science fiction

REVIEW: “Collapser” by Mikey Way, Shaun Simon, and Ilias Kyriazis

collapser

I’ve read a lot of Gerard Way’s comics in the past. The Umbrella Academy ranks among my favorite comic series. I’ve also read some of Shaun Simon’s work with Gerard, namely The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. However, I’ve never encountered much of Mikey Way’s stuff outside of his work in My Chemical Romance. It’s not surprising to see him venture into comics – it’s always seemed to be something he and his brother shared in common. But when I heard about his comic, Collapser, I was really interested. The premise was intriguing and I like weird science fiction ideas. However, after reading it, I have to say that I didn’t really like this comic. And it’s a big shame because the premise sounded so interesting. A guy, Liam, ends up with a black hole inside his chest that gives him the power to alter reality as he sees fit. What’s not to like about that? The answer: the execution. (2.5 out of 5 wands.) 

(NOTE: Mild spoilers follow!)

Collapser by Shaun Simon and Mikey Way, illustrated by Ilias Kyriazis
There’s a voice in the head of Liam James questioning everything he does—from his job at the nursing home to keeping his relationship with his girlfriend afloat. Liam suffers from anxiety, and the only thing that quiets it is music, which makes a weekly DJ gig his one saving grace. But Liam’s life changes forever when he receives a black hole in the mail (yes, you read that right), one that takes up residence in his chest, grants him insane superpowers, turns him into a celebrity and draws him into a cosmic conflict beyond his wildest imagination. Where did this black hole come from? Why Liam? Is power the cure? Or will superstardom turn Liam into a black hole himself?

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REVIEW: “Bent Heavens” by Daniel Kraus

bent heavensI don’t normally review YA novels for the sheer fact that they so rarely appeal to me. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the typical fare they cover (teenage drama, lots of romance, etc) so I tend to stay away from them. But I’ve read some of Daniel Kraus’ previous work, the most recent being his adaptation of The Shape of Water, and really enjoyed it. So, when I saw that he had a new book coming out and read the book’s synopsis, I was definitely intrigued. It sounded like the kind of thing that might be right up my alley (being an avid lover of Science Fiction and Horror), so it seemed like a fun book to look into. Having now finished it, I can say that it was a good decision on my part. It’s a really well-written story that does its damndest to defy the normal constraints of its genre. I really enjoyed it and I think it’ll be a good read for a number of different audiences – including, but not limited to, the YA crowd. (Mild spoilers may follow.)

Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus
Liv Fleming’s father went missing more than two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Liv has long accepted that he’s dead, though that doesn’t mean she has given up their traditions. Every Sunday, she and her lifelong friend Doug Monk trudge through the woods to check the traps Lee left behind, traps he set to catch the aliens he so desperately believed were after him.

But Liv is done with childhood fantasies. Done pretending she believes her father’s absurd theories. Done going through the motions for Doug’s sake. However, on the very day she chooses to destroy the traps, she discovers in one of them a creature so inhuman it can only be one thing. In that moment, she’s faced with a painful realization: her dad was telling the truth. And no one believed him.

Now, she and Doug have a choice to make. They can turn the alien over to the authorities…or they can take matters into their own hands.

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REVIEW: “Dart” by Dale Renton

dartI will always enjoy a well-written sci-fi adventure. There is just something that will always be really enjoyable about that genre for me. Maybe it’s the mixture of the bigger thematic ideas often found in science fiction with some of the sillier elements of an adventure story, but there’s just something about sci-fi adventures that I really enjoy. Dale Renton’s Dart fits perfectly in with any number of sci-fi adventures. It’s exactly what you’d expect it to be stylistically while still packing in some surprises and a fair amount of enjoyment. It’s a well-written and enjoyable read. (Thanks to the author for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

Dart by Dale Renton
From the plasteel towers of New Hope to the mist-shrouded jungle of the Core, from the dizzy heights of Mons Drop to the horror infested depths of the deadfalls, Darthanil ‘Dart’ Black faces enemies at every turn. He has to find a way to end the three hundred years war between Formers and Sylth – and prevent a group of super intelligent machines from taking over the planet while he’s at it. Not too tough an assignment for the undefeated First Blade of Sylas’s World – but there are complications…

His old worst enemy has kidnapped the woman Dart loves. His new best friend is a symbiotic plant. Time is running out for the settlers frozen in the Mother Ship’s cryobanks. Ultimate power and the lives of thousands are at stake. Somebody has to do something. Dart could be just the man for the job – if it wasn’t for the poison.

Keep your friends close, your enemies closer–and the ones you’re not too sure about closer still.

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REVIEW: “Cryptofauna” by Patrick Canning

cryptofaunaWhile lots of great science fiction takes lots of effort to tell stories that take a magnifying glass to the worse parts of humanity, sometimes it’s just really nice to take a break from that and luxuriate in a really fun science fiction story. After all, who doesn’t love a good semi-comedic, super entertaining sci-fi romp? The correct answer is: no-one. All of the other reviews suggesting this book is a hybrid of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are right on the money. Patrick Canning’s Cryptofauna proves to be a book that’s every bit as interesting as its cryptic title – and the cryptic game of the same name played by the novel’s characters. (Thanks to the author for providing a copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.)

