I won’t claim Young Adult speculative fiction as my main interest, though lately, it does feel like I’ve been on a YA kick. I like picking it up occasionally, but it always seems like my favorite books in the genre are the ones that can be enjoyed by all ages, the ones that don’t scream “YA!” the instant I open the book and meet its teenage protagonists. You know what I mean.
|From the Corner Ink Journal blog|
Immortality is boring. This is one of the aspects of stories about immortality that I enjoy, but not many of the stories I’ve read deal with this. Or rather, they don’t focus on the desire of an immortal to move on. I was attracted to The Remortal specifically because this was the plot of the book. An immortal, Van Giles, is tired of his life on earth and wants to ascend to something greater in the unknown beyond. To do so, he needs a successor to kill him and take his place as an immortal. In a street teen named Telly Gonis, Van sees a good person in a bad situation and determines Telly to be the perfect choice.
There are other immortals in the book, each descending from a noble line, including the White Lotus Society, Julius Caesar and Spanish nobility. They are not entirely pleased with Van’s choice of successor. Nor are the pleased with Van’s choice to ascend in the first place. Or with Van in general, for that matter. There was potential for the story to focus too much on the concept of upper class versus lower class but, while the other immortals do have concerns, I really liked the way Isler let the others deal with Telly personally and come to their own conclusions beyond mere snobbery. I also liked the way Telly is torn over his loyalty to Van and all the choices that became wrapped up with the ascension process.
Van begins as a mostly likeable character with rational motivations, but once Telly agrees, Van’s “training” process reveals a cruelty that the other immortals already knew existed and fear will pass on into the afterlife. Van’s influence, along with the training and abilities Telly gains during the ascension process, change Telly from the innocent young man he was. Again, it would have been easy to turn this into a simple case of “Van is actually evil and Telly must free himself from that evil influence!” but I appreciate that Isler made things more complex than that.
Telly has to come to terms with his new self, his motivations, the choices given him by the other immortals, and Van. He also has to deal with the fate of his best friend, Mattie. Telly is presented as a reasonable character who does have a good heart and is able to show emotion without the story dwelling longer than necessary. There is one particular plot point with the Tree of Life that I’m not entirely certain was necessary to Telly’s progress, but otherwise, I enjoyed Telly’s journey and liked that I wasn’t entirely sure what Telly would choose to do in the end. I also didn’t expect the other immortals to make certain decisions in the end, though I suspected Telly’s friendship with Mattie and the circumstances of Mattie’s health would play a role.
This morning, I wanted to buy a new book when I saw it featured on Goodreads and was intrigued by the description. I clicked the link which took me to Amazon.com, but was greeted with a now familiar message:
I dutifully obeyed the implied instructions and went to Amazon.ca:
The premise involves the existence of supernatural beings, “Others,” who choose to ally themselves with the Light or the Dark. Both sides, through the Nightwatch and Daywatch respectively, keep a close eye on each other in order to maintain the uneasy truce between them. The story takes place in Russia, but indicates that the watches exist worldwide.
Anton, the main character, is a member of the Nightwatch who’s assignment, a young boy named Igor, is being hunted by vampires. Igor is an Other who has yet to come into his powers and therefore has not yet chosen a side. Anton crosses paths with a woman named Svetlana whom he realizes has been cursed. In this story, curses, even the little ones we utter in moments of frustration or jest, can be deadly if left unchecked. Whatever curse has been inflicted on Svetlana has the potential to destroy the entire city and it becomes the goal of the Nightwatch to find the source and stop it, while protecting Igor from the Daywatch.
This is one of the few cases where a movie far outshines the book. Lost in translation is always a problem when a book is literally translated into another language and culture, but that was not an issue for me here. I felt that the book spent a lot of time with convoluted plots that Anton would figure out without actually letting the reader in on the process. The characters weren’t particularly interesting or well developed. The purpose of the whole mystery seemed to change and lose focus along the way and, well, I eventually just got bored of the plot twists
The movie, on the other hand, was very interesting. It boiled the story down to its essence, gave it far more purpose in a pithy manner and strengthened several other elements, including the main character and his motivations. The movie was more focused than the book with the overriding issue of the curse and the conflict between Dark and Light, allowing far greater character and relationship building, even within the time constraints of a film setting. The end result was a truly engaging story with an unexpected ending.
