July 2013

Publication year: 1996
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2007
Format: print
Finnish translator: Mika Kivimäki
Page count: 334
Finnish Publisher: Karisto

Lord Vetinari has been poisoned and it’s up to the City Watch to find out who did it. It looks like the Patrician might not make it and there is a cabal of “upstanding citizens” who want to resurrect the monarchy (again).

Also, someone has murdered two old men who apparently lived humble lives and didn’t have any enemies and the Assassins’ Guild deny any involvement. One of the men was a curator in a museum devoted to dwarfish baking used in fights. Of course, Carrot knew him and was a regular visitor in the museum.

The guard also gets a forensics expert, an alchemist whose job it is to experiment with all unknown substances found at crime scenes and find out what they are. The expert is a dwarf, Cheery Littlebottom, which is pretty unusual, but it turns out that the dwarf is a woman and she wants to do more feminine things than are allowed among dwarfs. This confuses Captain Carrot because in dwarfish culture, men and women dress the same and behave the same. However, Cheery strikes up a friendship with Angua without knowing that she’s a werewolf. When Cheery adds more feminine things to her outfit, we find out that a few of the other dwarven constables are also women, they just haven’t drawn any attention to it. Apparently, among dwarfs is indecent to show ankles.

However, the more serious parts of the book concentrate on the golems. They aren’t considered to be alive so they are used as slave labor which can work all the time and don’t have to be paid. And yet, a lot of people think they are creepy and know that they are up to no good. Vimes also muses about people who obey the law and who don’t, and about rich and poor people. He’s trying to adjust to life as a rich man and being miserable.

This is another enjoyable Discworld book. I particularly enjoyed the breads, cakes, and cupcakes used for fighting and the vampire who works in various normal, but hazardous to him, jobs. Oh, and poor Vimes is plagued by his new organizer. And of course everyone likes Carrot.

“And, while it was regarded as pretty good evidence of criminality to be living in a slum, for some reason owning a whole street of them merely got you invited to the very best social occasions.”

“It was Carrot who’d suggested to the Patrician that hardened criminals should be given the chance to “serve the community” by redecorating the homes of the elderly, lending a new terror to old age and, given Ankh-Morpork’s crime rate, leading to at least one old lady having her front room wallpapered so many times in six months that now she could only get in sideways.”

“You are in favour of the common people?” said Dragon mildly.
The common people?” said Vimes. “They’re nothing special. They’re no different from the rich and powerful except they’ve got no money or power. But the law should be there to balance things up a bit. So I suppose I’ve got to be on their side.”

“Dwarfs regard baking as part of the art of warfare. When they make rock cakes, no simile is intended.”

Book one collects JLA issues 66-71 and book two collects issues 72-76.

Writer: Joe Kelly
Artists: Doug Mahnke, Yvel Guichet, Tom Nhuyen, Mark Propst, Lewis Larosa

The Obsidian Age storyline is a very ambitious one and it spanned a whole year worth of JLA comics.

Kyle, the Green Lantern, is seeing nightmares about dying. Meanwhile, Aquaman and Atlantis have vanished without a trace, leaving behind only a gigantic statue of Aquaman. Two new menaces attack the Flash and Kyle: an American Indian, who has been haunting Kyle’s dreams, and a man in an Aztec style armor. The Native American calls the JLA destroyers who are going to devastated the Earth turning it lifeless and cold. He also talks about a prophecy which has brought the two here.

JLA (Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, the Martian Manhunter, and the Plastic man) are only just able to defeat the duo. They manage to escape with magic and flee to the sea. When they reach Arthur’s statue, the Indian does a spell and they vanish – leaving behind Atlantis: in ruins, ancient, and above water. Various magic users and scientists, led by Tempest and Zatanna, are brought to Atlantis and get to work. They find out that this Atlantis is around 3,000 years old and has always existed above water but undetectable. Someone has been tampering with time.

