It’s the first of September and time to enjoy R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge. This time, it’s hosted by Ani and Heather at the Estella Society.

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.

Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.

As time has wound on, we’ve discovered that simple rules are best:

1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.

As Carl does each and every year, there are multiple levels of participation (Perils) that allow you to be a part of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril without adding the burden of another commitment to your already busy lives. There is even a one book only option for those who feel that this sort of reading is not their cup of tea (or who have too many other commitments) but want to participate all the same.

R.I.P. X officially runs from September 1st through October 31st.

I’ll participate in

Peril the First: Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

TBR:
Some Sherlock Holmes. It’s been far too long since I’ve read the originals.
Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives. I’ve really enjoyed the previous short story collections in this series and detectives in fantasy setting should be perfect for this challenge.
Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise books.
I have a lot of fantasy books in my TBR and they often have mystery elements, too.

Collects X-Men Forever issues 21-24 and X-Men Forever Giant-Size


Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Rodney Buchemi, Greg Adams, Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher, Daniel Hdr, Fernando Blanco

The X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Gambit, Rogue, and Shadowcat) and Nick Fury are attacking the Consortium’s space station. Nightcrawler, who has only Rogue’s absorbing power, is piloting. Fury has a mole inside who will give the mutants permission to land and they get close. Unfortunately, Consortium has made an alliance with Neo-Sentinels who notice that the space craft has mutants on board and so the X-Men are ambushed. They fight bravely but their victory costs the lives to two friends. The final issue has is a funeral but it also looks forward (to volume 2 ;)) to the stressful days ahead. SHIELD might still have Consortium agents infiltrated among them and the X-Men don’t have many friends. Still Nick Fury and the blind Sabertooth will stand by them.

Giant-Size brings back the Shi’Ar! Empress Lilandra is Xavier’s love but they’re often separated by their different duties. Now, Skrull warships have attacked Shi’Ar’s remote but well-guarded planets and Xavier’s error has made that possible. The Imperial Guard comes to earth to take Xavier so that he can answer for his “crime”. They land at Summers’ cottage and clash with X-Men and X-Factor. As an added complication, the Shi’Ar don’t know that Jean is alive and if they found out, they would try to execute her again, as Dark Phoenix. So Jean has to stay hidden. Another longtime character leaves, supposedly for good.

In the epilogue we see that the Consortium is still kicking. They’ve framed the X-Men as the people responsible for their space station’s destruction and for the death of the two heroes. The Avengers are going after X-Men.

This was an action-packed end to volume 1 and promising lead into volume 2.
I recommend these for fans of alternate universes and for hardcore X-Men fans.

Collects X-Men Forever issues 16-20

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Graham Nolan, Vincente Cifuentes, Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher, Scott Koblish

The first two issues follow Nightcrawler and Rogue in New Orleans. They were lured there by none other than Mystique herself. She admits that she’s Kurt’s mother and says that she’s worried about her kids. In the ensuing fight, Rogue is knocked unconscious and Kurt tries mouth-to-mouth. He succeeds but Rogue absorbs Kurt’s powers and appearance while Kurt looks like an ordinary, white skinned man. Mystique disappears and the two are left wondering what’s going on.

The next issue focuses on Scott who has taken a leave of absence and gone to Alaska to his family. Even though Scott’s romantic life is in ruins, his family is well otherwise: his father Corsair is staying with his parents and raising Scott’s son Nathan. That’s right: in this timeline Nathan never becomes infected with technovirus or becomes Cable. Also, Havok and Polaris stop by and it seems that they’re happily back together. The Consortium, the bad guys, try to kidnap Nathan. Of course they don’t succeed and Scott returns to the X-Men.

Through both these stories and the previous collection we’ve followed a sub plot about infiltrators in SHIELD and the next issues focus on that. Fury, SHIELD agent Daisy Dugan, Gambit, and Sabretooth have arrested agents who were apparently working for the Consortium. In these two issues, they take the Consortium head on, attack sneakily to their local headquarters, and free their prisoner. However, in the end we have more questions than answers.

