Categories Historical Fiction, Nautical, Series (21 Books)
Master & Commander is the first book in the Aubrey-Maturin series. Set in 1800 during the Napoleonic Wars. Two characters share the spot light in this series. Jack Aubrey is a navel officer who has just been given command of his first ship. Stephen Maturin is a doctor stranded in Port Mahon, Minorca after a patient he was traveling with died. Jack and Stephen meet, quickly become friends, and Jack invites Stephen to become his ship’s surgeon. The novel is filled with a great deal of detail on sailing ships, the daily life of sailors, and of course navel battles. Only once does this attention to detail slow down the story. Shortly after Stephen comes aboard, not being a sailor, one of the sailors lists the different parts of the ship along with the length of each part. The navel battles are very well written and are the high points of the novel. The series is based around historical events, but O’Brian gives priority to his story rather than adhering to a strict historical timeline. This is manly from allowing too many story events to occur between historical events. As long as the reader remembers that these novels are historical fiction and not fictionalized history, there will not be any distress. The series was published from 1970 to 1999, so there is no problem with feeling like you are having to translate everything you read.
Categories Fantasy, Supernatural, Young Adult
The Graveyard Book is the story of boy who’s family was murdered while he was a toddler. He escapes the murder and finds refuge in a graveyard. The spirits of the dead adopt the little boy and raise him. Although written for young adults, it is a very enjoyable story for older readers. Many young adult authors lack that ability, and the list of awards garnered by The Graveyard Book is proof of Gaiman’s great talent within the genre. The similarities to The Jungle Book are hard to miss, but this novel is much more than a “one trick pony”. The Graveyard Book is far from a retelling of an old classic, it is its own unique fascinating story. Gaiman creates a very interesting world that extends well beyond the graveyard. Fans of any of Gaiman’s varies works will certainly appreciate this novel.
Format: Web Comic
Categories Fantasy, Adult, Ongoing
Oglaf.com is an adult web comic with a fantasy theme. Each story consists of one or more pages. The stories range from hilarious to just WTF. Most of the stories are very entertaining, while a few of them just don’t seem that funny. Considering the amount of material on the website, a few stories that are not as good as the rest is understandable. there is also a lot of variety to the stories, some are one page jokes, and others are multiple page and recurring story lines. The artwork is great, and updates are every Sunday.
Categories Nonfiction, Humorous, Memoir
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is a slightly exaggerated memoir about growing up in 1950’s Des Moines, Iowa. Bill Bryson manages to make his life very funny and very much from the eyes of a middle class kid growing up in middle America during the middle of the 20th century. It was a time of great excitement and great fear, a time when the world was much larger than it is today. Bill Bryson’s unique view of the 50’s and comedic wit make Thunderbolt Kid a very enjoyable read.
Categories Fantasy, Drama, Real World, Series (3 Books)
The Magicians is one part Harry Potter, one part Narnia, and one part coming of age drama. Lev Grossman seems to want to strip away the fairy tale aspects of these well known fantasy series and really think about how these kinds of things, a school for learning magic and a parallel fantasy world affect the real world and real people. How does someone ever grow up when they can have anything they want? The students graduate and are thrown back into the real world with incredible powers and almost no rules on how to conduct themselves. Using magic to get a ATM to spit out money seems common place and expected. There are mentions of magical courts, but it seems more concerned with restricting magic that could harm other magicians, battle magic, than ensuring that magicians act in a moral way toward non-magical people. The parallel fantasy world is also darker and more dangerous than it’s literary counterpart. The main character is not the perfect hero you might expect, he is flawed, often unhappy, and sometimes even unlikable. Although not completely tragic, the story does not have the triumphant happy ending you would find in a book written for kids. This well written novel is serious, thought provoking, and even a little sad. What this novel is not, is a rip-off of anyone else’s work. Lev Grossman’s look at these concepts is all his own.
Format: Graphic Novel
Categories: Teen Drama, Superhero, Series - Completed (11 vols)
Runaways is the story of six teenagers who discover that their parents are super villains. This is set in the Marvel universe, and several major Marvel superheros make appearances, but super powers are not the main focus of this story. The interactions between the six runaways and how they each deal with the fact that their parents are evil is the major theme of the story. Volumes 1 - 3 complete the first story arc, and have a definite tone that changes in the later volumes. Although well written, as most things by Brian K. Vaughan are, the teen drama may not appeal to older readers as much as it might to teens and 20-somethings. Also, anyone who likes comics, but not the standard superhero heavy fare of most Marvel comics, might want to give this series a try. Adrian Alphona is the best of the artists that have worked on this series. The later art tends to have more of a manga look to it, which makes it feel even more like a series for younger readers. Also, I have gotten used to the look of the characters, and I find it distracting to have them change so dramatically.
