The first book in the Primordia modern day fantasy (or sci-fi, depending on how you look at it) series.

37538106._sy475_

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 58 minutes
Narrator: Sean Mangan

Ben Cartwright is a former Special Forces soldier who quit after a couple of tours. When his father died suddenly from a heart attack, he returns home to comfort his mom. There, he meets again his high school sweetheart Emma and his other old friends.

While going through his father’s stuff, Ben stumbles on letters between his great-grandfather and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It seems that the men were friends. Ben’s great-grandfather, also called Benjamin, was an explorer and an adventurer. He even died during one of his adventures: looking for a valley full of dinosaurs in Venezuela! He wrote about the search to Doyle who was inspired to write a book called the Lost World.

Ben and his friends decide to search for the hidden plateau. One of his friends is a tech millionaire so it’s easy for him to finance the trip. But first, they need to go to England to find Ben senior’s journal for the clues to find the hidden place.

The modern-day narration, in 2018, is interrupted from time to time by the short adventures of Ben senior in 1908 when he’s running from terrible danger among strange creatures. In addition to the two Bens, the book has several other POV characters, including their adversary who is determined to find the place first.

Our heroes are an usual group for an adventure book. Emma is a rock climbing instructor. She’s in excellent condition and no damsel in distress even though she’s the love interest. Andrea the actress wants to come, too, because she wants to become famous if they find the lost plateau. Dan is the bored millionaire who finances the trip. Steve comes because Andrea is coming. Later, a zoologist joins them. Even though they are in their thirties, luckily none of them have obligations that stop them from leaving in a couple of days’ notice.

This was a fast-paced adventure, once you get past the beginning. The second half of the book is a constant battle for survival against both humans and other enemies. I haven’t read Doyle’s the Lost World, and I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I had read it first. It ends in a cliffhanger.

This a light adventure story and I quite enjoyed it.

A slice of life humor manga set in a high school. The main characters are demons and angels.

34733267._sy475_

Finnish publication year: 2014
Finnish publisher: Sangatsu Manga
Format: print
Finnish translator: Antti Valkama

Page count: 147

This is a weird one. Right in the beginning, Gabriel White Tenma is a new angel who has just graduated from angel academy with the highest honors. She’s eager to go to Earth and help humans. But when we see her next, she’s a slacker. She’s only interested in playing MMORPGs and is in danger of failing both Earthly high school and possibly her angelic support as well. She doesn’t really care about anything outside video games and the others have to coax her out of her apartment.

Her friend Vignette April Tsukinose is a demon but she’s the opposite of Gabriel. She attends school and makes Gabriel attend, too. She’s very responsible, almost angel-like. However, sometimes when she really wants something, she can be manipulative. The other major demon is Satanichia who wants to become the mistress of Hell. But the evil things she does are pretty minor even though she thinks they’re major evil. She’s a bit naive. The other angel is Raphiel who is, again, not very angelic. She manipulates people (and demons) for fun. She becomes obsessed with Satanichia and stalks her.

This group of sort-of-friends attends classes and wacky things happen. Gabi also works one day a week at a cafe. She’s terrible at it but the poor cafe owner assumes that Gabi is young and a foreigner so not just tolerates her but also encourages her when she gets even something right. The angels have small angelic powers, but for Gabi they don’t really work and she doesn’t use them much. But Raphiel can teleport to Satanichia when she wants.

As is usual for humor, most of the chapters work for me but some don’t. It’s a nice change of pace every once in a while. The Finnish edition also has explanations about a couple of Japanese cultural things, such as food and eating customs, which I found fascinating.

Gabriel Dropout is also an anime, but I haven’t seen it.

A stand-alone murder mystery set in Oxford.

497723

Publication year: 2007
Finnish publisher: Gummerus
Format: print
Finnish translator: Raimo Salminen

Page count: 373 (including about ten pages of the historical facts behind the book)

Someone is killing young women, taking an organ, and leaving a strange coin in the place where the organ used to be. The murderer doesn’t leave behind clues except that he or she seems to be very skilled. The police are desperate to catch them but don’t have anything to go on.

