Reviews: Area 51 1/2: January 2015


by Steven Sawicki

area51-200Greenings Third Worlders.

It has been pointed out to us that we have been in violation of one of your world’s most sacred beliefs — that of not utilizing another’s ideas as your own, particularly if those ideas have been put into the public arena. However, we have been informed that there is an escape clause, as it were, to this ironclad process and it is called attribution. Therefore at the end of each of our tellings we will make an attribution. We do find the concept somewhat primitive. We mean, do you all honestly believe that no one has had a thought that has been placed into the thought arena prior to your having it? This concept of original ideas is very quaint and perfectly Third Worlder. Why all the original thoughts were thought cycles before any of you were even part of the DNA chain. Every pooling believes they will someday have an original thought — right up to the point where they realize that every pooling believes they will someday have an original thought. But, by all means, please continue to believe that you are the only sentient race in the universe and that all thought originates with you. Good luck convincing the Golden Blarg that they need to pay you royalty rights.

On an entirely different front, we’d like to respond to some feedback we received after the last telling. Yes, we understand that you no longer consider Pluto to be a planet. But we remind you that you are not very knowledgeable about how many planets are in your system to begin with. You tend to leave out the two that orbit on the other side of your sun and the really big one that is out on the edge, sucking in all those comets. So, you decide Pluto is not a planet but allow Mercury, which is smaller than Ganymede and Titan to remain a plant. Your own moon is bigger than Pluto so does that make Pluto just a moon of your Sun? And no need to even mention those two asteroids that are orbiting Mars.

But now it is time to attribute. This sub cycle we attribute to John Carter. Any problems with any of these thoughts can be sent, in writing, directly to him. John Carter, Barsoom, should do it. Good luck.

thorn-jack-300wThorn Jack, Katherine Harbour, Harper Voyager, ISBN 978-0-06-228672-7, 335 pgs.

In full disclosure (no, not that kind) we picked this book up thinking we would probably not like it. There was a human skull on the cover along with red roses and some fancy fonts. Not quite our cup of Romulan Ale if you know what we mean. But, we are nothing if not open minded and so took a whang at it. We are glad we did although we did have a few moments where it was close. Not in a bad way but in a way where one expects ones expectations to be expected. Sort of like Klaarg and an automated forklift. He sees them as robots when clearly they are not but there is no explaining it away.

In any case, Serafina Sullivan has moved to upstate New York from San Francisco after her sister commits suicide. She has moved with her father — her mother having died under some odd circumstances. She is 18 and beginning college in the town where her father grew up. She quickly makes friends with a young woman and young man about her age and also makes acquaintances with a young man by the name of Jack. Jack, it seems, is part of the old money in town. Very old money. Possibly supernatural money. And there’s the crux. Is Serafina reacting in a post traumatic kind of way to her sister’s death or is she adjusting poorly to the move or is what she is seeing and feeling based in some kind of strange reality?

Fair Hollow, which is the name of the town Finn has moved to, is an old town with families who have lived there for a long time. It’s full of old houses and an old college and a quaint main street and secrets. Finn quickly ends up involved with the Fatas, a very old family that no one seems to really know much about other than that they have been around for a long time and don’t seem to change much over time. They are a large, extended family, and you should not mess with them. Finn ends up receiving a lot of attention from the Fatas, not all of it welcomed. As time passes, she and her friends, become more and more drawn into their world, which is not the normal world but the world connected to Fairy.

We have to admit that this is very well written although we wondered at the depiction of a community where the adult humans seemed to be fairly uninvolved. Still, it was a compelling and interesting positing of details that kept us moving forward. Harbour did an excellent job with providing just enough information to keep us involved but not so much as to make us bored. We plan to consult with her the next time we have to put together a Power Point presentation for the pool.

pacific-fire-300wPacific Fire, Greg van Eekhout, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-2856-4, 332 pgs.

This is a follow-up book. We are not quite sure what that means other than that it follows the first thing put out by this writer and is, apparently, set in the same universe. Well, duh, we say, all of your material is set in the same universe since you have not yet discovered quantum interloping. But we think they mean that the book uses similar settings to the previous one. Sometimes it does seem as if you are either being intentionally obtuse or very self focused. Moving right along, this is the story of a golem named Sam who has been stolen by a magician named Daniel. Now, before you go thinking that this is some medieval fantasy telling we have to tell you that it is really future involving alternate reality kind of wrapping. It takes place in a Los Angeles that has been somewhat destroyed and is now ruled by magicians who gain power by eating the bones of mythical creatures or other magicians. By doing this they gain abilities and can create things which get them more power. Sam was created by a magician who was destroyed by Daniel and now Daniel has Sam and is on the run from the other magicians in order to protect him. The other magicians want Sam because they would become super powerful by eating his bones.

There is much running around and much self discovery on any number of fronts before the grand finale. We liked all of this. Very much. We were captivated although we don’t quite remember Los Angeles as being this way the last time we were there. But maybe it’s changed. In any case, we recommend it to you, especially if you think you will never get to Los Angeles. At least this will give you a feel for what you might have missed. And we look forward to the next thing Van Eekhout produces.

metrophage-300wMetrophage, Richard Kadrey, Harper Voyager, ISBN 978-0-06-233448-0, 297 pgs.

