January 2013

French original: Autour de la lune
Finnish translation: Maasta kuuhun
Publication year of the original: 1870
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1977
Finnish translator: Edwin Hagfors
Format: print
Page count: 179 (in an omnibus of From Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon), illustrated

I didn’t much care for “From Earth to the Moon” but it ended in a cliffhanger so after I fortified myself with various comics and tie-in books, I finally picked up the sequel. Happily, it ended up being more to my taste.

In the previous book a huge projectile was launched towards the Moon with the intention of hitting the Moon. In the end, three men decided to get into the projectile: the Gun Club’s president Barbicane, his enemy Captain Nicholls, and an adventurous Frenchman Michel Ardan. They want to be the first Earth men on the Moon and establish contact with any humans living on the Moon. They bring with them food, two dogs, and various seeds to plant on the Moon. They are supposed to make the trip in five days.

During the voyage, they actively talk about what they are likely to find on the Moon and make observations. They even encounter a comet. However, they soon find out that something has gone wrong with their projected path and instead of landing on the Moon, they are going to just go around it, perhaps infinitely. Even so, they are determined to make observations and calculations rather than succumb to despair.

I felt that the book was less technical than the previous book which had a lot of details about building the huge gun, where the put it, who would finance it etc. The book still has a couple of chapters devoted to maths and the history of Moon knowledge. Still, I thought the pace was far faster than in the previous book and there was a lot of actual interaction between the characters. Of course, the cast of characters is pretty limited.

The book was written in 1870 so many of the details of space travel are wrong. For example, at one point the characters open one of their windows and are not blown into space or significantly chilled. In a less science oriented book this would have been less noticeable but here the “errors” (this is fiction after all) jump out.

The three men are archtypical of the time: adventurous, bold, rarely even nervous. They are more interested in scientific study than if they will survive the trip. Arden is more talkative and less knowledgeable than the others and I had a feeling that he’s there because it’s a convenient way to explain things to the readers, when Barbicane and Nicholls explain things to Arden. In fact, the Moon and the voyage itself are the main features of the book, not the characters.

Today, the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life Favorite On-Going TV Series part II.

I participated in the first part so here’s the second part:

6, Fringe
A new favorite. I was hooked on this show a few month ago.

7, Once Upon a Time
Another new favorite.

8, Futurama
An older favorite. For some reason Finnish TV channels show reruns of the first three seasons, so I haven’t seen the rest.

9, Big Bang Theory
There are things I don’t care for in this show but I love the comics, sci-fi, and fantasy references.

The rest of my favorites have been cancelled or ended years ago. I have a few new shows taped but I haven’t watched them yet. Maybe a new favorite will pop up.

Collects issues 1-3 of the miniseries with a couple of pages of concept art.

Writer: Doug Petrie
Artist: Ryan Sook
Publication year: 2000 (during seasons 4/5)

The comic is set during season 2 (between “Passion” and “I only have Eyes for You”), while Angel was Angelus and we get to see him interact with Spike and Drusilla. In the show, Spike/Angelus snark were funny but unfortunately, the comic doesn’t reach that level.

The story starts on a Japanese ship which is transporting cargo that the crew thinks is cursed. They’re almost right: Angelus is on board. He kills almost all of the crew, leaving just one man alive (a crucial mistake), and takes the cargo which turns out to be a suit of magical samurai armor which can summon a powerful demon. Spike (in the wheelchair), Drusilla, and Angelus start working to summon the demon Kelgor.

Meanwhile, Giles is having a hard time with Jenny’s death and that makes Buffy and the gang uneasy, they even wonder if he can do his job anymore. During a fight with the resurrected Kelgor, men from a mysterious government agency arrest Buffy.

The main story line is pretty similar to usual Buffy stories. However, there a lot of great moments in the comic such as the return of Kendra. She was really underused in the series and I was happy to see her back. Giles is also all dark and Ripper like which is always fun. The writer Doug Petrie wrote quite a few episodes and it shows.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for the art, it looks almost smudgy. Drusilla didn’t look anything like the actress. However, it seems to me that the art improves in issues 2 and 3. I also think that in the end the mysterious government agents are pretty pointless. Unless they are actually from the Initiative but that wasn’t confirmed.

