Sunday Status Update: January 15, 2017

Character update on break again. Next week. Next week.


Bill: This week was a smorgasbord. Genre-wise, I read Bradley P. Beaulieu’s With Blood Upon the Sand, his good-if-not-quite-as-good follow up to the excellent Twelve Kings in Sharakhai; and John Scalzi’s Miniatures, which didn’t leave much of an impression, though a few stories were cute enough. In the graphic story vein I read Love, Volume 4 The Dinosaur written by Frederic Brremaud and illustrated by Frederico Bertolucci, a wonderfully vivid wordless day in the lives of a few dinosaurs. In the literary fiction category I was held by the first two-thirds of Karan Mahajan’s Naional Book Award finalist The Association of Small Bombs, but not enough the rest of way so I would have voted for it (you know, had anyone asked me). And in poetry I finished and didn’t much care for Jeffrey Yang’s An Aquarium: Poems. Finally, since I’ve been mentioning genre-related media lately, I’ll note that I’m happily back into Grimm for its final season (good decision I think) and am enjoying Incorporated over on SyFy despite some issues.

Marion:  I finished up Richard A. Knaaak’s period urban fantasy, Black City Devil, the second book in his BLACK CITY series. Like the first, it’s set in 1930s Chicago, but this one harks back to the 1893 Columbia Exposition and the Beast of Chicago. Nick, the nearly-immortal saint-and-gatekeeper main character is in his usual form here, and the period details are nice. I read a novella by Mira Grant called “Final Girls,” the best possible way; in a lashing wind-and-rainstorm, with no electricity, by clip-on reading light. (Both of those were ARCS.)

I also read Daniel J Older’s Battle Hill Bolero, which I enjoyed, but which I thought was missing a big piece. Hello, paging Reza. Reza? Can you hear me?

Oh, I forgot I read Peter S. Beagle’s short poetic novel Summerlong. It was pretty.

I’m trying to figure out which book to take to the Not-the-Inauguration Read-In I’m attending next Friday morning. I’m leaning towards Malka Older’s Infomocracy, even if I just re-read parts of it.

Ryan: Call me superstitious, but I’ve long believed that it pays to read a book at the right time. In fact, I’ll sometimes abandon books, concluding now is not the right time. The other night I realized that I really wanted to read Haruki Murakami‘s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It’s been on my radar for quite some time, but I guess I’ve avoided it because of its length and because I’d heard it was a bit dark compared to his other works. Sometimes, it pays to put a book on the shelf, even if you don’t read it right away, because you never know when its time will come — when the time does come, however, it’s nice to have that book right there, on the shelf, waiting to be opened.

Sandy:   Moi? I am almost finished reading my current book, Philip K. Dick’s Vulcan’s Hammer, and hope to get a review of this one out very soon. On the sci-fi film front, last night I had the pleasure of seeing a NEW movie. I only saw four new films in all of 2016, and I just caught one in the first 11 days of 2017, so I’m off to a decent start. The film was Star Wars: Rogue One, which, as you all know, is actually Chapter 3.5 in the series. It is not part of the nine-parter currently in progress, but is a side story that explains events that happened in Chapter 4, the original Star Wars film. In the new film, we see how the Rebels got hold of the schematics of the Death Star, which plays a crucial role in Chapter 4. The new film is a tad confusing in the first 1/2 hour or so, but things resolve quickly, and the final 45 minutes are absolutely tremendous. Darth Vader is back, as well as those incredible Imperial walkers (dinosaurlike tanks) from Chapter 5, The Empire Strikes Back. R2-D2 and CP-3O are only in this one for a cameo. But the really amazing news, for me, is that Grand Moff Tarkin, the Empire officer in charge of the Death Star, is back … and in a major role! The reason this is so amazing is that Tarkin was played by Peter Cushing in the original film, and is in this new one, too. But wait … Cushing died back in 1994, I hear you saying. And that’s correct, but you’d never know it in this film. With computer wizardry, Cushing lives! You’d never know that it’s not the real deal acting on the big screen. The FX are flabbergasting. It looks just like Peter Cushing in 1977, and sounds just like him, but it is really a superimposed Cushing likeness on another actor’s features! Just amazing! At the end of the film, a similar trick is played, as Princess Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) makes an appearance in the final scene, but in this case, you can easily tell that it is merely computer trickery. The work on Cushing is perfect; on Fisher, not so much. Personally, I’m hoping that maybe Humphrey Bogart or Judy Garland will be in the next Star Wars film. ANYTHING is possible now, it seems. Some folks, I hear, are finding this new ability to effectively resuscitate dead actors a tad creepy, and the technology involved does open up some interesting questions. For example, can Rogue One be entered in Cushing’s official filmography? I believe not, and that an entirely new category, “appearances,” has been formed to cover this issue. Sorry for running on about this, folks, but seeing Cushing – one of my all-time favorite actors – back on the big screen really did blow my mind!

Skye: I’ve found myself with a good bit of time to read (the commute to school this term is prime time to get lost in a book) So I have just finished reading a few titles and still have a couple more on the go. I started and finished The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket within a week and given how short it is I wasn’t surprised. The re-read came about in response to the Netflix series that premiered this past week. I finally found the end of The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. My start-and-stop style of reading this addition to the GENTLEMEN BASTARD books has more to do with my schedule than the quality of the book – I still loved it. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey was something I picked up on Kindle during a sale. I remember starting to read the DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN in chronological order as a kid, but I never made it to this, the first book published in that world. I remembered falling in love with some of the characters in the early years of Pern, but this book did little justice to that nostalgia.

I am also currently reading Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline CareyVampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse ed. John Joseph Adams. The last two may seem familiar in this column because I’ve been reading them bit by bit. I find myself reading story collections slower than other fiction because I like to read each story in one sitting, which doesn’t lend itself well to the stop-and-go nature of when and where I read. I’ll get to the last story of each, in my own time, eventually! I have also been chipping away at three of the SPFBO finalists, so more on that soon too!

On my horizon of reading (which I guess I have now?) I have A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab which I will be reading as a book club with some close friends. I have also pre-ordered River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey. I am very ready for the #HippoMayhem.

The couple reviews I have been dedicating time to right now are for The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco and The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond. I read these books concurrently so I’m hoping getting my thoughts down to paper will be easier if I bounce back and forth. It has been a good January for reading for me!

StuartLast week I listened to Ender’s ShadowOrson Scott Card‘s revisiting of Ender’s story from Bean’s perspective. I thought it was surprisingly good and really added a layer of depth and understanding and gave a completely different viewpoint of the same events, not just a rehashing of them. It was an interesting approach and done better than I expected. I’m now mid-way through Walter M. Miller‘s A Canticle for Leibowitz, and while I do like the first of the three segments, “Fiat Homo”, I still don’t consider this a SF masterpiece. I’ll likely tone down my review a bit when I’m done, but doubt my overall opinion will change.

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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