2002.03


The B.P.R.D. (Vol. 3): Plague of Frogs: The Hellboy mythos grows

B.P.R.D. (Vol. 3): Plague of Frogs by Mike Mignola (writer), Guy Davis (artist), Dave Stewart (colors), & Clem Robins (letters)

The B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs is the first extended B.P.R.D. volume since the first two volumes were collections of short stories. Plague of Frogs is a five-issue mini-series. The comic book opens with bloodshed: One scientist visits another to see the fast-growing fungus being watched at a facility. The visiting scientist, out of the blue, shoots the other man in the back, claiming that "the Master commands." Security guards enter and shoot him.

Quite a dramatic opening for an excellent B.P.R.D. story. After this violent start, the comic shifts focus to Abe Sapien who is dreaming of being under the ocean watching an endless flow of dead bodies. We are given the impression that this is a dark premonition. He is still disturbed by the bad dream when h... Read More

The Field of Swords: Caesar abroad

The Field of Swords by Conn Iggulden

Conn Iggulden’s The Field of Swords (2005) follows a Caesar who is no longer young. Though he is still eminently capable and still driven to work day and night in pursuit of glory, he is exhausted rather than energized by his work in Spain. Naturally, the real story begins when he returns to Rome to form an alliance with Pompey and Crassus.

Rome considers itself the greatest city in the world, but, to our eyes, it is consumed by corrupt political intrigue in search of power and recognition, its enemies are tortured and slowly executed in public, and its people are entertained by merciless spectacle. Julius is the hero of this text, but he is not given contemporary attitudes. He enjoys the spectacle, the fame, and the glory of Romeo as much as the mob does.

There a... Read More

Humans: A love polygon

Humans by Robert J. Sawyer

Ponter, the Neanderthal from another dimension, is back on Earth – our Earth.

This time, Ponter has brought nearly a dozen of the most celebrated scientists and intellectuals from his world. Though we humans are a difficult bunch to deal with, the Neanderthals seem determined to make contact work. Thank goodness, since a lone gunman on our side shoots a member of their delegation as soon as he gets the chance. Mary, meanwhile, is recruited into an American think tank that is determined to figure out how the Neanderthals and their technology work.

All of this sounds like a very standard science fiction story about complications related to alien contact. Robert J. Sawyer’s Humans, however, is not overly concerned with the complications between the two worlds. It instead focuses on the growing relationship between Ponter and Mary. They c... Read More

The Never War: Subtle teaching moments and a real emotional impact

The Never War by D.J. MacHale

Note: Contains spoilers for previous PENDRAGON novels.

In The Never War, the third book in D.J. MacHale’s PENDRAGON series, Bobby is now 15 years old and is gaining experience as a Traveler. His job is to protect Earth and other territories of Halla (which includes all peoples, places, and times that have ever existed) from Saint Dane, the super duper evil villain whose goal is to increase chaos everywhere. Somehow, the chaos gives him power.

By the end of book two, The Lost City of Faar, Bobby has successfully foiled Saint Dane’s attempts to throw the territories of Denduron and Cloral into chaos. Now he and Spader, the Traveler from Cloral, are following Saint Dane to the next territory: First Earth. When they ... Read More

Brilliance of the Moon: A slightly anti-climactic finale

Brilliance of the Moon by Lian Hearn

With a complicated web of back-story set up and a return to familiar characters that we’ve seen develop, it goes without saying that Brilliance of the Moon should be the gripping climax of a trilogy that has thus far moved from strength to strength. The third and final instalment of the TALES OF THE OTORI series, the book has many loose ends to tie up, not to mention a certain prophecy that needs fulfilling. Across the Nightingale Floor and Grass for his Pillow were always going to prove tough acts to follow, and unfortunately Brilliance of the Moon doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors’ standards.

We start from where Grass for his Pillow left off: Takeo and Kaede have just been married in secret and it is now up to them to unite the Three... Read More

Undead and Unappreciated: Funny but still shallow

Undead and Unappreciated by MaryJanice Davidson

“Blurgh! Death loomed (again), and I was grossed out. It was the worst week ever. Again.” ~Queen Betsy

In Undead and Unappreciated, the third book in MaryJanice Davidson’s QUEEN BETSY series, a lot of stuff happens to Betsy — she reads the Book of the Dead and becomes evil for a little while, she hurts her friends, she learns that her stepmother (who she hates) is pregnant, she negotiates with her unionized employees, she discovers that she has a half-sister who is the daughter of the devil, and she admits her feelings for “sin-in-a-suit” Eric Sinclair.