Categories Scifi, Fantasy, Series - Ongoing (5 books)
Keeping It Real is an interesting mix of scifi and fantasy. It is set in a universe were an accident at a supercollider created a connection from earth to several other worlds in parallel universes. The different worlds have different mythological races on them, Elves, Daemons, Faeries, Elementals, and the Dead. The main character, Lila Black, was almost killed on the elf world. To save her, she was turned into a cyborg. The novel begins with Lila getting used to being a cyborg and going on her first mission for the earth government. The first book deals with the elf world, but the other worlds appear in the following books. The writing is good, but a little slow at the beginning. Once the story moves to the elf world is when it gets really interesting and exciting. As soon as I finished one book, I wanted to start the next.
Categories Superhero, Scifi
Soon I Will Be Invincible contains two story lines, one is a villain, Dr Impossible, the other is a hero, Fatale (pronounced Fay-Tall). The chapters alternate between the two, telling the whole story from two points of view. The story is in first person narrative. If feels like the main characters are telling you the story, and when something reminds them of a past event, they tangent off on that thought. Unlike most superhero novels were the action is the main part of the story, here the flashbacks tell many of the most important elements. Austin Grossman creates a vivid and interesting setting for his novel. Soon I Will Be Invincible contains many of the same concepts as Megamind and Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, but predates both.
Format: Graphic Novel
Categories: Western, Supernatural, Series - Ongoing
The Sixth Gun centers around a battle to control six supernaturally powerful pistols. These weapons have been around throughout history in different form, from stone axes to swords and now as pistols. Each gun posses different powers and there are hints that controlling all six of them can grant incredible power. The writing is great and the plot is complex and never feels predicable. The artwork is good, not outstanding. In an industry that can sometimes feel like everything has been done and redone, The Sixth Gun is something that feels new and different.
Categories Nordic Noir
The Keeper of Lost Causes is a Danish crime drama about a detective who is sidelined into a new department that handles cold cases. He is given only one assistant, who is not even a police officer. The use of someone who is not a police officer seemed a little unrealistic, but the character was very interesting and added a great deal to the story. Like most detective stories, there is not a lot of action, but the story does not drag or become tedious either. If you have never read any Nordic Noir, The Keeper of Lost Causes is an excellent introduction to the rapidly growing genre.
Categories Scifi, Post-Apocalyptic
Bloom is set in a future where humans have been driven off of Earth and Mars by a nano-tech plague that devours any living thing it contacts. The main character has been selected to be part of the crew of an exploration ship from one of the moons of Jupiter to Earth. The different societies and the different fractions within these societies that have developed in the outer solar system make up a very rich and interesting background to this novel. Many complex and thought provoking themes are discussed in this story, but the plot never slows down or drags. Bloom is a great example of what science fiction writing should be.
Categories Fantasy, Romance
The Princess Bride is an enjoyable adventure that is meant to be the basic heart of an adventure story. There are no page long descriptions of stunning vistas, just the bare minimum needed to tell the story. It is told by a narrator, which gives one the feeling that you are being told this story at bedtime. While The Princess Bride id fun and clever, it is not an epic tale of fantasy adventure. It is inconceivable that anyone would not enjoy this great little book.
Categories: Historical Drama, Modern Drama, Scifi
Cloud Atlas is made up of six loosely connected stories. The first half of each story is told in chronological order, then each story is completed in reverse order. This odd form of story telling seemed to be building to some great revelation at the end of the first story, but the end was more like a preachy after-school special. In addition to a disappointing ending, the six stories were not equal in their quality. The second story was especially tedious to get through, and the fourth was only a little better. The sixth was good, and the fifth story was very interesting. It could have been expanded into a very good traditional scifi novel. I think that the unique format of the novel may be more responsible for the acclaim the book has received, than the quality of the stories that were told.
Format: Graphic Novel
Categories: Western, Series - Completed (3 vols, 24 issues)
Loveless is a excellent spaghetti western graphic novel, complete with an anti-hero who is fast on the draw and always one step ahead of everyone else. One very well done scene contains a flash back during a gun fight that both happened at the same location. The characters from the flash back were like unseen ghosts is the middle of the fight. The story contains sex, rape, and nudity, so I would not recommend the for younger readers. Frusin’s artwork is brilliant. His use of color and shadow allow the art to tell as much of the story as the words. The copy I have was printed on the newsprint like paper. If it was every reprinted on the higher gloss paper, many of the images would be truly stunning.