The only issue I had with the film was that, initially, it was very visually chaotic. I assume the goal of this was to shock and frighten, as the opening scenes involved a gory battle between Anton and a pair of vampires. It helped that I’d read a few chapters of the book before watching, so that I could piece the chaos together a bit better. Fortunately, the visual chaos settled down after this.
I finished the rest of the book after watching the movie, but it was a struggle to do so because of how often the plot meandered off in various directions.
|As painted by Lee Moyer for the 2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar|
Who is Phèdre no Delaunay de Montrève? Born flawed by a scarlet mote in her left eye and given an ill-luck name, Phèdre was sold into indenture at Cereus House when her parents, traveling merchants, ran out of funds. Her flaw and her rebellious nature made others certain that she would amount to very little, until Anafiel Delaunay recognized her as an anguissette, one who derives pleasure from pain. It is said that the gods use their chosen hard – an understatement for Phèdre, chosen by Kushiel, the punisher. Beginning in the book Kushiel’s Dart, Phèdre’s adventures would take her across the world, through wars, conspiracies, violence and love to become the most desired courtesan in all of Terre d’Ange and beyond. But who is she? As a child, Phèdre could never accept her apparent fate. She constantly ran away from Cereus House, intent on seeing what was beyond the walls of the Night Court and reveling in the danger. When the Dowayne of Cereus House discovered Phèdre cutting herself and taking pleasure in the pain, the Dowayne obeyed her instincts and summoned Anafiel Delaunay. As a member of Delaunay’s house, Phèdre truly came into her own. Delaunay allowed her every opportunity to learn and her inquisitive and brilliant mind gobbled it all up. As long as she did not defy him or common courtesy and protocol, Delaunay encouraged her willingness to speak her mind. She came to understand the power of knowledge, as this was all part of Delaunay’s plans. Where best to learn the secrets of men and women but in the bedroom and, as an anguissette who chose to study Naamah’s arts, Phèdre was highly desired. Circumstances painfully removed Delaunay from her life and whisked her away to the northern wilds. Despite being raised in a lifestyle of indulgence in the Night Court, Phèdre is an incredibly adaptable woman and her will to survive ensured that she not only endured her exile in Skaldia, but ensured that her then protector, Joscelin Verreuil, survived too. For those she loves or considers to be under her protection, there is no end that Phèdre will not go for her friends. Whether she is forced by fate or it is of her own choosing, she is an unstoppable force when it comes to those she cares for. Being chosen by Kushiel could be considered a curse by many, but Phèdre embraces it and its responsibilities, no matter how cruelly fate leads her. If Phèdre makes a promise, it will be kept. I consider Phèdre to be warrior woman – not one that wears armour or bears a weapon. Phèdre’s armour and weapons are her mind and body. She earns loyalty and respect through her compassion and willingly submits when she deems it necessary. Through all things, Phèdre endures.
I maintain a sordid, lovehate relationship with Marvel Comics, but back in the 1990s, there was a time when we kind of sort of broke up. That is to say, I cheated on Marvel. With Image Comics. I know I know, but you have to understand that I was young and naive and easily swayed by the shiny!
I followed my favourite X-Men artists, Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri over to Wildstorm and jumped head first into Cyberforce and WildCATs. Some intelligent part of me was aware that these books were just X-Men with shinier costumes and bigger boobs, but I persevered, picking up other titles like GEN13, Wetworks and Witchblade. I became a Disciple of the Blade, I moderated Top Cow message boards for Fathom (RIP Michael Turner), designed outfits for Pez and I was (am) hopelessly smitten with Ian Nottingham.
But eventually, I grew up.
The thing is, so did Image.