I’ve been half-heartedly enjoying this silly little paranormal romance up to this point but I’m starting to lose my patience, mostly because of a lack of character development. After all that happens to her, Betsy is still the same old snarky shallow selfish brat that she’s been since... Read More

City of Flowers: Rich world, sluggish pace

City of Flowers by Mary Hoffman

They Want To Take All My Sons!

This, the third book in the Stravaganza series, is almost twice the size of the first installment, City of Masks, and I can't help but feel that its pacing suffers as a result. Though still rich in detail and description, City of Flowers feels rather sluggish at times, with none of the intrigue or urgency that filled the pages of its predecessors. It picks up considerably toward the end of the novel, with weddings and feuds and floods and murders most foul, but the getting there seems to take forever.

The Stravaganza books are built on the conceit that certain people from our world are able to "stravagate" in their sleep to an alternative-world version of Italy, a co... Read More

Woken Furies: When Takeshi Kovacs is in a bad mood, people die

Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan

Takeshi Kovacs spends most of Woken Furies, the third book in the Kovacs series, in a bad mood. Kovacs is an ex-Envoy, a carefully selected, highly trained, rigidly conditioned assassin for the powerful and draconian Protectorate, so when he’s in a bad mood, people usually die.

Of course, many of them are not really dead, or rather, Really Dead, because people in Richard K. Morgan’s future universe have cortical stacks, shiny storage devices attached to their cervical vertebrae, holding consciousness. As long as your cortical stack is undamaged, your consciousness can just be downloaded into a new physical body, called a “sleeve.” While you’re waiting for a sleeve your consciousness can be dormant, or it might be active, inserted into a virtual environment. This could be a paradise or a torture chamber, depending upon who got hold of your stack.... Read More

The Hounds of Avalon: Too much more of the same

The Hounds of Avalon by Mark Chadbourn

The Hounds of Avalon is the third book in Mark Chadbourn’s DARK AGE trilogy, which continues the story of England after the Fall described in the author’s earlier AGE OF MISRULE trilogy. A noticeable difference between the two trilogies is that the AGE OF MISRULE follows the same group of five main characters, the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, throughout all three books. The DARK AGE trilogy introduces one set of characters in book 1, The Devil in Green, and then surprisingly introduces all new characters in book 2, The Queen of Sinister. The Hounds of Avalon, somewhat annoyingly, initially starts off with yet another batch of new characters in the first pages of its opening chapter (my first major source of annoya... Read More

The Blood Knight: Solid if uneven “bridge” book in the series

The Blood Knight by Greg Keyes

Anyone who reads a lot of fantasy knows by now to come with some trepidation to any sort of "bridge" book — the second book in a trilogy or the 2nd or 3rd book in longer series. Too often they simply exist to get us from the exciting stuff that got us hooked in book one to the exciting stuff that will wow us in the conclusion. Other times they read like they simply exist because the author can sell a trilogy more easily than a standalone or a simple sequel and so plot events are stretched out so thinly they almost snap.

The Blood Knight, for the most part, avoids the pitfalls of the bridge book. The strength of the book is the same as earlier ones — the reader is never quite sure of just who the "bad guy" is here. Greg Keyes gives us a broad enough viewpoint here so that we're always on shifting ground. The characters find themselves in the same situatio... Read More

Darkwitch Rising: Cornelia rising

Darkwitch Rising by Sara Douglass

The setting is Restoration London. Cornelia, Brutus, Coel, Genvissa, Asterion, and assorted friends and enemies are walking the earth yet again, as is a mysterious new character who has the potential to throw a wrench in all of their best-laid plans.

This is Cornelia's story more than anyone else's, as she matures further. Noah, as she is called in this life, is a far cry from the bratty Cornelia of Hades' Daughter, and even the staunchly loyal Caela of Gods' Concubine. Here, Noah begins to question everything she had previously accepted, including the Troy Game and her love for Brutus. At first, she begins to teeter into Mary Sue-ness. She is becoming ever more powerful, and it seems like everybody in the entire world is in love with her. But she really wins my heart around the middle of the book, when she begins to break free of the things ever... Read More

Water: Transformation: A good read for young fantasy lovers

Transformation by Kara Dalkey

Transformation is the final book in Kara Dalkey's Water trilogy, beginning with Ascension and continuing with Reunion, both of which are essential reads if you want to understand this final book. Previously, young mermyd called Nia from the underwater city of Atlantis came ashore in order to find Gobiath, a squid-like Farworlder that rules Atlantis. He is one of the last of his kind after Atlantis was betrayed by the evil mermyd Ma'el and his Farworlder Joab, and now Nia is an Avatar (someone with physic links to a particular Farworlder) and the only one who can save her home. In book two she met up with Corwin, a young boy who unwillingly also became an Avatar to Gobiath and helped Nia in rescuing him from the tyrannical King Vortigern.

Now the two of them fac... Read More