Tempest cast the spell (which Arthur gave him) which made Arthur and Atlantis disappear. It seems that the spell sent Atlantis and all of its people back in time 3,000 years. So, new the JLA might be able to follow Atlantis back. Kyle, especially has reservations; he’s started to see his teammates dead, but the team votes to go for it. And so our seven heroes are sent back in time to save Atlantis. Of course, something goes wrong with the spell and now the magic users can’t get them back. Batman has foreseen this and gives a command to his computer just before they vanish.

A month goes by. Zatanna, Tempest, and the Atom aren’t able to get JLA back and are starting to despair. Meanwhile, Batman’s computer program is gathering a new JLA team: Green Arrow, Hawkgirl, Major Disaster, Faith, Jason Blood, the Atom, Firestorm, and Nightwing. Most of them don’t know each other so it’s going to take a while before they will be an effective team.

However, the original JLA team is still alive, just stranded in the past. They’ve found Atlantis from that era; above the sea and defended by the League; a collection of heroes from various places on Earth of that time. They have been told that the JLA are monsters who have to be destroyed.

In book two the original JLA finds out more about the past Atlantis and fights the big baddie. Meanwhile, the new JLA is facing a world-wide water shortage.

I really enjoyed this story, although I’m not a fan of the art. I really liked the new JLA team and the problems they had to face. For example, the press was asking if they had killed the original JLA! I also enjoyed the League as a counterpoint to the JLA. Even though the League thinks of themselves as heroes, they don’t have modern sensibilities; for example, Atlantis keeps slaves and one the Leaguers sacrifices children to power himself.

I also really liked the issues focusing on the League of the old Atlantis which showed them as individuals and we got to see little bit of their culture.

Because this is a time travel story I expected everything to just reset at the end, that nothing had really happened. But that didn’t happen. The story has consequences to the characters and that’s great. The final issue in the book two is an aftermath issue, dealing with some of the consequences; characters leaving and new ones coming in.

Overall, this was a great storyline.

The second book of the Psi Corps series.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Page count: 266
Publisher: Del Ray

Al Bester is part of the Cadre Prime and one of the few children who manifested their telepathy almost at birth and therefore one of the few whom Psi Corps has taken care of since birth. However, Al is insular and has a hard time getting along with the other children. Even as a child he drives himself to excellence in all things. Of course, he yearns for love and acceptance but doesn’t really get it. Later, as a teenager and adult, he does the same thing, keeping everyone else at an arm’s length. He gets close to only a few people, with unfortunate results. At the same time, he learns to cherish the Psi Corps as the only way to keep his people away from the cruel mundanes. While Bester distrusts individual telepaths, he grows to think that all telepaths are special and worth far more than ordinary humans. So, he hunts the rogue telepaths to save them from themselves.

The book starts when Bester is six years old and ends near his first appearance in Babylon 5. It’s quite episodic; the book is a collection of various scenes from Bester’s life and the lessons he learns from them. It was great to see from the inside how the Teeptown worked and what it was like to live there. It’s certainly far more structured than living in a normal society but not the hellhole some characters have led us to believe. Of course, Bester has never lived anywhere in his youth, so he can’t desire to be anywhere else. It seems that most of the telepaths develop their talents later in life and have to leave their families behind when they move into Teeptown. That’s, of course, traumatic.

The children live in houses designated by their ages (called Cadres) and have to move every couple of years to the next house. The older children are segregated by sex, also. Teeptown has its own schools and collages so the telepaths don’t need to leave it at all. Indeed, to get outside Teeptown, they require passes. This means that Bester and the others who were raised by telepaths don’t interact much with normal humans. They also don’t have families, not father or mother figures. While they are taught to think of all telepahts as their siblings, they don’t seem to be emotionally close. It seems that the telepaths are kept in line with fear and humiliation, instead of threats of violence. Of course, publicly humiliating small children can be very traumatic, as is was for Bester.

Later in the book we get to see other familiar characters, Lyta Alexander and Byron. One chapter is devoted to the incident about which Lyta tells to Stephen in the fourth season. Bester is brought to a mining colony to hunt down a man who is killing telepaths.

The book gives good insights into Bester’s history and character. It doesn’t try to make him a “good” person or a hero, just a look into his motives.

I’m currently rewatching season 5 in preparation for reading the next book, The Fate of Bester. That Garibaldi-thing alone is reason enough to hate Bester.

