March 2013


Yesterday, the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life was Favorite Female Movie Characters.

1, Ellen Ripley from the Alien movies

2, Zoey Washborn from Serenity

3, Amelie from Amelie

4, Sarah Connor from the Terminator movies

5, The Black Widow from the Avengers

A novelization of the first three graphic novels of the Girl Genius. The comic is available for free online: http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: Night Shade Books

The novel is very loyal to the comic. Most of the time it follows the comic panel for panel. I’ve been a fan of the comic for a few years and love it. However, I’m not sure how accessible this novel is if you haven’t read the comic.

Agatha Clay is student at the Beetleburg University and an assistant to one of the professors. However, she’s also absent-minded and clumsy. She lives with her step parents who are constructs. One day, Baron Wulfenbach, who has ruthlessly conquered most of Europa, comes to town with his soldiers. Two of them rob Agatha of her necklace and strange things start to happen to her: her mind feels clearer but she also starts to sleep walk, in her nightclothes. The Baron kidnaps Agatha to his airship and she’s introduced to a wider world, while getting to know herself.

I adore the Girl Genius world. It’s a steampunk alternate world where some people have supernatural powers to construct mechanical things. Unfortunately, these people, called Sparks, tend to ran amok, building weapons and destroying people around them. So, Baron Wulfenbach has taken it upon himself to capture the Sparks, let them work, and, well, contain the destruction. However, the Baron is also interested in knowing just how and why Sparks are born, so he dissects them to learn more.

The Baron has very interesting people on his airship. There’s his son Gilgamesh who is a Spark and almost as ruthless as his father and various constructs, including the Jägermonsters who can be either funny or terrifying, depending on the scene. They talk in a horrible German accent which is pretty much the only thing I don’t care about in the comic. Sadly, it’s even more pronounced in the novel. Then there are the students who are either hostages or future Sparks or both.

On the background, and sometimes the foreground, there are stories of the Heterodyne boys who were the heroes of this world until they vanished. Some people are still waiting for them to return, while some think they’ve never existed at all.

I enjoy the characters as much as the world. Agatha herself is a pretty typical heroine: stubborn but loyal to her friends but she’s also a genius inventor who has a fascination with machines. The Baron turns out to have actual motivations and he’s very funny when he’s trying to do work and is constantly being interrupted by incompetent underlings and/or stuff blowing up. And of course Othar Tryggvassen! He’s the Gentleman Adventurer and he talks like a pulp fiction hero. The Baron has captured him and he’s trying to escape while trying forcibly to take Agatha has his plucky sidekick. On the other hand, Bangladesh DuPree is a through villain: enjoying torture and mayhem. And then there’s the talking cat…

The novel is entertaining, of course, but none of the gadgets are explained and most of the lingo is also unexplained. This works in the comic because you can see the gadgets and get other visual clues but perhaps not to well in the novel, especially if you haven’t read the comic. So, go and read it!

Booking Through Thursday

Clocks change this weekend here in the US, which means one less hour to read … does anybody else begrudge that hour like I do? Wish the Powers That Be would just pick a time-frame and stick to it instead of inflicting clock-driven jet lag on an innocent public twice a year?

(Yeah, so not a question so much about reading … except, of course, you do need to use your electric light to be able to read, so the hour it gets dark IS relevant!)

Over here in Finland, we also have to change the clocks, except that for us that happens at the end of March. Here we call it either Summertime or Wintertime and I can’t even say how preposterous it is to call late March and early April “Summer” when most years there’s snow on the ground and sometimes we even still get blizzards.

I really don’t like the clock changes because most of my clients live in other time zones and it’s hard enough to try to figure out the times, for deadlines not to mention phone calls…, with the ordinary time differences. Throw in the idiotic clock changes and I’m spending twice more time figuring things out.

Today I’m excited to join the blog tour for Blood, the sixth book in Tara Maya’s The Unfinished Song series which is set in a fantastical Neolithic Age. You can buy Blood and all Maya’s other books via Amazon and other book retailers. Tara Maya’s blog has lots of information about writing in general in addition to her book info.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: Misque Press

The previous book in the series, Wing, ended in a very exciting cliffhanger and I was anxious to continue the series. Blood continues immediately where Wing ended.

Dindi has been captured by Umbral who is a Deathsworn. The Lady Death commanded Umbral to kill Dindi, her love Kavio, and all of the remaining Aelfae. Umbral has already killed Kavio but now he and Dindi face a common enemy, the Bone Whistler who is secretly one of the two Aelfae left in the world. The Bone Whistler has a plan to kill all of the humans and to resurrect the Aelfae who were killed in a war with humans. Dindi and Umbral reached an uneasy truce to kill the Bone Whistler before he can set his plan into motion.