Laura Niven is a former New York crime journalist and now a writer who has come to Oxford to research her next book. She’s staying with Philip Bainbridge, her former lover and current friend. About twenty years ago, Laura became pregnant but chose to return to the USA rather than stay in London and marry Philip. Philip maintains contact with Laura and their daughter Jo. In fact, Jo is now in Oxford as a student.

Philip is a police photographer. He has just met Laura when he’s called to a crime scene. Laura is too curious and sees not only the body but the strange coin. Her curiosity is piqued and she researches it. The coin leads her to a historical trail. The murders seem to be related to alchemy and astrology and the famous Sir Isaac Newton who was as much an alchemist as a scientist.

This is an entertaining serial killer story inspired by history. It has multiple POV characters, including Newton himself and a couple of other men during his time. The killer is also a POV character, although they’re not identified in those passages, and the murders are quite gruesome. The ties to the occult were the most interesting part of the book. I also really enjoyed the short chapters set in the 17th century.

Philip and Laura are both pretty successful in their lives. Still, they have regrets about the choices they’ve made. They’re curious and pretty intelligent people. They’re both still attracted to each other but are content to just stay friends. Detective John Monroe is another significant POV character. He’s an experienced detective who has reasons to scoff at anything smelling of supernatural.

Apparently, White has written more than a few non-fiction books and knows the history of the occult pretty well. It shows.

The first book in the Jurassic Park duology.

12773191

Publication year: 1990
Finnish publisher: Tammi

Finnish publication year: 1992
Format: print
Finnish translator: Tarmo Haarala

Page count: 518

I’m a huge fan of the Jurassic Park movie series. I saw the first Jurassic Park film in the movies and it was a huge experience to see the dinosaurs on-screen. I read this book over ten years ago and have only dim memories of it. The memories were accurate.

The film is pretty faithful to the book, except that it omitted characters and shortened scenes and left some scenes out. In fact, the book starts with a family vacationing on a beach and small dinosaurs attack a little girl, just like the beginning of the second movie. The beginning of the book has quite a few background scenes; we get to the park about 150 pages in. And the changes made the film better.

New gene technology allows scientists to extract dinosaur DNA from insects that have been preserved in amber and to add reptile DNA to it, to fix it. Hammond wants to make a dinosaur park for wealthy people and especially wealthy kids. But some of his financiers have started to become nervous and demands the experts will evaluate the park. So, Hammond brings in two paleontologists, Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler. The financiers’ lawyer Gennaro is afraid that the park will be a disaster and he brings in Ian Malcolm, a chaos theorist. If you’ve seen the movie you know what happens. 🙂

The book is deeper and longer than the film. Ellie is a minor character compared to her role in the book, which is the only thing I didn’t really care for. The book works very well. Perhaps the most boring aspects are Malcolm’s lectures about how science will fail because scientists have become too arrogant and because science doesn’t take into account the chaos of life.

The ending is also different, more bloody and ambiguous.

The book has a lot of POVs, especially in the first third which jumps from the family on the beach to the doctor examining the girl to a rival genetics company that pays Nedrey to get samples from the dinosaurs. But the rest of the book also has several POVs from Alan Grant to Timmy who is Hammond’s grandson to Hammond to Ellie to game warden Muldoon to the main engineer John Arnold who is desperately trying to get the computers to work again.

Malcolm starts to warn the reader that everything will go wrong, even before we see the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs are, of course, the center of the book. Some of them are more intelligent than in the movie. There’s even a suggestion that since they’re related to birds, some of them could be migratory. I loved the descriptions!

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I intend to read the sequel soon.

Collects Green Lanterns issues 1-6.

Writer: Sam Humphries

Artists: Ethan van Sciver, Ed Benes, Robson Rocha, Jay Leinstein, Tom Derenick, Jack Herbert, Neil Edwards, Eduardo Pansica, Will Conrad

Publisher: DC

This is the Rebirth Green Lanterns, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz. They’re both very new to GLs and struggling with both their new powers and duties. Jessica is pretty open that she doesn’t think she’s worth the ring. She has an anxiety disorder and didn’t leave her home for years. She also feels guilty, because her friends died (murdered in some other comic I think) and she ran away and lived. Simon also feels guilty about causing a car accident that left his sister’s husband in a coma for years. His sister doesn’t blame Simon, though. Simon has little experience with the ring but Jessica has none and she can’t even form objects with it. He thinks that she’s a screw-up and she simply doesn’t like him.