Booking Through Thursday

My best friend is moving across country, heading back to the East Coast for the first time after years of living in California, and one of the things she’s lamented was the whole packing-the-books thing. Having moved a few years ago myself (whittling down my 3000-volume library to 2000-volumes and still ending up with something like 50 boxes of books), I sympathize.

So … the question is–what kind of moving experiences have you had with your books? (Or, just in general if you’ve got good Moving Day stories–and who doesn’t?) Did having to pack and move your books cause any changes in your book-collecting habits? Make you wish you had everything on an e-reader? Feel free to discuss! (grin)

I really dislike moving. I don’t have quite as many books as in the example, but I do have several hundred. I also have a lot of comic book albums and single issue comics so packing and unpacking those can take a lot of time. Last time when I moved, last year, I gave away some books to the library and through BookMooch but there were still a lot of them.

During the move, I made a decision to radically cut back on buying print books and I’ve mostly kept it. I prefer to buy ebooks and downloadable audiobooks. However, I have so many unread books that I’m concentrating on reading mostly them. I don’t have an ereader; I read ebooks from my laptop.

Also, before the move I gave away most of my old VHS cassettes and that was a relief. I had boxes and boxes of them but now I have most of the TV series and movies on DVDs which take far less space.

17th book in the series.

Publication year: 2008
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 37 minutes

The year 1929 begins with a heatwave, at least in Melbourne. Phryne’s 29th birthday is coming up and she’s starting to plan for it. But then, Phryne’s sister Eliza brings to her a distraught woman, Mrs. Manifold. Her only son has died and the police are saying that it’s a suicide. However, Mrs. Manifold is convinced that someone has murdered her son. Phyrne agrees to investigate and soon plunges into the life of Augustine Manifold. He was an antique dealer and good at his job. He knew just how to find the hidden treasures from any estate or garage sale, and he also hired to capable people; a girl for his shop and a carpenter who is a genius in his job. He was also excited about the future and telling people that soon he can buy his mother a house of her own. Phryne has to get to know his friends and she isn’t impressed; she thinks that they are not only obnoxious but frightful.

She’s also investigating another matter. A lawyer brings to her a case where an old, wealthy woman has died and left her fortunes to her children, divided equally between “the issue of her body”. She has four living children but the lawyer suspects that Mrs. Bonnetti had another child before marrying her husband. Phryne agrees to look into it, discreetly. This is not an easy task, because Mrs. Bonnetti was old and her possible child would be quite old, too. Phryne just thinks of this as a challenge.

This time Phryne involves some of her friends more than usual. Dot’s knowledge of all things domestic is particularly useful. Phryne’s adoptive daughter Jane wants to become a doctor, which has been established before, but here she works like a forensic pathologist, figuring out if Augustine died at the sea or not. Pretty gruesome work for a 12-year old but she’s just fascinated!

We also get small snippets of Cec an Bert’s adventures during the war. However, the purpose of these small scenes doesn’t come clear until the very end.

This is a highly enjoyable Phryne mystery with all of the familiar cast running around.

Collects three crossover one shots.

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Phil Jimenez, Jerry Ordway, and John Cassaday

Crossing worlds has three unrelated stories. First one, “Ruling the World”, is supposedly Authority/Planetary crossover. I love both teams and was excited to read this one. Unfortunately, it was somewhat disappointing. For one thing, the two teams don’t meet and the characters don’t interact which is usually the most fun part in a crossover.

The Planetary members are concerned about how much power Authority has and Jakita wants to download Authority’s data files. In order to do that, Jakita wants to break into Authority’s headquarters which is, of course, their huge ship in the Bleed, the Carrier. Of course, there is a menace to kick and clean up, this time alien eggs which are activated with human contact. Lovecraftian aliens come forth. Also, one of Planetary’s human employees is up to no good.

Authority gets big fight scenes while Planetary stays in the shadows, watching the bigger team work. Also, Elijah is even more hostile towards the Drummer than usual.