However, a part of it is already working. Six Aelfae have been resurrected, brought forward in time from the past. Also, because of the resurrection magic the other remaining Aelfae, Vessia, has lost her memories of the intervening time. Vessia married a mortal man and had a son with him but now she doesn’t remember that. All she wants is to rid the world of humans because her last memories are of the brutal war between the Aelfae and the humans.

Meanwhile, Finnandro the champion of the Green Lady had been forced into uneasy truce, as well. His tribe and another fought each other but now Finnandro is forced to work with the enemy tribe in order to kill Umbral. Unfortunately, the leader of the enemy tribe, the Orange Canyon, is no other the Bone Whistler himself and he manages to charm Finnandro into a willing ally.

However, the resurrected Aelfae don’t know that there’s a traitor among them. Their greatest enemy, the Lady Death herself, has disguised herself as one of them and plans to kill them all.

Blood is just as good as rest of the series. The plot has twists and turns which I, at least, couldn’t see coming. We get to know a lot more about both Umbral and Finnandro in flashbacks about their past.

Deception seem to be this book’s theme. A lot of people are deceived in this book. Not only has the Lady Death disguised herself and deceiving the Aelfae but the Bone Whistler uses his powers to charm other people to trust him, while he’s advancing his plan. He’s also an accomplished liar and can turn any event to his advantage when given enough time to either explain or let other people draw their own, wrong, conclusions. Vessia has lost her memory and is convinced that she couldn’t possibly have married a human. Umbral has the Obsidian mask which can make anyone who looks at him see the person they want to see.

I continue to be fascinated with this Stone Age world. Most of the tribes don’t have a king or nobility but are instead lead by elected leaders. The one exception is of course the Bone Whistler who uses his charm and power to keep his people in line. The Orange canyon tribe has the Raptor Riders and their slaves who can change their shape into huge raptor birds. The Aelfae are a bit puzzled by this and claim that the Riders have also shape changing magic. The tribe is pretty cruel towards their own members, too.

The new element in the book are the resurrected Aelfae. We get to see how they lived during the war and presumably before it. They seem to be pretty self-centered, tormenting Dindi for their own amusement. They’re also dismissive of humans because they see the humans as enemies. When the Bone Whistler revealed to them that he lives among humans as their war chief, the Aelfae were shocked and dismayed. However, they agree to live as guests in the human village and even take part in their celebrations.

A word of warning, though: the book has pretty gruesome torture scenes. The torture is seen both from the eyes of the tortured and the torturer, and it’s quite disturbing.

Collects Uncanny X-Men #530-534
I read the issues when they were published in the monthly Finnish edition of the X-Men.

Writer: Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen
Artists: Greg Land, Justin Leisten
Publication year: 2010

Quarantine continues the story lines in the previous collection, The Birth of Generation Hope. The mutants are catching a flue which also shuts down their powers. Utopia island is quarantined and only a few X-Men are outside it. Therefore Archangel, Pixie, Dazzler, and Northstar are effectively the X-Men and they get help from Storm. They respond to an attack and get… super powered fans.

Meanwhile, the rest of the cast are frantically trying to get to the bottom of the flue; how to cure it and where it came from.

Elsewhere: In the previous story, Emma Frost convinced Kitty Pryde and Fantomex to help her to get her secret prisoner outside Utopia before anyone can know about him. The secret prisoner is Sebastian Shaw. Unfortunately, Fantomex doesn’t seem to know how Shaw’s powers work and he tries to kill Shaw by dropping him from an airplane. Big mistake.

The ideas in the virus story are interesting but I can’t help to think that it has all been done before and better. First, the virus was way too powerful – it quickly took down all of the X-Men’s big guns. Compared to that the resolution was way too quick. The virus story reeks of a one-shot but unfortunately I don’t think the mutants can just blithely assume that all of the virus has been accounted for and nobody else can use it. The virus depowered Magneto, Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Psylocke, Namor…

What I really liked, however, were the fans. They are rich kids who want to get superpowers themselves. Of course they do – who wouldn’t! I also really “enjoyed” (if that’s the correct word for a new villain who I look forward to getting the tar beaten out of him, repeatedly) the idea that someone want to get the rights to the mutant genome because he wants to get money out of it. I also really enjoyed the new X-Men in action, especially the interaction between Allison and Pixie. It’s too bad that the artist was Land and the women don’t look human.

I really didn’t care for the Emma Frost story. Beside the fact that I loath Emma as a “hero”, I didn’t really like Kitty whining all the time that Shaw shouldn’t be killed. She didn’t have any suggestions of how to contain him, though. And Fantomex was just stupid.

Overall, a mixed bag.

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