Over the past few years, I’ve slowly been getting back into the comic book scene and more often than not, Image books are popping back up on my radar. Long gone are the days of extremely perky nipples and spine-adjusted women. Image now boasts Eisner Award winning titles. A friend recently stubbornly spoke about how he’d never read another Image comic after he too had woken up from the foil covered ’90s. But when my friends and I started listing off some of the fantastic titles Image has been pushing out for the past while, he realized he’d been reading and loving Image Comics all along.
A lot of credit goes to their push for creator owned comics. A lot of comic companies accept original submissions, but I doubt you’ll ever see that happening with DC and Marvel. Image has opened its doors and as a result, we’ve gotten some really amazing and off the wall books. Not all of them are good, but all of them feature some fantastic ideas. Yes, even Ziggy Marley’s Marijuana Man has its merits. Here are just a few of the goodies that we’ve reviewed here at The BiblioSanctum.
Not to mention Saga, Mind the Gap, Fatale and a little something called The Walking Dead. These days, its hard not to make a list of critically acclaimed comics and not find a few Image titles on there. Image still has some of its old titles like Witchblade and Cyberforce, but even those books have matured. I’ve not read the new versions yet, but I definitely want to.
As if I need another book-related site to belong to, I’ve recently discovered Worlds Without End, a fan-run community site for award-winning science fiction, fantasy and horror books. Their motto is “We don’t want you to ever have to read a bad book again.” In theory, I don’t agree with that notion because not all award-winning books are to everyone’s liking and not all non-award winning books are bad. Focusing only on award-winning reads means missing a lot of gold!
Not that choosing to focus on award-winning, recognized books is a bad thing. What the site chooses to focus on is, of course, their prerogative. Says Dave Post of Worlds Without End:
“The goal of the site is to give you the tools to find the best books for you. We’re not suggesting that you only read the award winning books but the awards do give you a glimpse into what was considered the best or at least what was popular for any given year. We cover a bunch of different awards so you can find the ones that you like and compare the awards and best of lists to see what rises to the top. From there you can read reviews and excerpts and talk to other folks about the books you’re interested in and hone in on the likely ones for you. Time has not been kind to all the award winners and there are more than a few right out stinkers in there too. We hope to help you avoid those where we can.”
WWE is a well organized and active site inviting you to discover great books. Sign up and you gain access to their BookTrackr that tracks your reading history, highlighting your statistics towards reading all the award winning/nominated books and/or books on various lists of recognition. There are the typical book giveaways, interviews, podcasts, forums and a lot more.
They also run challenges, such as the 2013 Woman of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge, which resulted in me staying up too late last night adding books to my reading list and selecting the authors I want to read for the challenge. Twelve authors for twelve months, including reviews. Gee, how ever will I manage? Challenges like this will help me chip away at that massive to-read pile, helping me to focus on what to read next. Since I’m starting five months late, I don’t feel guilty using some of the books I’ve already read this year.
It’s the year 2076. After all the information we’ve ever uploaded online is suddenly released for everyone to see, privacy has become a sacred right valued by everyone. Well, almost everyone. Where there are secrets, there will always be paparazzi. In this case, the paparazzi become private detectives, hunting the secrets behind the secret identities that everyone is now wearing. The story follows P.I., a private detective hired to dig up any information on his client who happens to be involved with a very dangerous man.
This comic will make you think twice the next time you make a payment online or save something to a cloud. And the irony is that this comic is only available online. In a trendy move, the creators behind Panel Syndicate have made their comic available in digital format only, for the low low price of whatever the hell you want! Funds from sales will be used to publish future issues, which have been made available worldwide, with increasing translations available.
The Private Eye is a futuristic throwback with generous nods to the detective stories of yesteryear. Technology exists and pops up in unexpected places, but with everyone now fearful of revealing who they really are, all the things we take for granted now, like cellphones and driver’s licenses, are dangerous commodities to own. The world presented is recognizable as a very possible, not so distant future. I’m reminded of the recent #Nymwars that occurred when Google+ demanded that users give up their pseudonyms. Many of us ended up conceding, despite knowing full well that the purpose behind Google’s decision is all about marketing to advertisers who want to market to us.
