September 2019

Collects Shuri issues 1-5.

Writer: Nnedi Okorafor
Artist: Leonardo Romero

I really wanted to like this more than I did. There’s nothing wrong with it, though.

I haven’t read Black Panther’s own comics and I’m familiar with him through the Avengers and his (and Ororo’s) short stint in the Fantastic Four. So, I’ve no idea how this portrayal of Shuri gels with the previous comics. However, she’s very much the characters we saw in the Black Panther movie: a genius, lighthearted, and fun. She’s more a scientist than a super hero.

When the story starts, her brother and her love interest, the teleporting Manifold, are going to space. They shouldn’t be long but instead (of course) their space craft disappears. It’s two weeks later, and people are starting to think that Wakanda isn’t telling them everything. Shuri is trying to figure out where they’ve gone and lost herself in work. Namely, inventing nanotech wings for herself. Rapidly, she must deal with many issues. On the political front, other nations want Wakanda to join them in a council with other African nations. When they figure out that T’Challa is gone they, and Shuri’s mother, expect Shuri to take up the mantle of Black Panther. However, the previous time Shuri did that, she died (during the previous big Avengers event, Time Runs Out). So, she doesn’t want to. Also, she’s now part of a Wakandan women’s council.

On personal front, she has some sort of spiritual connection to her ancestors who are in her head apparently all the time. She has a hacker friend whom she apparently trusts with almost anything but doesn’t know who they are. Luckily, Storm has figured out that T’Challa is missing and offers her help. Also, general Okoye is a big help, too. This being a superhero comic book, Shuri must deal with a super villain attack and she also has some adventures in space.

All these elements gel surprisingly well together, although I felt that the requisite super villain didn’t add much. Shuri has a spiritual side even though her expertise is firmly in the sciences. It was great to see so many supporting female characters around her.

The artwork is more “cartoony” in style than I’m used to from Marvel.

I did mostly enjoy this so I’ll look for the next volume.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Fall 2019 TBR.

Ever since I got sucked into playing Star Trek Timelines and Marvel’s Contest of Champions, I haven’t read much print books. But I’ve listened a lot of audiobooks. So, while I have a lot of print books I’d like to read, my TBR currently has mostly comic books.

1, John Vornholt: Troll Treasure
Currently I’m reading this third book in the children’s fantasy trilogy about young troll Rollo.

2, Nick Thacker: The Depths
I’m also reading this thriller where a married, but estranged, couple is looking for their kidnapped child. They end up in an underwater research station.

3, Shawn McGuire: Family Secrets
This is a first book in a mystery series I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I’ve read an excerpt and really liked it, so now I’m finally going to dive into it.

4, Lady Mechanika vol. 2
This is the second volume set in a steampunk world which follows the adventures of a young woman who has a lot of mechanical parts. She’s trying to figure out her own past.

5, X-Men Gold vol. 2: Evil Empires
Volume 1 gathered together many of my favorite X-Men: Kitty Pryde, Storm, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers, and Colossus. Marvel is probably trying to bring in us older readers by appealing to nostalgia. Well guess what? It’s working!

6, X-Men Gold vol. 3: Mojo Worldwide
Some of my favorite X-Men versus Mojo! What could go wrong? (Don’t answer that…)

7, Mr and Mrs X vol. 2: Gambit and Rogue forever
I loved the first collection! Hoping the second one will be just as entertaining.

8, Cloak and Dagger : Lost and found
The next collection of Cloak and Dagger’s eighties adventures.

9, Kim Newman: Anno Dracula
I finally got this alternate world book where Dracula is married to queen Victoria. I really need to read it.

10, Roderick Thorpe: Nothing Lasts Forever
Did you know that Die Hard is based on a book? This book. I just realized it and immediately borrowed it. Luckily it’s not only in the Finnish library system but translated into Finnish.

On audiobook front, I’ve got five Great courses series of lectures on history and various cultures. I’ve also got METAtropolis short story collection.

A stand-alone SF book. Technically the third in Wayfarers series but you don’t have to read the others (although I recommend them).

