the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘drama

51FDYgEMAsL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This Gulf of Time and Stars by Julie Czerneda (Reunification #1)

publishes Nov 3rd, 2015

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks DAW!)

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If you’ve been following Julie Czerneda’s writing career, the phrase “a new Clan Chronicles novel!” is music to your ears. I discovered Czerneda through her Species Imperative trilogy, and quickly fell in love with her invitingly conversational  writing style, her characterization, and the way she writes alien species. Seriously, this woman is the ultimate master of writing convincing alien species. Formally trained as a biologist, Czerneda’s plots touch on evolution,  biology, ecology, and how it’s all related.  She’ll introduce you to an alien civilization and then prove their population isn’t living on their planet of origin, she’ll give a species a strong evolutionary process and then prove that it doesn’t quite work as planned. It’s true, physics and math will get us to the stars, but it’s biology that will give us the answers to whatever and whoever we find living out there.

I think the biggest question surrounding This Gulf of Time and Stars is can readers new to this series jump in here? The answer is it depends on the reader. If you don’t mind feeling a little in the deep end (some of my favorite authors have thrown me into the deep end, to fantastic results – looking at you China Mieville and Iain M. Banks!), or you’re willing to take 5 minutes to do a little research by reading Czerneda’s informative and entertaining Big Idea post over at Scalzi’s Whatever, you’ll do fine. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers to have everything explained right off the bat, you may prefer to start earlier in the series. Generally speaking, Czerneda is the kind of author who simply doesn’t explain things right away – part of her character’s journeys involves discovering for themselves what’s going on, and how, and why. and when I say “discovering for themselves”, I don’t mean coming of age (although some of her novels would qualify as coming of age), I mean discovering genetic secrets and information that  could tear apart an entire society and species. We’re talking big picture here.

This review does have SPOILERS for the first books in the series, and some SPOILERS for This Gulf of Time and Stars.

Here’s the very quick and dirty background of the series, the characters, and the world, in which I have grossly simplified everything in the name of brevity:

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rising stars novelRising Stars by Arthur Byron Cover (based on the graphic novel by J. Michael Straczyinski

published in 2002

where I got it: purchased used

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Every so often we all need a fluff read. You know, something that will entertain you without challenging you? Fluff reads for me are usually media tie-ins, and the best kind of fluff read is a direct novelization of a comic book or movie that I liked.

A few years ago I read J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars graphic novels, and loved them. I don’t usually go for superhero stories, but Straczynski is alittle like Whedon for me – if he writes it, I am probably going to like it no matter what the subject matter was.
The novelizations of the graphic novels are by Arthur Byron Cover, but like the artists of the graphic novels, Straczynski’s story and backstory are the star of the show. It’s a little sad, actually, that I had no idea from reading this if Cover is a good author or not. But again, that’s the nice thing about really fluff novelizations – I don’t need to worry about if the author is any good or not. Cover does flesh out the world building and a lot of the character background, which I appreciated. For example, we get much more information about the political situation of the country in the late 1960s, far more time is spent follow the children during the 1970s, and characters get more inner monologue and depth.

In the late 1960’s, a meteor crashed to earth, exploding over a small midwestern town. No one thought anything of it, until a few years later. You see, all the children who were in utero at the time of the meteor were imbued with special powers. Some kids could fly, some kids were invulnerable, some kids had telepathic powers. One hundred and thirteen Special children, all who could do something different. Or least, mostly. Some children who were born right on time never manifested anything. Who knows, maybe there wasn’t enough special powers to go around? The government descends on the town to study the children, and keeps them at a local summer camp turned boarding school.

I really liked the dynamic of that these children gained superpowers simply by being in the wrong place and the wrong time. None of them have any of the classic or expected comic book superhero youth stories. None of these kids are orphans, none of them are wealthy heirs, none of them are aliens or anything. Their parents and their older siblings and their neighborhood was completely normal. But these kids are Specials. As the kids manifest and develop their powers, the government needs to ensure the Specials use their powers for the good of the country. But who decides what’s good?

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the quarryThe Quarry, by Iain Banks

published June 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

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I’m supposed to be reviewing Hugo stuff, you say?

Don’t you worry, I got plenty of that sweet stuff right around the corner for you, but when an Iain Banks shows up on your doorstep, everything else gets brushed aside. It’s like getting a Lynch, or a Rothfuss, you know?

The Quarry was Iain Banks’ final novel. It’s tough for me to even type that without getting a lump in my throat. He wrote somewhere that had he known this was going to be his last, he would have written a better book, something more epic. Personally, I think he chose a damn good one to go out on. No “M” in the name means this is plain old contemporary fiction. No spaceships, no aliens, no artificial intelligences, no galaxy spanning cultures.  It’s been ages since I read a good old novel. If they were all this good, I’d read ‘em more often.

Eighteen year old Kit lives with his dying father Guy in an old house that’s falling apart. In the final stages of terminal cancer, Guy grudgingly depends on Kit for everything, often lashing out at him in frustration. It’s never explicitly stated, but Kit is definitely on the high functioning end of the Autism spectrum.

The entire story is told in present tense from Kit’s point of view, and it’s his voice that really pulls you in.  He has so much to say, he just doesn’t quite know how to say it, or who to say it to, or why in fact, things like that even need to be said. He doesn’t understand rhetorical questions or why people just can’t say what they are thinking or feeling. Guy obviously loves his son very much, but it’s unfortunate that there are very few places where Kit is accepted for who he is. Had the story been from anyone else’s point of view, he would have been a quiet kid who faded into the background, and the reader would have missed out on an incredible character.

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After professing my love for shorter casual reviews, here’s a super long, more formal review. My exuse being I wanted to put in some cultural tidbits. Look for the italics.

Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa is the story of Yukari as she survives her senior year of high school. It’s the perfect length at five volumes: short enough that you can read the whole thing in one day, but long enough that you get a completed storyline that finishes well. Yukari is your typical Japanese high school student – school, cram school, chores, homework, repeat every boring day, spend weekends at the library studying for college entrance exams. She’s been crushing on handsome Hiroyuki for years, and maybe, finally, this year, she might get up the guts to ask him out.

Japanese cultural tidbit: Especially in the larger cities, University entrance exams are a BIG DEAL. Much bigger deal than ACTs or SATs in the United States. Many high school students sign up for cram classes that meet a few days a week including Saturdays.

One afternoon Yukari is approached by some very strange looking students who half demand, and half beg her to help them. Thus we meet Isabella, Miwako and Arashi, who are all seniors at a fashion and textiles specialty high school. Their senior project involves a highly competitive fashion project led by their team leader George, and they need a fashion model for the show. Miwako explains their fahion line is called Paradise Kiss, and they feel Yukari would be a perfect fashion model for their show. Will she help them? Read the rest of this entry »


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.