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.

The sixteenth book in the series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 20 minutes

Christmas has come to Melbourne and the Fisher household is spending it in relative quiet. However, Phryne is thinking of attending the Last Good Party of 1928 which is going to be organized by two of Phryne’s old friends, Isabella and Gerard Templar who are called the Golden Twins because they look perfect and are rich. They’ve come to Australia and Phryne suspects that they might be running away from something. However, when Phryne received threatening letters which warn her not to attend the party, she of course decides to go. Then a mysterious Christmas present is left on her doorstep and it turns out to have a deadly snake it. Fortunately, Phryne’s cat Ember is nearby and kills it efficiently. Now, Phryne is determined to find out who is behind it all.

Unfortunately, her Chinese lover Lin Chung can’t join her because he’s going to a funeral so she’s going alone and meeting interesting new people. Dot and Mr. Butler visit her every day but Phryne stays alone in the Warribee Manor house in the luxurious Iris room. The house is old but has been renovated in a way that horrifies Dot and Phryne. Phryne gets to meet a lot of new people, including female polo players who are at first ridiculed for wanting to play in such a manly sport, a Goat lady and her goat, and several handsome young men. But then youngsters are kidnapped.

I enjoyed the domestic Christmas scenes at the start of the book but for a new reader they could be really slow. Mrs Butler allowed Phryne’s adoptive daughter Ruth to prepare the Christmas dinner and Ruth is charmingly worried about it.

I was a bit surprised that Phryne’s household would just add the mysterious present under the tree. Surely by now she has so many enemies that they should have known better. Dot is very concerned about the party and thinks that Phryne will be seduced into all kinds of wickedness.

The book has a lot of riddles and I really enjoyed those, although I couldn’t figure them out before Phryne. The cast of characters is quite large and most of them are new but I wouldn’t mind seeing them again, especially the polo playing women.

The ending was a bit too convenient but I guess that goes with a Christmas tale.

Collects issue 1-4 of the miniseries.

Writers: Seamus Fahey, David Reed
Artists: Nigel Raynor, Ivan Nunes
Publication year: 2009
Publisher: Dynamite

The miniseries gives an alternate interpretation of how Final Five started. The story starts in Kobol, 4,000 years before the fall of the Twelve Colonies in the hands of the cylons. Kobol is in turmoil. The seer Pythia is telling the people that they have to change their government. Currently they have thirteen tribes with delegates in the Quorum. Pythia says that the divine messengers are telling her that they should unite into one tribe and get rid of their idols and temples. However, she’s sentenced to die for her heresy. We see that Caprica Six is apparently this “messenger” because her image is reflected in a pool of water when Pythia is in the maniac asylum. Michael Tigh visits Pythia in the asylum and he’s clearly in love with her. Tigh turns out to be the delegate of the Thirteenth Tribe in the Quorum. When he gets out of the Quorum hall, a mysterious figure kill him. Then Michael Tigh awakes aboard a resurrection ship. Apparently, the thirteenth tribe are humans who have learned the secrets of resurrection.

However, that has brought on some problems: their death aren’t considered crimes because they aren’t really dead and they’ve become infertile.

Members of the thirteenth tribe are rioting on the streets in order to get their humans rights back while other tribes consider them heretics and plant bombs on the resurrection facilities. Oh, and the members of the thirteenth tribe are atheists which is, of course, their greatest crime.

I was a bit confused when I read the first comic. I was trying to figure out which of the final five are which and why is Saul Tigh called Michael Tigh. Turns out, he isn’t; this is a generation before our familiar Galactica characters. Michael is Saul’s father and of course they have a very strained relationship. However, three of the five are seen only briefly, most of the plot revolves around Ellen and Saul Tigh. Also, I can’t figure out just what the blazes Caprica Six is doing there? She seems to be in heads of people who’ve never seen her in real life – long before her model even existed.

Other than that, I really like the idea that the final five started out as humans are therefore really different from the metal cylons. In this comic, the final five built the other human models and aren’t really “related” to the metal cylons at all.

The first book in the trilogy based on the TV show Babylon 5.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Page count: 267
Publisher: Warner Bros.

In the year 2115 telepathy was recognized by Earth’s scientific community as real. Earth was still taking it’s first steps into space and hadn’t encountered any aliens. When humans realized that telepathy wasn’t a hoax, they became scared and started to blame the telepaths about pretty much everything. During those first years, telepaths (and people accused of being telepaths) are hunted and killed, until Senator Lee Crawford founds the MRA, the Metasensory Regulation Authority. However, he doesn’t do it out of kindness; on the contrary, he wants more power to himself and he sees the telepaths as a way to do it. He plots and schemes to get into his position.

However, some telepaths don’t want to join Crawford’s dream. They band together so that they can protect each other. A few of them even make the normal people worship them. But as time goes by, some of them start to see that their best chance for survival is the MRA. Three of them, called Blood, Mercy, and Smoke, strike a deal with Crawford and become the senator’s best hunters. The trio just want to save telepaths; clearly the normal humans are the real enemy…

MRA starts the practice of using commercial telepaths but this isn’t explained any further. After a significant jump in time, the MRA has changed into the Psi Corp.

The book jumps around a lot, covering many people and a couple of generations of both early Psi Corps people and the rebel telepaths. We get to see Lyta’s ancestors and their history in the Psi corps. We also get to see that someone has engineered telepaths, but that’s not a big revelation to anyone who has watched the show. Because of the long time line, the book doesn’t spend much time with each character.

The strongest characters are the MRA’s/Psi Corps’ directors. Crawford is USA’s senator in the Earth Alliance senate and at the start of the book, not every country on the Earth is part of the EA. He’s a strong supporter of EA’s space program which is in danger of being shut down. He manipulates people expertly and uses them for his own ends. Psi Corp’s next director is Kevin Vacit who starts his career as Crawford’s assistant. EA has ruled that a telepath can’t be Psi Corps’ director but Kevin is one of those 30% of people whose telepathy doesn’t show up when tested. He’s kept it a close secret even from Crawford. He also uses the Psi corps for his own ends and even allows the resistance to continue because he believes that the strongest people are among the rebels. Of course, nobody can know that. Neither of these men are particularly likable but I think they are realistic, gray characters. The third morally gray man is Stephen Walters whose telepathy emerged late. Because of his military training Vacit sends him to infiltrate the rebels.

It’s entertaining enough but it doesn’t really bring anything new. The novel is also quite dark: there are a lot of killings, betrayals, and torture, and no humor.

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