Publication year: 2019
Format: Print
Page count: 359
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

This is not an adventure story. It has five POV characters who are remarkably different from each other, considering that they (mostly) live in the same place: the Fleet. They are all humans. The humans who live in the Fleet are called Exodans. They had to abandon Earth because their ancestors had made in inhabitable. Luckily, they were accepted into the galactic community of different species.

These are more like vignettes, flashes from their lives. I really enjoyed the book because I find their culture fascinating and it was fun to explore it. The book doesn’t really have an antagonistic force, unless you count the accident at the beginning of the book or evolving attitudes or technology.

A couple of the characters are restless and looking for something new in their lives. They were all touched, one way or another, by a disaster at the beginning of the book. They’re all reacting to it while getting on with their lives. Kip is a teenage boy who yearns to be able to leave the Fleet and find something else, something better or at least different. Sawyer lives in Mushtullo, an alien world where he works when he can and doesn’t have any family. When he’s once again unceremoniously fired, he decides to go to the Fleet where he doesn’t have any relatives left but he thinks he could make it there, among other humans. Tessa is a mother of two and her husband is a space ship mechanic. He’s away a lot and Tessa must try to deal with her five-year old daughter who was traumatized by the events at the beginning of the book. Isobel is over sixty and she’s a senior archivist, in charge of keeping the stories of the past alive. She’s also a host to a visiting alien anthropologist. Finally, Eyas is a caretaker. She takes care of the bodies of the dead. In space, everything is used and recycled and so are the bodies.

I very much enjoyed the alien anthropologist, Ghuh’loloan who is really not a Star Trek alien (although I adore some of them, too.:) ). She’s a Harmagian so she’s doesn’t have bones; she uses a motorized cart to get around and breaths through her skin. She has a air pouch which she vibrates so that she can talk.

This book has some ideas which are very, very different from our Western consumer culture. Such as every human in the Fleet is given water, air, food, and a place to stay. They can work and the society’s pressure, especially for the young, is that they stay and do something that benefits the Fleet. But that’s not a condition for getting food and air. They also don’t use money. They use barter. The galaxy around them uses money and some aliens see the Exodans as quite backward.

It also has some other very interesting notions which aren’t explored in fiction much (or at least I haven’t come across them). This is a quote late in the book:
“Our species doesn’t operate by reality. It operates by stories. Cities are a story. Money is a story. Space was a story, once. A king tells us a story about who we are and why we’re great, and that story is enough to make us go kill people who tell a different story. Or maybe the people kill the king because they don’t like his story and have begun to tell themselves a different one.”

Of course I’ve read books about books which are about stories. But to put our whole society as a story is blunt (and wonderful). And money is a story, something we made up. We, the society, have just allowed it to take over, well, everything else.

This book, like the others in the series, is also happily inclusive. Xyr is a gender and species neutral pronoun for a person. Isobel is happily married to another woman and we see some other same-sex couples as well, and nobody comments on it.

A multigenre short story collection.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: WMG Publishing

This issue of Fiction River has stories from many genres. The theme of the collection is fast paced exciting stories and most of them deliver. There are stories with no SF/F elements at all, a couple of fantasy stories, a couple of noir stories, science fiction, and urban fantasy.

I liked most of these, although the noir stories didn’t really appeal to me. The first two stories are very good.

“The Wrong Side of the Tracks” by Kelly Washington: Marlene is trying to get away from her psychotic and abusive boyfriend, who just happens to a small town sheriff.

“The Ex” by Michael Kowal: The POV character of this first-person story is friends with a former president of US. He’s trying to save the Ex from very determined assassins.

“The Demon from Hell Walks into a Speakeasy” by Ron Collins: A noir urban fantasy story, complete with the slang of the era. The main character is a demon who meets the wrong elf princess in a Chicago speakeasy. Her dad is the city’s most feared gangster.

“Blood Storm” by Bob Sojka: The crew of a M-1 Abrams tank is trying to get home (in the tank) from a mission in Iraq. They can hardly believe their eyes when a group of flying creatures attack.