The first B5 book which is set during the second season of the science fiction show Babylon 5, before Bester’s second appearance (A Race Through Dark Places).

Publication year: 1995 (during season 2)
Page count: 246
Format: print
Publisher: Boxtree

The Psi Corps are going to have a convention. At first, it was going to be held on Mars, in a luxury hotel but a new group of Martian terrorists blow it up. So, military liaison and telepath Harriman Gray (last seen in the episode “Eyes”) gets the bright idea to change it to Babylon 5. Captain Sheridan thinks it’s a fine idea and a chance to brighten the station’s rather mixed public image. Commander Ivanova and Security Chief Garibaldi can’t stop it, so 400 telepaths are going to come to Babylon 5, including mister Bester and Harriman Gray. Joy! Not.

Most of the telepaths coming to B5 are working in the commercial sector but about 100 Psi Cops and some military telepaths are coming, too. Harriman seems to have a huge crush on Ivanova and he almost stalks her. Talia Winters is happy to see other telepaths and she even gets a job offer which would take her away from B5.

I started giggling aloud when I realized what the premise was: it’s such a juicy idea. Of course, they couldn’t actually change anything so a fistfight between Ivanova and Bester was out but otherwise I expected to be very entertained. And mostly I was. I was a bit disappointed that when G’Kar had a fistfight with one of the telepaths in a bar, we saw only the aftermath but that was entertaining, too. Garibaldi giving a tour of the Down Below to the sheltered telepaths, and Talia, was great.

Harriman, Garibaldi, and Talia are the main POV characters. I was very interested to see more of Talia who I think was underused in the show.

The first half of the book is entertaining and the character interactions seem ok to me, except that a couple of time they changed their minds pretty quickly. However, the second half of the book isn’t set on B5 and we meet new characters. The characters’ moods and motivations change quickly and I was baffled by some of the choices they made. One group of people seemed pretty out of place to me.

Unfortunately, I was a bit distracted by Vornholt’s writing style. For some reason he tends to avoid using characters’ names and instead uses brief descriptions like “the young telepath” or “the statuesque woman”. Also, even I know that Mars isn’t a hot planet (and I was 100% Arts student). Vornholt also uses pretty juvenile humor.

Sadly, the book started promisingly but couldn’t live up to B5 standards I’m used to.

Yesterday, the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life was Favorite Sci-Fi (Space Opera) Books.

Another hard one! I have quite a lot of favorite SF books and many of them are part of a series, so I’m going to go with the series.

1, The Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
A wonderful combination of great characters, action-packed plots, and humor. It’s really hard to pick just one favorite out of the series. The series starts with Cordelia’s Honor.

2, The Chanur series by C. J. Cherryh
Another great series. The main characters are all aliens, whose behavior mirrors lions.

3, The Disappeared series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Another series which I think is getting better with each book. The main characters are humans but the world has very interesting aliens, too.

4, Dan Simmons: Hyperion
Hyperion is the SF equivalent of epic fantasy: big and sprawling with lots of world-building. It’s also uses the story within a story structure which I love.

5, Elizabeth Bear: All the Windwracked Stars
The story is set in a postapocalyptic setting with Norse gods and myths. I really enjoyed that mix and the characters who are all very damaged, each in their own way.

The third book in a trilogy of alternate universe Buffy: the Vampire Slayer story set at the end of Season Six.

Publication year: 2004
Page count: 258
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books

At the end of the previous book, Giles and the gang stole Ghost of Tara away from Willow. Of course, the moment Willow realizes this, she heads over to the Magic Box to her lover’s ghost back. However, Giles has cast a powerful spell over the whole store so Willow can’t get in. In addition, Giles has imprisoned Ghost of Tara to the store so that only he can release the spirit. He, and the gang, are trying to make Willow turn back to good by forcing her to do good deeds in order to spend even little time with the ghost. Willow gives Giles her pets, Oz and Spike, but leaves, livid with rage.

