a great introduction to Conan. This isn’t even half of the stories or fragments out there though, so there’s a lot more reading to do.

10/10

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Quick Shot Comic Reviews – Valentines Day Week!

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Reviewing up a selection of comics I read this week in brief snippets:

Bane: Conquest #9: The start of a new arc here, where Bane is assembling a team to go after the dastardly secret society Kobra. Interesting introductions to several characters, though a little slower than a lot of the book has been so far. A set up issue that needs more context. Art seemed to go a little less detailed in backgrounds and the like too, felt a little rushed. 7/10

Rebel Dead Revenge #1: Written and drawn by Gary Kwapisz, I wasn’t sure what to expect on this. We have a horror tale set in the civil war where the devil’s starting to take control of people via his evil magic. It was about the most gripping comic I’ve read this year and I’m excited for the next issue. 10/10

Batman: White Knight #5: Definitely a middle issue, but Batman is slowly losing everyone and it’s amping up. Very interesting as is the whole concept of Neo-Joker. This series is coming along very nicely. 9/10

 

Dark Ark #5: Cullen Bunn’s first volume of his evil Noah’s ark series wraps up this week. Very interesting issue. I love how it went. Even though I’m not usually a horror fan this had a lot of compelling concepts. It’s kinda interesting how both this book and Armstrong below used a Noah’s Ark element and both of them (spoilers) killed off unicorns.Great comic overall. 8/10

Armstrong and the Vault Of Spirits #1: A bit of a throwaway one shot, but this had some good fun for it. I don’t love Fred Van Lente’s humor a lot of the time — and he loves to insert identity politics jokes into those, but he didn’t really do that in this issue — this seemed to be a sort of reintroduce all of t he characters in this Valiant Universe realm more than anything else. Art was very pretty, story was inconsequential but enjoyable enough. 7/10

If you like  the comics I like, you’ll probably like my fiction writing too. Check out my highly reviewed For Steam And Country, which will also be available on audiobook as soon as Amazon approves it!

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Retro Review: Poul Anderson – Ensign Flandry

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Almost every time I open up a new Poul Anderson book, I find myself overcome with joy. I get strange aliens, a cool world with a lot of conflict, plenty of intrigue and action, and a g guaranteed sense of wonder and just joy of being in science fiction that a lot of modern authors don’t offer.

Ensign Flandry is the first book in a sequence of books in a future history Anderson developed for the period of the Terran Empire. There’s a lot of different books and the reading order is a bit murky overall, but Ensign Flandry is a good place to start to follow this particular character’s adventures.

It starts out not introducing the title character at all, but setting backdrops of both the Terran Empire — showing the decadence and decline of nobility, and a human commander on a faraway planet, where there are 4 species at play. There are two local sentient species, one under water, and one tiger or cat-like species that are fighting for dominance of the planet. The humans have taken the side of the cat species, and the Mersians have taken the underwater dwellers’ side. A series of incidents are escalating between the two and it looks like war is happening.

It’s odd at that point.  I  wasn’t quite sure about the book, though I’ve seen Anderson start books off in strange ways before. It was a lot of set up, and because you’re jumping perspectives so much there’s not a ton to latch onto, so it took me awhile to get into the book. In hindsight, I enjoyed the set up, but it was a strange start during the read of it.

Once we are introduced to Flandry a good seeral chapters into the novel, we find a fun, competent young character who appears as if he has the inexperience and follies of youth, but there’s a lot more to him than we see. He gets caught up in the struggles of the conflicts, and the humans scramble not to have this escalate into a full on war.

He gets conscripted into intelligence, and goes to the Mersian homeworld as part of an ambassadorial delegation. This is where we get some James Bond ish adventuring in space, but with a twist as Flandry doesn’t do a lot of the direct espionage himself. He’s often observing what’s going on and just happens to fall into a part of it, but it really works despite not being in the direct action a lot of the time. Flandry finds himself fooling around with his Imperial nobility’s concubine on the planet and gets himself into a world of trouble.

It only escalates tension from there. The characters are so well done. You end up caring a lot about Flandry and then Persis, the concubine. The conflict with the Mersians progresses in such an interesting and different way as well. It’s very imaginative all the way around.

And then Anderson puts a final twist on it which I won’t spoil. That’s where it gets really interesting. The wrold was so  well developed in this fairly short novel, and the conclusion is entirely satisfying.

I might like this book even better than Fire Time, which is my favorite Anderson book so far. It’s tough to say. This had an extra fun factor to it where Fire Time felt a little more serious. I’m excited to continue this series and  read more adventures about Flandry.  Baen  has done a great job collecting these in their “Technic Civilization Saga” series for easy omnibus reading.

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Quick Shot Comic Reviews

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I’m back for another round of brief reviews of all the comics this week as I couldn’t pick just one. I missed last week so there’s a smattering of titles in here.

Go West #1 (Alterna) by Gareth Gunn and Saint Yak

A post apocalyptic horror about a man who’s family gets slaughetered and he goes out to get revenge. A lot of visceral moments, art is nice. I like the simple, yet very clearly horror coloring style, it works well with the book. Overall, I think I typically see more vignette pieces from Alterna that don’t offer enough worldbuilding for the complete story, but what we do see is always fun and very easy to justify with their low price point. Enjoyable first issue.  8/10

 

Silencer #1 (DC) by Dan Abnett and John Romita Jr.

I picked this up on a whim. Art wise you like Romita or you don’t. I tend to like him because he’s very expressive. This book really is a great opener for a comic. Lots of personal drama, good tie in to the DCU, fresh characters who you care about in personal situations and good battle alike. A very promising start.  10/10

Ninja-K #3 (Valiant)  by Christos Gage and Tomas Giorello

Giorello is one of my favorite artists working today, and this book is absolutely beautiful visually. The story has some good action and an interesting backstory of a Ninja-C from the program. I think Valiant has a tendency to get repetitive in its overarching storylines and pushes a dark “you’re not really fighting for good like you thought you were!” a little too often. It gets tired after a few books of it, but on its own this issue stood well. Valiant really needs to focus their worldbuilding and line so it’s a little tighter. 8/10

Quantum & Woody #2 (Valiant)  by Dan Killbesmith and Kano.

The layouts on this are a jumbled mess, hard to read, and the storyline is very choppy. I gave it a second shot after the first issue but I think this is it for me. The art looks pretty enough but as a comic, this is pretty close to unreadable.  3/10

X-O Manowar #11 (Valiant) by Matt Kindt and Ryan Bodenheim

After what I believe was a filler issue to give purely villain background, we’re back to Aric and his planet where he’s become Emperor and everything’s fallen apart. Bounty Hunters come to take him down, which we find out is a betrayal. It’s got some call back to the previous series (Kindt really likes the character Gin-GR I see) and is the most standard comic storyline of the series so far. Thoroughly enjoyed the story. It’s also the weakest art of the series so far with the new artist. Coloring’s off in spots and Aric’s beard looks unnatural, so points dinged for what otherwise was a great book. 8/10

Robyn Hood: The Curse #1 (Zenescope) Chuck Dixon and Julius Abrera

Zenscope has been running with this modernized Robin Hood character for awhile, but this is the first I’ve read because of Dixon’s involvement. Art is phenomenal, 90s Top Cow style, while Dixon spun a very fun tale. There’s some cheesecake lesbian innuendo which I laughed at, but overall this is a good start to a miniseries 9/10.

 

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