“So Many Ways to Die” by Dayle A. Dermatis: Vera is a medic on a small space ship. She’s there because her husband is the chief engineer. Now, a meteorite has struck the ship and damaged it terribly. Vera is the only one left unwounded. She must deal with her fears and go outside to repair the ship and quickly, or people will die.

“Egg Thief” by Debbie Mumford: Dragon eggs, or rather their contents, fetch a very rich rewards. One bold thief has decided to try their luck and sneak into a dragon’s lair.

“Dust to Dust” by Annie Reed: Mickie’s master has sent her after yet another despicable man. She must find him or her own life is lost. But then she sees a little girl who reminds her of her own daughter and things go wrong.

“O’Casey’s War” by Patrick O’Sullivan: Another noir story. John O’Casey returns to New York to finish what his friend Preston tried to do. But instead, he gets framed for murder and must find a way out.

“Looting Dirt” by David Stier: In Iraq, new private Nick Varlan is shooting “rag heads” as he calls them. Then he’s picked for a dangerous mission.

“The Mark of Blackfriar Street” by Scott T. Barnes: Doug Mayhew is a bounty hunter. When he spots a man in a peasant dress but with a rich man’s cap, he deduces that he’s worth capturing. He and his trusty horse Pickles manage to capture the man but holding on to him is another matter.

“Death in the Serengeti” by David H. Hendrickson: Jakaya Makinda is a Senior Park Ranger in Tanzania. When he sees a group of slaughtered elephants, he knows that poachers are near. But these poachers are more ruthless and prepared that ever before.

“Rude Awakening” by Kevin J. Anderson: This story starts with the main character literally awakening when a madman tries to kill him in his own coffin. He remembers hearing about a serial killer who is murdering his kind.

“Cleaning up the Neighborhood” by Dæmon Crowe: Jerome has finally gotten his big break and he’s heading to a university. Unfortunately, his old car dies right when he’s in a narrow alley in a big city. Desperate, he runs off to get gas. Meanwhile, Tom from Neighborhood Patrol is convinced that the abandoned car belongs to a criminal.

“Redline” by Travis Heermann: Troy’s big brother Jake and his best friend are always in trouble. When Jake and Beaver promise to take Troy along for a ride to the city, Troy’s very happy. However, they run into a large dog and Jake shoots it. That turns out to be terrible mistake and the trio is soon driving for their lives.

“L.I.V.E.” by Eric Kent Edstrom: Cassie’s dad is the CEO of a very large company and she’s in danger of being kidnapped. So, he forces her to learn to defend herself and to deal in a possible kidnap situation. Good thing, too, because when two armed men barge into the coffee shop were she is, she needs those skills.

My favorites where the first two, “Death in the Serengeti” and “L.I.V.E.”. “Cleaning up the Neighborhood” was also a fun and quirky read. All of these are short and very fast-paced with not much time to introduce or develop the characters. Yet, most of them worked very well.

Collects Uncanny X-Men (2018) 1-10.

Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Ed Brisson, Kelly Thompson
Artists: Mahmud A. Asrar, R. B. Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto, Yildiray Cinar, Pere Perez

The book starts with Jean’s dream where Jamie Maddox is fighting the X-Men and asking “where is Kitty Pryde”. Next, Kitty leads a group of newer X-Men (Pixie, Armor, Rockslide, Glob, and a couple of others) against Forearm. However, the team encounters a whole team of supervillians and Kitty disappears. At the same time, a US senator Allen is giving a speech in favor of a vaccine which will will eradicate mutants. Dozens of Jamie Madrox’s duplicates attack the crowd and the X-Men while claiming that he’s trying to save everyone. In the end, senator Allen disappears.

Meanwhile, mysterious things are happening all over the world: rain in Kalahari Desert and dinosaurs appearing. Also, ordinary humans are picketing the Xavier Institute of Mutant Education and Outreach and Legion returns, claiming that he knows who is responsible for the chaos and that he’s trying to help. Not surprisingly, the X-Men aren’t convinced. But then the Four Horsemen of Salvation appear and destroy the X-Mansion.