Next up is “Terra Occulta”, illustrated by one of my favorite artists, Jerry Ordway. The story is set in an alternate universe where millionaire Bruce Wayne is looking into the increasingly sinister actions of The Planetary Organization which has supplied Earth with increasingly advanced technology, such as teleporters. At the same time, they are keeping to themselves even more advanced technology and watching everything and everyone. Wayne recruits Diana Prince and Clark Kent to his side.

I enjoyed this one a lot. It reverses our Planetary heroes to the role of their primary villain, which quite brings to mind the Four. It also has a bad-ass fight between Diana and Jakita, both trained warriors. We also get a glimpse into what happened to the other JLA heroes in this world.

The last story is one of my favorite single issue comics ever. “Batman: Night on Earth,” gorgeously illustrated by John Cassaday, is set in a Gotham City without a Batman. The Planetary team wants to meet with John Black whose parents were in City Zero, where the US government experimented with humans. Unfortunately, it seems the Black is now a serial killer and also has strange powers. Elijah recognizes them as something to do with alternate realities and the team is hot in pursuit of Black. It turns out that Black can move himself and those around him into other realities, but he can’t control it. He accidentally moves the team into various Gotham Cities with various Batmans watching over it.

Cassaday’s art is gorgeous and I really liked the way that the team interacts with various Batmans from different eras. Jakita gets a have a pretty epic fight with one of the tougher Batmans. Pretty much the only things I didn’t care for was the way that certain Dick Grayson, who runs the Planetary’s Gotham office, is made into a drooling idiot the moment Jakita walks into the scene.

Overall, I enjoyed this collection a lot. However, I think if you haven’t read Planetary before, this might not be a good introduction.

The first book in a science fiction trilogy.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Phil Gigante
Running Time: 12 hrs and 8 minutes

Rex is a small time bootlegger in New York which is suffering from an economic depression and from prohibition. He’s doing more than ok but then a larger criminal, McCabe, wants in on the game and shoulders Rex out. Rex’s right hand man, Jerome, is killed in a car accident which is caused by New York’s two super heroes: the Skyguard and the Science Pirate. For unknown reasons, they have turned against each other and have been fighting each other for months. Now they seem to have their ultimate confrontation on the Empire State Building and a huge explosion happens. Then the heroes fall from the sky. Rad stays to watch when they crawl out of the crate. Science Pirate takes off her helmet and shows that she’s a woman. This angers Rad and he starts to follow her. He decides to kill her and does so. Afterward, he finds himself in a strange city which reminds him of his New York but subtly different. People also look the same but are different.

Rad Bradley is a private detective in Empire State. Strange men attack him and demand to know what he knows about 1950. Rad doesn’t understand what they mean; 1950 what? The Skyguard rescues Rad from the men but then the men disappear. The Skyguard says that they have left the city but Rad doesn’t understand that either; there’s nothing outside the city so they can’t have left. Also, he, and others in the city, can’t remember anything about their past beyond a few years.

Rad’s journalist friend tells him that the Skyguard had been executed a couple of hours earlier and then Rad remembers that Skyguard has been in jail for years. Also, Empire State is in war with an unknown enemy and it produces warships called ironclads. A couple of time each year, the warships leave for war but none of them ever return.

Rad is down on his luck, down on his last bit of money and desperately in need of a client. Then a mysterious woman comes into his office and asks Rad to find her partner. Apparently, the police aren’t interested in looking into the disappearance, because her partner is also a woman and that’s illegal. Rad takes the case and starts to look for Sam Saturn. The case takes him to a religious cult, of the Pastor of the Lost Souls, and then he starts to realize that there is a wider world outside Empire State and it’s weirder than he ever imagined.

The book has great atmosphere and I think it captured well the atmosphere of the depression era US. I also liked the pseudo-science which is very comic book like.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for the characters and I actively loathed Rex, the small time criminal who turned into a murderer. Out of the other characters I liked Byron who is a mechanical man but he isn’t seen much.

I love parallel universes (of course most of the time I read about them in super hero comics and then I’m very familiar with the original characters) but unfortunately this time it didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s because I didn’t care for the characters or because of the audio book so it’s not possible flip back and check on a character. I loved the ideas behind the book and was eager to listen to it, but for some reason it didn’t work for me.

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