April 2009


This is the sixth in the excellent Retrieval Artist science fiction series. There is no major disaster this time. Just a very personal one.

Rhonda Shindo and her thirteen-year old daughter Talia are living on Callisto, on of Jupiter’s moons. The city is practically owned by the Aleyd Corporation and Rhonds works there as well. Fifteen years ago, she signed papers which turned out to be the death sentence to a group of larva from where the alien Gyonnesse’s children are hatched. Naturally, the Gyonnesse wanted compensation but the Alyed Corporation argued the case in court and Rhonda has managed to live in relative peace. However, now a bounty hunter or a Recovery Man, called Hadad Yu has come to her house and kidnapped her.

Rhonda is, of course, panicked and tries her best to escape from the Recovery Man’s ship. She is most worried about her daughter. The group of Gyonnesse have declared that she shouldn’t any children just like they don’t anymore. However, Talia is a clone of Rhonda’s “real” daughter and the Gyonnesse have a strict differences between real and false children. So far, they don’t think that a clone qualifies as a real child.

Talia didn’t know that she’s a clone and this revelation by the Recovery Man is a shock to her. Her whole life is turned upside down. According to so laws, she isn’t even a real human anymore. Added to that is the kidnapping of her mother in a society where a minor or a dependent aren’t allowed by law to be without guardian for long. The corporation has draconian laws about minors without guardians. Fortunately, Talia has two defenders: a compassionate police officer Z’Grongo (spelling? This is again an audio book) and a very expensive lawyer whom Rhonda had hired years ago. Then there is, of course, Talia’s father and Rhonda’s ex-husband: Miles Flint who doesn’t even know that Talia exists.

Miles Flint is looking through the files of his previous mentor, Paloma, and finds that for some reason Paloma has a lot of files about his dead daughter, Emmeline, and also about his ex-wife. This shocks him and he can’t leave things alone. He must find out all he can.

Miles has a relatively small role in the book and he’s just one of the secondary main characters. Rhonda and Talia and the main characters here and their struggle is very moving and in the end even startling. We also see a few familiar faces; while Nicole Riccie doesn’t appear, Miles’s favorite female lawyer from the previous book does have a minor role. Miles is apparently even working together with the journalist Ky Bowls and I can’t wait to see what their working relationship is going to be like. (Difficult is my guess.)

The Gyonnesse are a fascinating new alien race. They seem to have very distinct and different notions about reproduction. They also don’t communicate with mouths. The company is also a very ruthless organization.

Another excellent addition to the series!

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Booking Through Thursday

Some people read one book at a time. Some people have a number of them on the go at any given time, perhaps a reading in bed book, a breakfast table book, a bathroom book, and so on, which leads me to…

1. Are you currently reading more than one book?
2. If so, how many books are you currently reading?
3. Is this normal for you?
4. Where do you keep your current reads?

1. Yes.
2. Three: one audio, one ebook, and one print.
3. After I started to read ebooks and audiobooks, yes.
4. The ebooks and audiobooks are in my laptop. The only exception to this are the audiobooks I borrow from the library which I listen with my cassette or CD player. The print book is usually next to my bed.

By Morrison and Quitely

This is part of my comic book challenge 2009.

This is one of my favorite alternate realities where the JLA equivalent metahumans are actually the biggest baddies in their world.

The book starts very, very nicely: three shapes who are not quite Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are talking about the prisoner who got away. Then a weird ship of some kind crashes to the US countryside and Luthor steps out in his armor. There’s something about that opening the visually appeals to me very much.

The JLA is trying to rescue a plane coming down. They succeed but in the end the passengers are all dead. After a closer look, the JLA finds out that the passengers’ hearts are all on the right side in their bodies.

Next, Luthor starts his day in the office by donating the day’s armament budget to Greenpeace and giving his employees a 300% raise. However, he can’t do much else because the JLA pays him a visit. Luthor proceeds to convince them that he is, in fact, Alexander Luthor from the antimatter universe. He has come to this universe to beg for help from the heroes because in his world the metahumans are all bad guys. Of course, everyone is rather skeptical at first but in the end the JLA agrees to help him. Luthor has a plan which should guarantee that the JLA can take out their counterparts and save the other world in just 48 hours. Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, and the Green Lantern leave with Luthor while Aquaman and J’onn stay.

Meanwhile, the antimatter-JLA, called the Crime Syndicate, isn’t idle, either. They continue to make people’s lives miserable in their own big and small ways. The Owlman tortures Commissioner Wayne in Gotham City while Ultraman deals out counterfeit money to destabilize the economy. They have also tried to track down Luthor and are aware of the existence of the matter-Earth. They would like to conquer it and Owlman has even a plan for it.

I really liked the twisted JLA versions. We get to know most about Owlman who isn’t Bruce Wayne. Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick stay quite two-dimensional characters which might be understandable given the small amount of space that Morrison has to work with. Superwoman seems to be rather stereotypical seductive femme fatale which I personally don’t really care for. After all, why should she limit herself to just sexual appeal when she has powers to do a lot of different things? Anyway, I rather enjoyed Owlman and the twisted little scenario he had going in Gotham. Ultraman is an astronaut and not Clark Kent.