The pace is down right frenetic: the mutants don’t have time to even search for Kitty when she disappears or even think about revelations or events. We have a large cast, which I mostly liked, but most of them don’t really do anything, such as Nightcrawler, Jubilee, or Cannonball. Instead, we have that group of younger X-Men who are fed because they’re kept in the sidelines. Unfortunately, I’m only familiar with Armor so I didn’t really care for their complaints.

Still, I mostly liked this. However, the story suffers from rehashing old plot lines. The X-Men even joke among themselves about how they’ve seen the vaccine before, not to mention mind-controlled people. Because of the fast pace, this felt like it just moved from one fight scene to the next. It also ends with a huge cliffhanger which I’m sure will be done away with soon.

This story comments on the real world: how people hate and fear each other more than ever and the world more polluted than ever. The mutants are told to “go home” which I’m sure is a nod toward some people’s attitudes about refugees and immigrants. I’m sure some readers will hate it; they just want their escapism. The theme of needing to destroy (parts of) the world in order to save it is an old one but can be handled well. However, the main bad guy’s actions don’t match with what he says he’s trying to do. Messing with natural world the way he’s doing is the opposite of saving it.

An Alien story set some 37 years after the first movie, between the first and second movies.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 4 hours 28 minute
Narrator: Rutger Hauer, Corey Johnson, Matthew Lewis, Kathryn Drysdale, Laurel Lefkow, Andrea Deck, Mac McDonald
Dramatizer: Dirk Maggs

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this full-cast dramatization of Lebbon’s novel. But I was very impressed: the cast was great, the sound effects and music added to the story wonderfully, and it was easy to follow, even though the book wasn’t read word for word. The actress doing Ripley’s voice was so prefect that I had to check if Weaver was actually part of the cast.

The story itself is simple enough. The crew of the mining ship Marion are in trouble: they’ve lost one drop ship and crew. When the other ship returns, it has aboard it an alien which starts to kill the rest of the crew. Among the first killed are the captain and the security man. When another vessel approached instead of a rescue ship, it’s a shuttle with Ellen Ripley in it. She has been sleeping for 37 years, but she must quickly get over her shock and help the rest of the crew survive. To make matters worse, the android Ash has downloaded his consciousness into the Marion’s computer and it doing his best to collect specimens.

This was very entertaining listening with lots of atmosphere. It used the listener’s knowledge of the movies to quickly sketch out of characters and places which tied it will into the Alien universe. Ripley doesn’t remember this episode in the movies, so of course we know how it will end. I’m sure hardcore Alien fans will find lots of faults with it.

The first book in the SF series White Space. Can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2019
Format: Audio
Running time: 16 hours 48 minute
Narrator: Nneka Okoye

Haimey Dz is a space salvager. She works in a small “tug boat” of a ship with Connla the navigator and the ship’s AI. The ship is too small to have a name but Haimey named the AI Singer. Haimey has a troubled past but this ship and the small crew are her home. Unfortunately for Haimey, Singer has been drafted and is leaving the ship soon. She’s already in mourning for the AI. The small crew are looking for derelict ships and old tech to salvage. However, on this trip they find more than they bargained for: a really old ship which has apparently belongs to the Korugoi, the people who died before the current nations rose and about whom the current people don’t know much about. Haimey goes in to investigate and an alien technological parasite latches on to her. Even worse, pirates know about the ship too and they’ve come to collect what they can. Haimey and her little ship manage to escape but the pirates are now after them and soon, so are the authorities.

This book has a lot of things I really, really liked: a complex and flawed female main character, a small crew, a lost ancient civilization, and alien species who are part of a vast galactic government. Humans are just a tiny minority who (IIRC and it’s so difficult to try to find anything from an audio book) were let in grudgingly. And it all works wonderfully. The aliens are strange but not too strange.

