Book Reviews

Book Review: Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor

I’ve owned this graphic novel for less than two weeks, and I’ve already read it three times, and cried at the end each time. (Of course, because I’m clearly just so manly, I had to physically force the tears out of the ducts, and there were only one or two tears. Yeah. Totally.) Each time I’ve read it it just gets better and better.

Scott McCloud’s art does play second fiddle to the story, but the story couldn’t have worked without it- this is one of the definite examples of a story that wouldn’t be possible as prose, and I have doubts about whether it would really work in any other medium.

The Sculptor follows a young, down on his luck sculptor, David Smith (not that David Smith), who is trying to make it big in New York. With nothing going his way, he makes a deal with Death, gaining the ability to easily sculpt anything he wants with his bare hands- in exchange, however, he only has two hundred days to live.

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Book Review: Brian McClellan’s The Autumn Republic

The Autumn Republic concludes the Powder Mage trilogy with, if you’ll pardon what in this case is a fairly terrible pun, a bang. This trilogy is the first finished major series* in the new flintlock fantasy genre. If you just want a quick verdict on the trilogy- it’s pretty good. Not perfect, but definitely good, and shows definite signs that Brian McClellan is going to have a very interesting writing career ahead of him. The Autumn Republic has clear prose, fast paced and well constructed action scenes, sympathetic characters, and interesting worldbuilding.

Really quick, let’s get the complaints out of the way, of which I only really have a couple. Some of the foreshadowing in the books could have been handled better. There were several instances of it in the previous books that led me to believe certain subplots would materialize here in the finale that simply never occurred. While there was resolution to them, it did not take the path the books seemed to indicate they would. That can partially be chalked up to the author deciding to take a different path with the book- which he did a fine job of. There aren’t any internal inconsistencies presented by the change of course, just a little minor cognitive dissonance- really cognitive indigestion- it caused me. A lot of it was likely caused by some of the theories about what was going to happen that I built up in my own head. Overall, not a big deal.

Minor spoilers ahead:

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Weekly Reading List- 1/25/15- 1/31/15

Bit of a slow week again.

Brian McClellan’s The Promise of Blood/ The Crimson Campaign

I devoured the first two books of the Powder Mage Trilogy last week, since the third book comes out this week. (I’ll be doing a review). Flintlock fantasy is a relatively new subgenre, or sub-sub-genre, depending how you want to look at it, featuring flint and wheel-lock guns, colonial era politics, the rise of non-monarchical political systems, plus, you know, magic. The only real luminaries so far are Brian McClellan and Django Wexler, both of whom are highly enjoyable writers, obviously both having a ton of fun with what they’re doing. McClellan’s The Promise of Blood starts out with a military coup against the monarchy of the nation of Adro, leading right into the action. I honestly can’t really blog about these books separately- I’ve read both of them twice, now, and each time I read them consecutively, so it’s kind of blurred together into one, much larger book. They’re excellent books- not perfect, of course, but excellent. My only real complaint is regarding the treatment of some of the parts of the story that are supposed to be epic and mythic- they sometimes feel a little less exciting than some of the gritty, down to earth battles, but that probably speaks more to McClellan’s ability to write said battles. Regardless to say, I’m quite excited for book three, the Autumn Republic.

Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Just the Tips

Hey, it’s my second non-fiction book of the year! And, of course, it’s a book of sex tips. Terrible, hilarious sex tips. “Cross dressing can really spice things up. Ladies, try wearing a man’s dress shirt and tie to bed. Men, try wearing high heels and a skirt and thousand of years of patriarchal oppression to bed.” “Have sex outside, in the middle of Yankee Stadium, during a game.” “A man’s testicles are very sensitive and some sex moves can hurt them a bit, so just poke them back up inside his body where they’ll be safe.” Just the Tips is a companion to the awesome comic book series Sex Criminals, which is one of my absolute favorites. Specifically, it’s the companion to the letter column of Sex Criminals, which might be the greatest letter column of all time. People have actually started writing in for serious (and not so serious) sex advice from the creators, which somewhat baffled them at first, though they seem to have embraced their roles. Just the Tips doesn’t quite make me laugh as much as the Sex Criminals letter column, but I think that’s because it’s more dedicated to being a humor book. The actual letter column often deals with a lot of serious concerns and real issues, which often serve to contrast with and highlight the more whimsical submissions. Another part of why the letter column makes me laugh more, of course, is all of the hilarious and awesome in-jokes you find building up in it, most notably “Brimping”. It might be just the format, too. That’s not to say Just the Tips isn’t good, of course- it’s still funny, snarky, and wildly inappropriate. Remember- “You need to change your safeword every three weeks for security reasons and it must have numbers in it.”

