Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bookworming: Envy of Angels

Envy of Angels, Matt Wallace, ***
If you have ever wondered what you might get when you cross urban fantasy and "reality TV" cooking shows, then this is the novella for you. While the characters are playing it straight, the author is not, bringing a healthy dose of absurdist humor to the story. (The general tone reminds me of Pratchett's The Color of Magic.) If you like your characters deep and arcs complex, this may not be for you, as the short work doesn't bother with anything more than the barest of sketches. That said, the writing is excellent and the story moves along nicely. While not entirely in my wheel house, I suspect I will be checking out more of the series.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Bookworming: Quiet

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain, ****
I will say up front that I am an extremely introverted person, and that informs/influences my interpretation of this book. It would have been handy to have had twenty years ago, and perhaps even better had my parents been able to read it. I'm not in a position to evaluate the rigor of the scientific research presented through the book's many anecdotes, but it does ring true to my experiences. Quiet is an easy read, with some interesting things to say to all sorts of people. If the subject sounds interesting to you, give it a go. Plus I would especially recommend it to anyone raising a shy or sensitive child.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Our Modern Cyber-Dystopia

I tend to see cyberpunk as an early-computer-age sci-fi remix of noir's genre tropes. Futurism of the fringes, fascinated with futility. Over on the Monsters and Manuals blog, noisms casts some thought toward what cyberpunk would look like if derived from now rather than the 1980s.
Modern cyberpunk is grass verges that are overgrown because the council can't afford to have them cut. Modern cyberpunk is abandoned industrial estates with trees growing up through the car parks. Modern cyberpunk is white-elephant airports that never had passengers or planes and have now gone to seed. Modern cyberpunk is entire towns overgrown with weeds because nobody walks anywhere anymore and only the roads need to be clear. Modern cyberpunk is waste ground full of long grass, wild flowers, nettles and bees' nests, strung out between shuttered factories. It is former farms half-reclaimed by nature because GM crops take so much less space. It is banks of solar panels and wind farms with greenery flourishing in between. It is school playing fields re-wilded through disuse. Modern cyberpunk is green.
Whether this is cyberpunk I think may be debatable, but I don't believe the observation and the sentiment behind it can be denied. As the automation age has moved out of the confines of the purely mechanical and into the realm of mathematics, its pace accelerates. At least some parts of society have not been able to adapt fast enough, or, for the more Darwinian-inclined, are being selected against. Our modern dystopia. The world as a whole is better off than ever before. And yet...

We (in America) seem to stand poised in a place where the work force is shrinking, the social safety nets are tenuous, 'The Media' is holding on by a thread, governments loudly doing nothing has given better reelection results than actually fixing anything, and no matter how much productivity improves the Corporations just want more. So yeah, maybe this is the new aesthetic of the fringe.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bookworming: Wytches, Vol. 1

Wytches Vol. 1, Scott Snyder, Jock, Matt Hollingsworth, Clem Robbins, ***
I can get into a good, creepy, psychological horror story. This is one of those. The art style, with its abstract painting overlay, gives it a dream-like quality for me. I do wish Snyder had come up with another name for his monsters as they have nothing to do with what anyone thinks of when evoking witches. If I were to criticize, I would have to say that horror fans have seen this type of story before, often. However it is a tale well told, so it gets a solid if-you-like-that-sort-of-thing recommendation.

Bookworming: East of West, Vol. 2

East of West, Volume 2: We Are All One, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, and Frank Martin, **
Sometimes I am pulled along in a story because I find the setting or premise of it more compelling than actual the execution. East of West looks to be one of these cases. Everything I said in my review for volume one remains true here. Volume 2 in my opinion is somewhat better than the first because the plotting, such as it is, tightens up. Slightly. The artwork remains wonderful. And I'm still not sure I would actually recommend it.

Bookworming: Locke and Key, Vol. 6

Locke & Key, Vol. 6: Alpha & Omega, Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez, ****
Alpha & Omega continues the series's excellent artwork and imaginative writing and brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.

Bookworming: An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir, ***
While the tropes of YA are on full display here, this is a fast-paced, dark, low fantasy tale that is well worth your time if you like the genre. The world is unique enough and the main characters drawn well enough to make it compelling. And crucially, it has an excellent villain. It tells a complete story, but very much in the style of the first in a series.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Bookworming: Locke & Key, Vol. 5

Locke & Key, Vol. 5: Clockworks, Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez, ****
As the end approaches, some of the secrets of the history of the keys are revealed. I do not have much to say on this one save the excellent art and interesting writing remain in full force, aided by something of a change in setting. If you liked the previous volumes, you will likely enjoy this as well.