Right off we have to say we like this book because it says what it is. On the back cover, clearly labeled it says Dystopian fiction. How you distinguish this from your Dystopian Reality though we are still a bit puzzled about.

The setting is very similar to van Eekhout’s. A Los Angeles that has been pretty much destroyed and abandoned by anyone with any sense, taken over by a combination of police state thugs, gangs and punks with more than a few oddballs thrown in. In this case it is technology that has run rampant instead of magic. Jonny is a med runner, a criminal who will get you what you want for a price. He’s connected to pretty much everyone it seems and he keeps his eyes open and his morals close. But then he finds himself snatched by the police and given an option of taking on an assignment or being killed. It’s not an assignment that Jonny wants and when he’s released he decides to grab his girlfriend and flee. Before he can do that though, he’s caught up in a mysterious scramble of hustle, lies, and slanted perceptions. Most of these seem to revolve around or involve him. Soon he’s being shuffled from place to place and person to person, all of them wanting something from him. To make matters worse there seems to be an alien invasion in process as well as a plague. Talk about a lot going on. This is not a boring time to be living in LA.

We have to admit that while we enjoyed this offering from Kadrey, we did not enjoy it as much as his Sandman Slim Stories. But this was produced at a much earlier time and so may simply be a picture of the man as a young artist. Or it may be stylistically telling in that this is a tale told differently, and lacking the dark humor that sets apart the Sandman Slim work. Either way we all enjoyed it, even Klaarg although he did get a bit queasy at some of the cyborgs. All in all, we’d recommend this to you all, especially if you are planning a trip to LA. Although whether you find Kadrey’s or van Eekhout’s is anyone’s guess.

witch-300wThe Witch With No Name, Kim Harrison, Harper Voyager, ISBN 978-0-06-195795-6, 463 pgs.

This is the final book in the Hollows series. Or so says the creator. We are sure the publisher is saying something very different. We stumbled onto this series early on, although not so early as to allow us to start from the first book. Still, we found enjoyment in reading about this Hollows neighborhood of Cincinnati. And while we have never been there, and never will go there as we are very averse to meeting tigers, we have found the descriptions of the setting and the people to inhabit it to be as if it were just down our street. Not that we are down the street from Cincinnati or anywhere like that just for those of you who insist on looking.

This one, we have to say, has it all. It contains the actions of all of those we have come to know — Witch Rachel Morgan, her vampire girlfriend Ivy, her elf boyfriend, her demon past owner, the gargoyle who lives in her belfry and the fairies who inhabit her graveyard. After going back and reading that sentence we are not sure why you would not want to discover just what is going on here. This time Rachel is really in trouble as the Elves have conspired with the vampires to get their souls back. The trouble is that this will destroy demon magic and the ley lines that most magical creatures use. The elves don’t seem to care, the vampires are pretty self-centered and the bureaucracy is at a standstill. It all comes down to how well Rachel Morgan can manage all of these competing factions in a way that keeps her world hole and safe.

This is also a big book as there is a lot going on and a lot to resolve, more or less. We say more or less because there is plenty of room for further tellings and we are firm believers in never saying never. Unless it involves black holes. Black holes are pretty much the end of the story for everything.

wurms-300wThe Wurms of Blearmouth, Steven Erikson, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-2426-9, 208 pgs.

This is a Malazan tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach although it is actually more of a tale that happens around them. The pair, along with their manservant, beach on a desolate shore only to find an odd town set just above the surf. The town is overseen by a castle that is run by a wizard who’s a bit off and his trusted scribe who is tasked with recording everything.

We like Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. They are, as one might phrase it, a slice or two short of a loaf. But they get things done, albeit in their own way. And there is no better place for them to be doing what they do best then in the town of Spendrugle which is inhabited by a truly odd group of denizens from one end to the other. And you’ll get to meet most of them along with a few more boat loads of folks who have recently crashed against the reefs just off the beach. They’re all plotting and planning to steal and rob each other and it’s all a glorious to do before the end.

This is a short telling and one that is enjoyable from beginning to end. We like it. You will as well.

tusk-300wTusk, A24, 102 minutes, Kevin Smith; Director.

Imagine you are off to do an interview with a Canadian who lives out in the Canadian north but when you actually meet him you discover that he’s sort of an evil scientist and he wants you to be involved in his next experiment. And, to make matters worse, his next experiment is to turn a human being into a Walrus. Well, you no longer need to imagine any of this as Kevin Smith has imagined it for you.

This is the kind of thing that happens when you send your navigator out to get movies and tell him to get something with some teeth in it. We always forget how literal navigators are. Makes them good at what they do we suppose. Makes them not so good at picking movies though.

This film is somewhat amusing, somewhat repulsive, and mostly a waste of good digits. (We would say film but this was shot digitally.) Yikes. This film put us off eating fish for a week. Remember, just because you can do a thing does not mean that you should do a thing. We wish more directors would understand this although we are not very hopeful of that actually coming to pass. Avoid this one, or wait until it becomes a cult classic and it is okay to see it when you are all drugged up. Next time we send Klaarg for the snacks and get the movies ourselves.

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