Even though her two previously created underlings, the cat demon and the Riley golem, both turned against her, Willow creates one more minion. This time it’s a Gnarl demon and she imprisons it into a cave. She plans to kidnap the Scooby gang and give them to the flesh eating demon until they give her back the ghost. Willow’s minions are able to kidnap Xander and Dawn pretty easily. They are left paralyzed on the mercy of the demon who starts to skin them alive.

At the start of the book, Willow seems more merciless and evil than before. In the previous books, she and Buffy fought because Buffy and the gang were in the way, but now Willow wants revenge. She also has to deal with more mundane trouble. The families of her coven members who are missing want them back and they blame Willow. She’s forced to deal with that because the police can be quite a lot of trouble and delay Tara’s resurrection.

Willow took two familiar characters prisoners in the first book, although she calls them pets. She trapped Oz in a permanent werewolf form and chained him to her apartment. Spike had just returned to Sunnydale after he got his soul back when Willow took him as a pet, too. Oz gets a few good scenes in this book but otherwise Navarro didn’t do much with them. I kept waiting for them to get some sort of payback or something but no. In fact, I’m not sure why they were even in the series.

The tone of the series is pretty dark and depressing, which is expected, when one of the core Scooby gang turns against the others. However, in this book, the kidnapped Scoobies are down right tortured pretty gruesomely. Dawn, Xander, and Giles end up almost dead.

Unfortunately, I felt that this was the weakest book in the trilogy. I really didn’t like the ending and Willow keeps doing the same mistakes. Also, first Willow is drained from a fight and the next moment she’s teleporting and doing other stuff that clearly requires a lot of magical mojo. Sadly, the series had a great premise but ended up having too many lost opportunities. Of course, that could be because it’s a tie-in novel.

The second book in a trilogy of alternate universe Buffy: the Vampire Slayer story set at the end of Season Six.

Publication year: 2004
Page count: 258
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books

The first book ended in a battle where Anya was able to read Giles’ spell that was suppose to send Willow’s coven members to different places on Earth, and so diminish her power and especially her ability to get more power. The spell was somewhat successful, sending five members away. At the same time, Willow was battling her demonic cat demon which had turned against her. But when the cat demon tried to kill Buffy, Willow killed the demon.

Willow’s remaining coven members aren’t happy about it. They say that Willow didn’t protect them like she had promised. Frustrated, Willow gives in to their demands and tries to bring back the vanished coven members. She’s able to bring back only three of them. She also creates an even more powerful underling to protect her coven: a golem. In order to make the golem more powerful and to make sure it has protective impulses towards the coven, Willow binds a dead spirit to it: Riley Finn. In this universe, Riley and his wife were killed shortly after their visit to Sunnydale.

At the start of the first book, when Willow and Giles battled each other, Giles was paralyzed from the waist down. Now, he’s feeling insecure and has trouble focusing on the problem at hand. However, Anya has been working on a healing spell and Giles is, of course, anxious to use it. The gang also doesn’t know what Willow wants; they just try to minimize the damage she’s doing to Sunnydale. When Giles finds out that his spell has sent some of the coven members into danger, he’s very guilty and second guesses himself often.

In this book, Willow clearly needs her coven to give her strength. She ends up trying to make them feel safer instead of just threatening them, like she did in the first book. She also recruits an old friend: Amy. Amy turns out to have quite a lot of resentment towards the gang because they didn’t turn her back to a human earlier. She only helps Willow because Willow promises to her that when Tara is back, Amy will be the biggest witch in Sunnydale. Because Willow will retire.

Willow is also trying to blame everything on Buffy. She’s clearly on the road of not taking responsibility from her actions. However, the Ghost of Tara is constantly questioning her decisions.

Unfortunately, the second book has a lot of repetitive elements from the first. I’m not even sure if the second book is needed. However, I was again happy to read about Buffy and the rest of the gang.

The books ends in a cliffhanger, which is again in a climatic battle.

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