Also, the humans have implants which can control all of their body chemistry and so their moods, as well. Tech can also change their memories. There are some interesting conversations about this all. Well, interesting to me. No doubt some others will find them slowing the book down. Haimey comes from essentially a cult but has managed to get away from it and carries a lot of baggage. This is her struggle for her identity.

One other thing which endears Haimey to me is that she’s reader. She reads 19the and 20th century books and sometimes comments on them:
”They’re great for space travel because they were designed for people with time on their hands. Middlemarch. Gorgeous, but it just goes on and on. ”

They also debate and talk about politics, such as various political systems and how far you can program people, even when the programming is supposed to be for good reasons.
“Earth could have learned a long time ago that securing initial and ongoing consent, rather than attempting to assert hierarchy, is key to a nonconfrontational relationship. Because we’re basically primates, we had to wait for a bunch of aliens to come teach us.”
“There’s value in work you enjoy, or that serves a need. There’s no value in work for its own sake.”

Kickstarter has two interesting projects:

Pulphouse magazine subscription drive has reached the third stretch goal which means that we supporters get at least two extra issues and one short story collection in addition to the magazine. Seven days still to go.

Another project has three short story collections for people who love post-apocalyptic, outdated tech or food SFF Apocalyptic, Galactic Stew, and My Battery is low. Yes, that last one is in honor of the Opportunity rover. It needs only a few thousand bucks to reach the goal. Author lists include S. M. Stirling, Seanan McGuire, Tanya Huff, and Esther Friesner. They also have quirky “zombie packages” as pledges.

Collects Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #64, 69-70, 81-82, 94-96; Cloak and Dagger (1983) #1-4; Marvel Team-Up Annual #6; Marvel Fanfare (1982) #19; New Mutants #23-25.

Writers: Bill Mantlo, Chris Claremont, Al Milgrom
Artists: Ed Hannigan, Rick Leonardi, Ron Frenz, Tony Salmons, Kerry Cammill, Bill Sienkiewicz

This tome has over 400 pages and collects the first appearances of Cloak and Dagger, mostly in the pages of Spider-Man, and their first miniseries. These are very 1980s comics. Most of them are very verbose and as much as I adore Chris Claremont’s writing, he’s one of the worst offenders, although the Spider-Man writers aren’t far behind. These Spider-Man issues (specifically the last ones 94-96 were some of the first superhero comics I ever read (translated to Finnish, of course) so it’s hard for me to be objective about them. 🙂 Their TV-show isn’t on Netflix here and I haven’t seen it.

Cloak and Dagger first appear in the collection’s first comic: mysterious figures who are threatening a man’s life. However, rather quickly Spider-Man finds out that they aren’t really criminals. Rather, they’re a pair of teenagers who got their powers from synthetic drugs and now they want revenge against all drug dealers and also to help runaways who are exploited. I’m sure some readers find this too heavy-handed but I quite liked the theme.

The pair’s powers have changed a bit, depending on the story. In the first story, Dagger’s “daggers of light” kill the drug dealers. But later they purge the drugs out of the bodies of anyone who is hit. They’re also described as cold but in one story her light gave warmth. Cloak’s darkness is always cold and makes anyone caught in it weak. Later, it’s revealed that the darkness craves light and that Dagger’s light can feed it. But if Dagger’s light isn’t available, the darkness will want to feed on the light of humans (life). Cloak must constantly fight against it. While Dagger is a less tragic figure, she’s still a teenager who wants a normal life, which she can never have. In these stories at least, they aren’t portrayed as lovers but considering that they’re both 16, that wouldn’t have been appropriate for a Spider-Man comic (and I’m sure the racial issue also prevented that, too).

Most of the stories focus on C&D going after drug dealers or trying to save kids from them. But the last story appeared in New Mutants and is different from the others. However, all of them (except for the miniseries of course) have long-running subplots which aren’t resolved here. Debra’s subplot is especially cringe-worthy as she’s constantly crying when thinking about Peter. She knows that he’s Spider-Man and cries when she thinks of the dangers he’s facing. If that doesn’t bother you, this is an excellent collection of the beginning of Cloak and Dagger and a very good showcase of 80s comics.