In the first issue, we get a little glimpse of their lives and personalities before the ring calls them to action. Hal appears to inform that he’s leaving Earth and they must work as partners. He also claims that the JLA will train the duo. Unfortunately, the training didn’t happen.

Next, our heroes are thrust to action trying to round up aliens. When they find instead a lair of a serial killer, the people in the town are justifiably angry. But their anger grows to unnatural rage. That’s the effect of Rew Dawn, the big threat in this volume. Jess and Simon must find out the source of the rage and put a stop to it.

Both GLs are rookies just learning to use their rings. Simon knows more about it than Jess, though. Both also have very strong inner demons to wrestle with. It was interesting to see a superhero with an anxiety disorder but I’m don’t know if it was handled well. At one point Jess was almost paralyzed with fear but then she just talked herself out of it, which a bit seemed strange. The way that the woman was the anxiety and fear-driven wreck and also a total rookie and the man is an overconfident hotshot who teaches the woman how her own ring works is… well, it’s nothing new. The characters are fine but surprisingly old school. I rather liked their supporting cast. Jessica’s sister is supportive. Simon’s sister’s family supports him.

I’ve only seen these characters in the Rebirth JLA but they seemed to be created before Rebirth, because both have lots of history which are only briefly explored in this volume. I’m also not familiar with the Red Dawn duo of Bleez and Atrocitus. We get Bleez’s tragic backstory which was nice.

The art team is very variable. But their styles work together enough that the changing artists didn’t really bother me.

I feel that this comic was done for long-time GL readers rather than someone new. But I still mostly enjoyed it. Both characters must struggle with their inner demons while they battle very powerful enemies and try to work together.

Collects Age of X-Man: X-Tremists issues 1-5.

44006852._sy475_

Writer: Leah Williams

Artist: Georges Jeanty

Nate Grey created a utopia for mutants, an alternate reality where everyone is a mutant. The biggest threats in this world are intimate relationships. Love, both romantic and familial, is forbidden. Of course, people still have these dangerous feelings so Nate needs Department X to remove them. Psylocke, Iceman, Northstar, Blob, Jubilee, and Moneta are Department X. Bobby is his old self, joking as much as he can. Jean-Paul is trying to ignore Bobby as much as possible and is more interested in books than working. Betsy carries the heavy load of altering mutants’ memories “for their own good”. Blob is the team leader, but he has feelings of his own toward one of the team members. Jubilee believes in the cause and works her best. Moneta is a new character. She hates anyone who has feelings of love and calls them retrograde.

The team gets a tip about two lovers and heads out to arrest them. Psylocke is supposed to remove their memories of each other. But they find out that the woman, Nezumi, is pregnant. Children are cooked up artificially and no hospital can help in a delivery. What will Department X do? Also, we readers find out more about secrets behind how this society is held together.

Williams explores what the world would be like without intimacy on both societal and a more personal level. How the people must constantly guard against their own feelings and hide them from others. And ultimately how that’s going to fail. However, creating a new character to be the prejudiced idiot felt a bit of a cop out, but of course making an established character into one would alienate the fans of that character. Blob had surprising depth. I rather enjoyed the relationship between Blob and his crush, but I don’t see them getting together in the real world. Too bad we’re not going to see any repercussions of this series in the real world. None of these characters are my favorites but they were an interesting mix, especially as I don’t see any of them joining a secret police force for real.

A murder mystery aboard a spaceship! A stand-alone SF book.

28962996._sy475_

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours 44 minutes
Narrator: Mur Lafferty

The Dormire is a generation starship which is traveling to Artemis, a planet very suitable for human habitation. Most of its cargo is sleeping humans who want to inhabit the planet. It also has a wake crew of six clones. The clones are all criminals who were promised a fresh start if they successfully get the Dormire to Artemis.