John Scalzi & Mike Choi’s Midnight Rises

I haven’t read many comics specifically designed for digital consumption before this- in major part thanks to my lack of a tablet. Midnight Rises is an IOS exclusive digital comic. It’s actually its own app, since it’s actually the prequel comic to an IOS videogame, Midnight Star, which also had its story written by Scalzi. First off, Choi’s art is great, especially the machinery and background tech. Scalzi did a decent enough job writing the comic, but I do think it suffers somewhat from its prequel status- it very obviously is a lead-in to Midnight Star. Once Midnight Star comes out, I think it will likely fit in pretty well with the story of the game, but until then, we’ll have to wait and see. As for the digital comic features- it’s pretty interesting being able to choose, to some extent, the order and shape of the story. The controls are a little less flexible than I would have liked- you can only turn the page forwards and backwards via tapping the right side of the screen. Swiping is reserved for the larger pages that can be explored.

Weekly Reading List- 1/18/15-1/24/14

Thanks to one thing and another, I didn’t get many books read this week. Largely due to sleep deprivation, which makes me read really, really slow.

Firefight- Brandon Sanderson

YA, SF, Reread

I told you, I reread books a lot, especially Brandon Sanderson.

To be fair, I reread this one on my phone- which is what I read on in the bathroom, when waiting in line, etc. If I only have a minute or two, I’ll just read on here. I get a surprising amount of reading done this way, including, weirdly enough, most of the YA novels I read. My Kindle is still the format I do more of my reading on than any other device, but not by a ton- dead tree format is right behind it, with my phone in a distant, but by no means insignificant third. Audiobook comes in dead last. I listened to all of two audiobooks last year. Before that, it was something like 2010 since the last audiobook I’ve read, and before that? I couldn’t even tell you.

The Wanderer- Fritz Lieber

SF

I’ll have more on this one soon, I’m gearing up to reboot the Hugo Readthrough.

I meant to have the readthrough up and ready to go by now, but I’ve just not gotten much done and ready to go in the last week- I’ve been dealing with a major sleep shortage, which makes me move at about a quarter speed.

The Goblin Emperor- Kathleen Addison

Fantasy, Reread

The Goblin Emperor was one of my favorite fantasy novels from last year- it’s a breath of fresh air in the genre. There is very little violence, it doesn’t particularly leave itself open to a sequel- it’s pretty frankly excellent. 2014 was a really good year for fantasy, but it would not surprise me to see this one as a Hugo contender, even for the normally very science fiction dominated award.

Dune- Frank Herbert

SF, Reread

Man, what really needs to be said about this one? A lot, actually, but I’ll wait a couple weeks. Absolutely love this book, one of my all time favorites.

Weekly Reading List: 1/11/15- 1/17/15

I know, I know, it’s late- but this weekend was my birthday weekend, so… yeah. 9 books isn’t a bad week at all, these days.

Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera, Book 1-6

Epic Fantasy, Reread

I’m not going to do an individual entry for each book in the series. Nope. Not happening. I’m way too tired for that. Anyhow, Furies of Calderon was my first introduction to Jim Butcher, well before I ever encountered the Dresden Files, and I honestly like the Codex Alera a lot more, which is really saying something, since I love me some Dresden Files. At six books, it’s much more manageable of a read than the Wheel of Time, or even A Song of Ice and Fire. (Which, although it has fewer books, has much, much longer individual entries. The Codex Alera books cap out around 700 pages.) Roman themed fantasy, while it definitely exists, is much, much rarer than “medieval European” themed fantasy, which is unfortunately dominant in the world of fantasy fiction today. About once a year, I get a hankering to reread the entire series. It happened pretty early this time around.

Adam Roberts’ Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea

Science Fiction

Oh, hey look, I did a review.

Clifford Simak’s Way Station

Science Fiction

Hey, look, a Hugo winner. Hmm. Maybe I’m reading Hugo winners for a reason, like I’m actually restarting my readthrough. (Yep.) Anyhow, more on this one later.

Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law

Fantasy, Reread

Brandon Sanderson probably gets more rereads from me than any other author. I don’t know if that necessarily makes him my favorite author, but it definitely says something good about him. The Alloy of Law is a followup to Sanderson’s bestselling Mistborn trilogy, but is set centuries later, in Scadrial’s equivalent of the Wild West. Magic-filled gunfights, hurrah! The seqeul and third book are coming out around the end of this year, so that’s something fun to look forwards to.