There are two other subplots which don’t yet surface more: Xavier, Hank, and Moira are working furiously and Jean is wrestling with her sorry romantic life and falling for Hank. I really don’t care for that Jean plot because she apparently doesn’t have anything else to do.

I really liked the way that Rogue and Kurt’s powers switched. It turns out that this might be permanent. Kurt has to try to live in a normal body where his appearance doesn’t scare anyone and Rogue has to deal with a tail, three fingers and toes in each hand/foot, and people being scared of her. The collection ends in a cliffhanger which leads to the next collection’s showdown.

The first in a military SF series.

Publication year: 1993
Format: ebook, available for free on Kindle and on baenebooks.com
Publisher: Baen

Commander Honor Harrington of Manticoran Space Navy has finally gotten her own warship, the HMS Fearless. Even though it’s a light cruiser, it’s still a serious military space ship. However, Honor’s joy quickly turns to dismay when she finds out that the ship’s armament is being changed into something that looks good on paper but doesn’t work in reality. During Fleet exercises, that’s proven rather bitterly and to make things worse, the crew blames their new captain. Even Honor’s executive officer McKeown is just going though motions and not really serving her or the ship.

After the spectacular failure, HMS Fearless is exiled to Basilisk Junction, a place where all the Navy’s worst are sent. Basilisk has a single alien planet, Medusa, with native aliens whose tech level is about Bronze Age level. The Star Kingdom of Manticore annexed it because the star system is next to hyperspace jump points and therefore important trade point. However, the planet and the aliens are something of an embarrassment to some important Manticoreans so the Navy doesn’t police it at all like it should. The current senior Navy officer uses the opportunity and leaves, so Honor becomes the de-facto senior officer. She faces an impossible situation: to police a heavily trafficked jump point with just one ship and a crew who doesn’t trust her. But she’s determined to do her best.

However, her actions soon anger some important people in her own country and also important neighbors. And one of those neighbors seem to be up to no good.

Honor is described as a young woman but she seemed to really be in her forties; she’s received a treatment to lengthen her lifespan. She’s every bit a model Navy officer; determined and ruthless when needed but also compassionate even to her underlings. But she keeps a cool, detached face to her crew. Still, she clearly has feelings and she sometimes has to work to keep them in check. The fact that her crew doesn’t trust her, hurts her deeply and yet she’s determined to do her best for them. She has to overcome a lot of obstacles, both near and far. She also drinks hot chocolate instead of coffee, just like me. 

For the most part, this a fun and exciting military adventure. However, it does have quite a lot of politics; Manticore’s internal and external politics. I found them a bit hard to follow because the scenes introduced a lot of people who were seen just a few times. There were more than a few info dumps, too, about technical stuff which I wasn’t much interested in and about the various politics. Most of them were at the beginning of the book but one was put in the middle of a fight and was quite distracting.

One thing, which I really enjoyed was that many of the soldiers were women and that wasn’t a strange thing. They were marines and navy people alike, most dedicated and hardworking but there were a few bad apples, too. In other words, women as people! Most of the commanding officers seem to be male, though.

The final battle was epic but unfortunately the motives made it pretty much pointless, which was disappointing.

I enjoyed most of the book and might continue with the series at some point.

Collects X-Men Forever issues 11-15

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher, Peter Vale, Al Vey, Gary Martin, Terry Pallot

Colossus didn’t come to Wolverine’s funeral so Kitty takes Gambit and Little Ororo with her to Russia to see that Peter’s OK. They come just in time to save Peter from a couple of armored people. It turns out that Peter has joined the Russian Winter Guard, which is led by Natasha Romanova, the Black Widow. Then, Illyana is kidnapped.

In this world, Illyana was Magik but she returned to a little girl during “Inferno” storyline and was living with her parents in Russia. When they hear about the kidnapping, the group rushes to find out where the girl is. Illyana has been taken by a man calling himself the Cossack and he has unleashed Illyana’s dark side as Dark Magik and has turned her against her friends.

The story focuses on Kitty who has to fight her former best friend and how she tries to save Illyana from, essentially, Illyana’s own dark side. Unfortunately, she doesn’t succeed and Illyana escapes to Limbo.