But something has gone terribly wrong. Maria, the ship’s junior maintenance officer, wakes up in a brand-new cloned body. Everyone else is waking up, too. Someone has killed them all. Their previous, dead, bodies float around them. The cloning equipment has been sabotaged so that no new cloned bodies can be made. The age of the previous clones, the dead bodies, suggests that they have been on the journey for several decades. But all the clones’ memories start at the beginning of the journey. Their memory downloads after it has been destroyed and the ship’s logs are also gone. The ship’s AI is offline, too.

The crew must find out what happened, who killed them, and why. But without any recent logs and memories, that’s tough. All the six members used to be criminals and they all have secrets. The crew is Katrina the captain, Wolfgang her second-in-command and security officer, Maria the junior maintenance officer, Hiro the programmer, Joanna the medical officer, and Paul the ship engineer.

This was a fascinating book. We get to slowly know the stories of the six people and why they decided to join the crew. But we also get to know about the future history of human cloning which was fascinating, as well. In this world, clones are essentially immortal because they can download their minds to the next clone indefinitely. This has, of course, huge implications not just societally but also for the individuals. Lafferty explores them. There are draconian laws to try to prevent any abuse of that system. For example, it’s not legal to have more than one clone of the same person at the same time. Even if someone has cloned you against your will or knowledge, you will be punished, as well.

This was a very enjoyable book. It has both an engaging mystery and wonderful world-building.

A stand-alone satire of an adventure fantasy book. 30th-anniversary edition.

438353

Publisher: Mariner

Publication year: 2007
Format: print

Page count: 456 which includes two introductions, an explanation to Buttercup’s Baby, the short excerpt of Buttercup’s Baby, and Reading group discussion points.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Princess Bride movie so I decided to read the book, as well. It’s an odd book, as parodies tend to be. But I think most people know that already.

It shouldn’t work because of the structure, and according to GoodReads’ reviews, it didn’t work for a lot of people. I enjoyed it for the most part.

Goldman creates a construct of himself as the narrator of the book. He claims that Morgenstern wrote the actual books and he just cut off all the dull parts and made an abridgment. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on the reader, Goldman makes his narrator present pretty much all the time. At the beginning of every chapter, he tells us what he has cut and why. Then the ”good parts” of the chapter start. Unfortunately, that constantly interrupts the reading and reminds us that we are, indeed, reading a book.

The second point is that the characters are caricatures or archetypes. Buttercup is beautiful, Westley is a daring lover, Fezzik is a dumb giant, Inigo’s life is centered on fencing and getting revenge on the six-fingered man who murdered his father, Humperdinck is ruthless. We get a little bit more of them in the book, such as Fezzik’s and Inigo’s childhood. But they’re not three-dimensional characters. They’re not supposed to be. Yet, they’re endearing and memorable to many.

Well, ok. Fezzik get a surprising amount of depth in the book. But not the others. In fact, it seemed to me that if Buttercup had been plain, Westley wouldn’t have loved her. That’s not a message you want to send to all teeange girls watching or reading. Or boys, either. And in the book, Westley slaps Buttercup. Just no.

So, I ended up enjoying the movie more than the book. The narrator’s interruptions got on my nerves in the latter half of the book. I didn’t really care for the fictionalized Goldman in the book. He seemed very bitter. Maybe he was supposed to be a humorous character, a parody of a successful screenwriter who can’t write a novel of his own, but for me he instead sucked away humor.

Buttercup’s Baby is a sort of continuation. It’s not a short story but rather just the first chapter of a book, which again was rather frustrating.

If you like the movie and especially if you’d like to know more about Fezzik and Inigo, I think you can like the book, too. Just skip the introductions.

The fifth story in the Argolicus historical cozy mystery series but can be read as a stand-alone. The others are short stories.

Publication year: 2021
Format: ebook

Publisher: Fervent Crux Press

Page count at GoodReads: 320

This historical book is set during the times when the Ostrogoths ruled Rome, specifically during king Theodoric’s rule.