Antimatter-Luthor is his world’s only heroic figure and he loses every time to the Syndicate. He has no choice but to seek help. He seems just as altruistic as the super heroes in the matter-world. He’s also just as much a genius as “our” Luthor. I guess he has to be in order to survive.

The antimatter-Earth is a world where evil triumphs every time. Everyone in authority is corrupt. Everyone is looking for his or her own gain. (Frankly, I’m amazed that they’ve managed to get to our level of technology but that’s beside the point.)

Excellent story. I’d like to know more about the Syndicate members, though.

The fifth and the second to last in the historical mystery series about Lord Meren.

(There are alternate ways of writing the Egyptian names. I use the ones Robinson has used.)

This book has quite a different structure from the previous books in the series. The book starts with Nefertiti as a 12-year old girl who lives among the royalty but isn’t yet one of them. Then we see the murder of menagerie guard Bakht whom a mysterious figure stabs and throws to the baboon cage. However, poor Bakht’s murder gets very little attention because Meren is dealing with a lot of other things.

About one third of the chapters focus on Nefertiti. She is shown first as young girl during the reign of Akhenaten’s father Amunhotep III and later as a young chief wife to Akhenaten. Her father Ay and Ay’s sister the Queen Tiye choose Nefertiti as Akhenaten’s wife because they believe the she can guide him away from his odd religious thoughts. Nefertiti is, of course, rather shocked and even a bit dismayed by this decision but she doesn’t have a choice. At the age of twelve she has to leave behind her childhood and start to train being a wife and a queen for a man who everyone thinks as peculiar and sickly. We get short chapters of the Queen life; the way that Amunhotep guided her and then put his trust in her. Her loving relationship with her six daughters despite the disappointment that none of them were boys. The way that she tries to moderate Akhenaten’s religious fanatism and help the common people. Her life doesn’t seem to be happy even though outwardly she has everything she wants. Akhenaten concentrates more and more with communing with his god and leaves the governing to Nefertiti and Ay.

However, most of the chapters concentrate of Lord Meren and his search for Nefertiti’s murderer. Everyone thought that Nefertiti died of the plague which killed four of her daughters. But in a previous book Meren found out that she was in fact poisoned. He even found out who did the deed but not who was behind it all. Also, he has spoken to some of Nefertiti’s former servants and they have died soon afterwards. Previously, he found out the names of three men who were powerful enough and arrogant enough to have the Queen of Egypt killed. Now, Meren is pursuing them to see what he can find out about them. He starts by arranging a meeting with one of them, the merchant, and later meets the second who is a high ranking soldier. However, before he can do much more it becomes obvious that someone is trying to frame Meren as a traitor.

Once again, I rather enjoyed the alternating chapters and the different structure. However, a reader who is looking for a straight forward murder mystery is going to be disappointed. The chapters with Nefertiti don’t really contribute to the mystery story. Instead they create atmosphere, setting, and characters (three things that I love to bits). In fact, they could have been omitted and the mystery story would have been more coherent.

Meren himself is dealing with a guilt ridden younger daughter and the middle daughter who is too smart for her own good (in the Egyptian culture), and trying to protect his family. He doesn’t even confide to the young pharaoh because he doesn’t have evidence and also he wants to spare the youngster’s feelings. Even though here Akhenaten and Tutankhamun are brothers, there is so much age difference between them that Nefertiti was like a mother to Tutankhamun. Meren grows increasingly suspicious, grumpy, and frustrated but he also has to bear the price for his own distrust in the people close to him.

A lot of the things here, and especially the characters, are conjecture from rather sparse historical records. I have no problem with any of the conjectures here and of course, the book was written in 1998. Even though I enjoyed the chapters focusing on Nefertiti, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with them. Akhenaten wasn’t monogamous even though a casual reader would have gotten that impression from the story. In fact, just like other pharaohs he had many wives and could appoint any of them as the Great Royal Wife. However, none of the other wives are even mentioned in the book even though I would have thought that there would have been fierce competition among them for the position of the chief wife, especially since Nefertiti had no sons. But I guess that would have needed its own book. After all, the storyline here focused on the abrupt changing of religion.

Another very good installment in the series if you like the Egyptian setting and atmosphere.

Booking Through Thursday

I saw that National Library week is coming up in April, and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?

Is this National Library week in the US? The Scandinavian Library Week is in November.

I don’t use the library as much as I used to when I was in my teens and younger. Then I would borrow a book a day. These days I check out on average two books and two comics a month. My borrowing came down when I shifted to reading mostly in English. Even though our Finnish libraries tend to have quite extensive collections in Finnish, they don’t have enough money to get a lot of new foreign language books. Although they have an admirable collection of English language comic books in trade paperbacks. The TBs are, of course, scattered thorough out the country but luckily our inter library loan system is also good and rather cheap, too.

Sometimes I have to use the library’s internet services when my own connection is out. Because of that I tend to prefer modern libraries over older ones.

These days I do most if my book browsing online visiting various book blogs.

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