A second storyline follows Jean who seems to be developing feelings for Hank. It seems increasingly out of character for her to jump from one man to the next. Also, some of the SHIELD agents seem to be spying on the X-Men.

The last issue focuses on the character who betrayed the X-Men: Storm. She’s fled to Wakanda, where T’Challa took her in even though Fury warned him that Storm isn’t who she appears to be. Interestingly enough, it seemed that there aren’t actual evidence against her; just the X-Men’s word.

This was another action packed collection but still not quite as good as the first one. The Dark Magic four issue arc was quite good with just the sort of alternate world goodness I like and the final issue moves forward the Storm storyline.

Collects X-Men Forever issues 6-10

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Paul Smith, Terry Austin, Steve Scott, Al Vey

The sentinels are back and they’re bigger and badder than ever!

In the previous collection, this X-Men team (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Shadowcat, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Gambit, Beast, Prof X, and a very young Ororo) faced a shocking revelation, an apparent betrayal by one of their own, and Wolverine’s death, but they don’t get a breather. The Danger Room malfunctions and then they get a distress call for SHIELD. SHIELD’s team in South America went silent and only a huge footprint is seen. Jean, Hank, Kitty, Rogue, and Kurt leave to investigate and are confronted by huge Sentinels.

We readers get to know more about the Consortium which are the shadowy bad guys this time around. Literally, since the characters are shown as only shadows when discussing about the X-Men and their plans.

The final issue brings together a lot of X-Men’s friends and allies for Logan’s funeral.

This was another action packed collection. Some of the X-Men talk a little about their issues but many of them are feeling betrayed and hurt, and just lashing out against each other. A bit surprisingly one of the most hostile X-Men is Kitty, but she’s gone through a strange transformation: she now has one of Wolverine’s claws and apparently some of his temper, as well, and isn’t interested in letting the resident scientists look at her. One wildcard is Sabertooth. Storm’s attack earlier burned out his eyes and he’s been staying in the mansion while he recuperates. He’s at odds with Gambit a lot but no-one is happy about him staying there. Still, the first collection had a lot more unexpected twists and it was emotinally far more intense.

While the person behind the return of the Sentinels is revealed, they and the Consortium clearly have big plans so nothing is really resolved. Except maybe Wolverine’s death, because this is alternate world.


Publication year: 2014
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours (includes the novella Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome)
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Wil Wheaton and a group of narrators for the novella

The SF premise for the book is a disease, a strain of bird flu, which has wiped out a lot of humanity. But about one percent of the afflicted suffer from “lock in”: they’re fully conscious but can’t move or respond to any stimulus. It’s called Haden’s syndrome. This is millions of people and because the wife of the president of USA was one of the first victims, USA spent a whole lot of money and time to find a cure. They didn’t find it but they did manage to find a way for the lock in people to interact with the world. They have neural implants which allow them to take over a robot body or interact with each other in a virtual world. The story starts 25 years later, when Hadens (as they are called) are part of the US society.

The book is actually a police procedural. The main character is Chris Shane who has just started working in the FBI. She or he (the gender is actually never revealed) is suffering from lock in and works with a robot body. His/her partner is Leslie Vann who has her own issues and an interesting past. They are given a tough case which at first looks like it could be murder but might be suicide.

This is exactly the kind of SF I enjoy and I really liked Lock in. Scalzi takes a premise and then extrapolates how it would change a world much like ours. There are people who hate Hadens and legislation is done concerning the robot bodies (threeps). But some Hadens are media darlings.

The novella is available for free here: http://www.tor.com/2014/05/13/unlocked-an-oral-history-of-hadens-syndrome-john-scalzi/ It’s quite different in style from the book and it showcases the world very well. It’s done in a TV documentary style with statements from people who were near the center of things when the disease first started. Each person has just a paragraph or two but most of them have personalities which show through. The novella shows how people and the government reacted to the outbreak of the disease and then how people’s opinions about the Hadens and the robot bodies grow and change.

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