Gaius Vitellus Argolicus was a Roman praefect for seventeen years, but now he has returned to the small town of Squillace and his father’s old house. He’s from a patrician family so he’s automatically one of the town’s leaders. When he first comes to town, he’s invited to join the town council’s meeting. He agrees and finds out that despite a good harvest, the town is starting to suffer from a grain shortage. This has caused unrest and forced the council members to talk about it. Nobody else wants to look into it so Argolicus volunteers. Argolicus thinks that he can just visit the biggest grain merchant, Quintinus, and ask what happened to the grain. Also, Argolicus’ mother is trying to arrange a marriage between him and Quintinus’ daughter.

However, Quintinus is away. Argolicus and the merchant’s daughter Proba get along well and agree to be friends, only. The next day Proba tells Argolicus that her father has been murdered. Argolicus agrees to find the killer.

Now, the scholarly former praefect who dislikes politics has two problems in his hands. If he can’t find out where the grain has gone, the poor townspeople will riot. Finding Quintinus’ killer is a more personal task.

This was a very good mystery. Argolicus doesn’t know the local people and he must talk to them to find out more about Quintinus so he could solve both the murder and the mystery of the missing grain. The setting is very well researched and comes alive in the story. The people are believable. While Argolicus has investigated crimes before in Rome, this is a new town with politics he doesn’t yet understand. The book has many short vignettes which show the life of ordinary people and add wonderful depth to the setting.

Argolicus loves his books. While he owns slaves, as is usual for the time, he’s a gentle master. He even rescues a young girl who has run away from her parents who were going to sell her to slavery. He gives the girl a home – but even that becomes a political gesture. Argolicus’ friendship with Proba also causes people to wonder about their relationship.

The two other significant characters are Nikolaos, Argolicus’ Greek tutor, mentor, and slave. Nikolaos is still gently teaching Argolicus to observe and make deductions. Quintinus’ daughter Proba lives with her parents, but it quite an independent-minded young woman. She is her father’s accountant which was unusual for women at that time. Her father’s death pulls the rug under her life, but she’s determined to help clear her father’s name.

This was a very enjoyable cozy mystery that brought to life the people and the setting of the times.

Collects Age of X-Man Alpha, Age Of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men 1-5, Age of X-Man Omega.

Writers: Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler

Artists: Ramon Rosanas, Marco Failla, Simone Buonfantino

The Alpha comic starts the new reality of the Age of X-Man storyline. When the X-Men seemingly died at the end of X-Men Disassembled, Nate Gray created another reality where he moved most of our merry mutants. Nate tried to create a paradise: a world where everyone was a mutant. But of course, something needs to be off. This time, Nate created a world where mutants have evolved beyond the base desires of love, family, and sex. People aren’t allowed to have relationships, no matter if they’re romantic or familial. Children are created in birthing chambers and raised in creches. They don’t know their parents or possible siblings. Trying to suppress such a basic human need isn’t easy. In the Alpha comic, we already find out that in order to create his utopia, Nate altered the memories of everyone. He also has Department X which arrests the ”criminals” and changes their memories even more, or if they ”infringe” several times, they’re taken away to prison. In the Alpha comic Jean and Bishop start a relationship and Bishop is arrested and dragged away. The rest of the team doesn’t even remember him anymore.

The Marvelous X-Men are Jean Grey, Storm, Magneto, Colossus, X-23, Nature Girl, and Nightcrawler. In this now peaceful world, they only fight against natural disasters. But when En Sabah Nur and his minion Kitty Pryde start to preach for love, the X-Men must take a stand. But is it against them or with them?

This was an interesting alternate world but of course, we all know that it can’t last. I had problems with a few of the ideas, such as Apocalypse as the messenger of love, but most of them were explained in the Omega comic. I didn’t really buy some of the romantic pairings the comics had, such as Bishop and Jean but of course the writers had to play with characters they were given.

I really enjoy seeing alternate versions of familiar characters and it was fun seeing Magneto, Storm, and Jean trying to get to the bottom of this new reality. The Alpha comic leads into all of the six new limited series and the Omega ties up all the storylines from the six series.