Normally, I am very lenient when reviewing the first few books in a new comic. I allow a grace period for the stories and characters to present themselves and develop. But sometimes, the creators really nail everything in the first go. That’s the case here with the characters, the society and then the mystery pouncing on the reader and firmly taking hold. Toss in some sleek art, and I was sold.
This was a book I had high hopes for, ever since finding out what it was about. At some point in our childhoods, I’m sure all of us bibliophiles have wished that the worlds in our favorite books were real, and wondered what it would be like to interact with with its characters and objects.
This book features a magic system that plays around with the general basis of that idea. The protagonist Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of a secret organization who possesses the ability to reach inside books and pull out objects in their stories. One day Isaac is attacked by a group of vampires, and discovers that they have been targeting other magic users as well. Together with the dryad Lena, Isaac finds himself tasked with solving the mystery of the attacks as well as the kidnapping of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the movable-type printing press…and Libriomancer founder and leader.
First of all…ugh, why did it have to be vampires?
Seriously though, this was a good book. Even with the vampires. My issues with it, however, have more to do with my hangups with the Libriomancy magic system. Not to sound disparaging, because I don’t deny it’s a great idea and sounds awesome on paper (it’s what first attracted me to the book, remember) but the application of it here was just…messy.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the challenges here. After all, the Libriomancers’ ability to reach into books and pull out objects has got to be like the most over-powered superpower ever. This story must have been a plotting nightmare with all the deux ex machina moments just waiting to happen. It just makes sense that logically with so many books in publication, someone somewhere sometime must have written something that would be able to get our hero and his friends out of any and all troublesome situations the bad guys throw at them.
Apparently, the solution to that is to put in rules. Rules like Libriomancers can only pull out smaller objects, no bigger than the size of the open book which is the magical “window” to the world of the book. Or that certain books with dangerous or disgustingly powerful objects are magically “locked” which prevent Libriomancers to bring them into existence. Hermione’s Time-Turner device in the Harry Potter series would be a perfect example.
As a result, every chapter you’ll get an info dump, Isaac guiding and explaining the nuts and bolts behind the Libriomancy magic system — what you can do and what you can’t do. It’s unfortunately very distracting, and I started to wonder after a while if I wouldn’t have preferred to put all that out of my mind and simply enjoyed the story, plot holes and all. I love cool magic systems, but Libriomancy just doesn’t seem to be one that lends itself to grow naturally in a reader’s mind. Like I said, great idea, but it’s not so fun when you’re always finding inconsistencies and then waiting for the narrator to explain them.
Other than that, this book wasn’t bad. I liked the main character, even though for a smart guy Isaac has a terrible habit of not thinking things through when he does them. He has a very single-minded way of looking at a problem and isn’t above threatening his hostages with remotely-activated exploding brain implants in order to get his way. Oh, and he’s constantly distracted by Lena and ogling her like a horny adolescent.
Okay, so I didn’t like those aspects of him so much. But what I did like was his sense of wonder and motivation to learn new things. When Isaac isn’t constantly distracted by Lena, he’s constantly distracted by his curiosity and desire to find out why or how things work, which makes him instantly relatable. His love for books comes through, and also reinforces his character and makes him seem more real. When he goes into a bookstore he claims the books “speak” to him, but the way he describes it makes me doubt Libriomancy has much to do with it; every book lover can tell you how walking between the shelves of a store or library and seeing all those books can make them feel giddy and happy. There’s no real magic in it, but I think it’s something magical nonetheless, and the author captured those emotions very well in his characterization of Isaac.
Anyway, if you enjoy books with plots that are fast-paced and constantly driven forward by a whole bunch of things happening at once, then Libriomancer definitely fits the bill. I’ll admit a lot of it was too convoluted and outrageous for me (and this coming from a diehard fan of The Dresden Files series) but if action-packed and bombastic urban fantasy stories are your thing, this book might be worth checking out.