John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire is the first book in a brand new series from the author of Old Man’s War. I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Scalzi’s writing. I really like most of his Old Man’s War series, but am not a big fan of almost everything else he’s done. He’s a really good writer who knows how to keep you turning the page, but after you’re done, you realize it’s pretty forgettable. And that’s the problem I had with The Collapsing Empire.
Growing up, I loved comic strips. I used to grab the Sunday comics section and spend hours reading every good and crappy comic out there. I used to checkout collections of comic strips from the library. From the great, Doonesbury or Peanuts, to the crappy, Hagar the Horrible or Andy Capp, I read them all. But one of the collections that stayed with me for years, despite their being very few collections and not much information about it was George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. Years before Tom and Jerry or Itchy and Scratchy, we had Krazy and Ignatz. Set in the beautiful desert of Coconino County Arizona and populated with animals who spoke Herriman’s unusual mix of classic literature, lower class slang and general insanity, Krazy Kat was a brilliant comic strip which had an outsized impact on future comic strips.
One of my favorite things as a science fiction reader is to not only explore new (imaginary) worlds, but to explore them from a different point of view. As a middle-aged white male living in the US, that means reading stories from people of different genders, ethnicities and cultures. So I was very excited to read The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu). The story digs into the Chinese Cultural Revolution and I love the idea of a story from a Chinese point of view. So let’s check the book out.
On the DVD set of Iron Man 3, there was a short called Agent Carter where Captain America cohort Peggy Carter fought sexism and took on a physically demanding spy challenge before being promoted to head S.H.I.E.L.D. The short was so popular and well-done that Disney/Marvel decided to make a short-season series to show while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was on hiatus. Hayley Atwell stars as the eponymous character in this new series, so let’s see how it is.
Sometimes it takes me a couple tries to get going in a book. In this case, it was three tries over 5 months. I picked up Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice when it started hitting everyone’s radar in mid 2014. But after two months and two tries, I didn’t make it out of the first chapter. So I put it aside for a while while it garnered more praise and many, many awards. I finally picked it back up over the holidays and this time I made it through and enjoyed it. It’s an interesting book not only for its wonder story and characters, but it’s gender politics as well. It’s unlike other books that I’ve read and I’m now looking forward to the sequels. Let’s check it out.
From the creators of that one show which no one watched, comes a musical comedy show about a knight and his travails. It’s an interesting experiment to see if the TV audience will support the musical comedy genre. Musicals on television have not been welcomed since the Cop Rock fiasco. There have been fits and spurts of musical episodes (Buffy, Scrubs), but no one has tried to do a full on musical series until now. So, does it succeed?
I love James Ellroy’s writing…most of the time. With White Jazz, he went too far into incoherence, but LA Confidential is still on of my favorite books of all time. But one of the things I hate in genre fiction is the prequel (and not just because of George Lucas). With a prequel (especially in crime fiction), you start losing people who’s lives you can threaten. You know that Dudley Smith won’t be severely injured or killed because he’s still around in the future. You also know the future of the characters. The book starts being more of a spot-the-reference game than a story. So it was with these worries that I started reading James Ellroy’s latest LA novel Perfidia.
Ian Tregillis is an interesting writer. His ideas are clearly not the product of a sane mind. I enjoyed his first book, Bitter Seeds (my review), but wasn’t happy with the additional books in that trilogy. Then he comes along with Something More Than Night. The book advertises itself as a supernatural, noir mystery with a main character who influenced by Sam Spade. And the mystery? Who killed the Angel Gabriel? With a plot like that, there was nothing that could stop me from reading it. And I loved it. Let’s check it out.
I’ve been in a bit of a book rut. Nothing I’ve read for the past two months made me want to review it (although I might muster up a review of the Stainless Steel Rat books). But then I started reading Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni. To find a novel that is so wonderful that I want to shout it from the rooftops is what makes me want to review books. The book is a wonderful look at New York in the early 1900s with its Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. The look at two magical souls that are lost and alone while trying to survive in the this time is just amazing. I can’t recommend it enough. So let’s take a look at what the book’s about.
The Hobbit movies have a real chance to be longer than a reading of the Hobbit would take. I went to go see the second of the movies, The Desolation of Smaug, this past weekend. Not only does it show almost everything that’s in the book, it brings in a significant number of scenes that aren’t even hinted at in the book, mostly with Gandalf when he leaves the party. Overall it’s a decent movie that tries to hard to be more than it is. Let’s check it out.