Cryptofauna by Patrick Canning
Working as a janitor at an insane asylum in rural Idaho has Jim in the dumps. One night, his attempted suicide is rudely interrupted by one of the residents, and he’s recruited to play a game called Cryptofauna. The bizarre contest of worldwide mischief and meddling might actually help the blue custodian discover a reason to life, if he can survive the deadly trials that await…

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Review – “Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples” (Illustrated by Colleen Doran)

918fkn2oh0lWe all know how much I love a good Neil Gaiman story. He’s one of my favorite authors currently writing and I’ve yet to encounter one of his stories that I haven’t enjoyed in some way or another. Some of my favorite Gaiman things are the comic adaptations of his prose work. I always find it really intriguing seeing how comic artists adapt the work of Gaiman (an author who got, perhaps, one of his earliest and biggest breaks within the world of comics) into this more visual medium. This is where Snow, Glass, Apples comes into play. It’s the latest in a fairly-lengthy line of comic adaptations of Gaiman’s work to be published by Dark Horse Comics; ignoring their ongoing American Gods adaptation, it’s the second such graphic novel adapting some of Gaiman’s short stories. What intrigued me the most about this adaptation were the excerpts that featured some of Collen Doran’s illustrations. Her style promised a really interesting, unique, and gorgeous take on the original short story and I was very excited to give it a read. How did it turn out? Just as good as I’d hoped it would be, if not better!

Snow, Glass, Apples (written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Colleen Doran)
A not-so-evil queen is terrified of her monstrous stepdaughter and determined to repel this creature and save her kingdom from a world where happy endings aren’t so happily ever after.

From the Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy, Nebula award-winning, and New York Times bestselling writer Neil Gaiman (American Gods) comes this graphic novel adaptation by Colleen Doran (Troll Bridge)!

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REVIEW: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman

ocean at the end of the lane bookI first read The Ocean at the End of the Lane around the time it was originally published in 2013. It was the first novel from Neil Gaiman I’d ever read; I’d seen his Doctor Who work, watched Neverwhere, and read some issues of The Sandman by this point but I had never read one of his novels in their entirety. Talk about a hell of a way to get into Gaiman’s work. At the time, I was just approaching adulthood, so this novel’s tale of a middle-aged man going through a deeply nostalgic trip down memory lane really hit me hard as it evoked feelings of long-lost childhood and the story itself proved to be far scarier than anything I’d read from Gaiman before – or, frankly, since. Now, since a stage adaptation of the novel has recently been announced by the National Theatre in the UK (it hits the stage in December of this year and I desperately hope National Theatre Live broadcasts it), it felt like the perfect time to revisit this book. It’s been six years since I last read it and I reread books so infrequently that it’ll almost be like experiencing this story for the first time all over again. And how is it returning to this story, you might ask? Wonderful. I truly adore this novel.  (NOTE: this review may feature spoilers related to the plot of the story.)

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse where she once lived, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out.

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REVIEW: “Neverwhere” – The Illustrated Edition, by Neil Gaiman (will illustrations by Chris Riddell)

neverwhereI tried to read Neverwhere, the first solo novel from Neil Gaiman, years ago but I had shortly beforehand watched the original TV version of the story, so I had a lot of trouble getting into the novel as it skewed so closely to what I’d so recently watched. Years passed and I’d read a number of Gaiman’s other novels – Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and more – while never returning to his first to really give it a fair shot. Now,  in the wake of the success of Gaiman’s adaptation of his and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, I thought I’d return to a few favorites of Gaiman’s work while finally giving Neverwhere a real chance. Enough time has passed that I don’t really remember a whole lot of the TV show, so it was really the perfect time to give the book I read. I went to my local bookstore and found a new version of the book – Gaiman’s preferred text, now illustrated by Chris Riddell, one of Gaiman’s frequent collaborators. With this new copy of the book and a copy of the audiobook – narrated by Gaiman, himself – it was time to finally read Neverwhere. Now, having finished the book, I can honestly say that I’m really mad at myself for how long it took me to read this book because it’s really that damn good. (NOTE: This review will discuss elements of the story itself, Riddell’s illustrations, and Gaiman’s audiobook. Also, mild spoilers for a 23-year-old novel follow.) 

Neverwhere (written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell)
Richard Mayhew is a young London businessman with a good heart whose life is changed forever when he stops to help a bleeding girl—an act of kindness that plunges him into a world he never dreamed existed. Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in Neverwhere—a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth. Neverwhere is home to Door, the mysterious girl Richard helped in the London Above. Here in Neverwhere, Door is a powerful noblewoman who has vowed to find the evil agent of her family’s slaughter and thwart the destruction of this strange underworld kingdom. If Richard is ever to return to his former life and home, he must join Lady Door’s quest to save her world—and may well die trying.

Published in 1997, Neil Gaiman’s first novel, Neverwhere, heralded the arrival of a major talent. Over the years, various versions have been produced around the world. In 2016, this gorgeously illustrated edition of the novel was released in the UK. It is now available here, and features strikingly atmospheric, painstakingly detailed black-and-white line art by Chris Riddell, one of Gaiman’s favorite artistic interpreters of his work.

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REVIEW: “Men in Black: International”

mib posterHere’s the thing about the Men in Black movies: none of them are really that good. None of them are bad, either, but they’re nothing particularly special. They’ve always been harmless summer blockbusters that were more concerned with being a comedic, visual treat than telling a particularly compelling story. The first three films always succeeded based on the chemistry of their stars – Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. And that was okay. Men in Black never needed to be some pinnacle of storytelling; they were just these enjoyable action movies. All of that remains true for Men in Black: International, the latest sequel/reboot in the Men in Black franchise. The film features a pretty basic, predictable plot, some enjoyable jokes, some serviceable action, and largely succeeds based on the chemistry of its two stars – Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. (Mild spoilers ahead.)

Men in Black: International (written by Art Macrum and Matt Holloway, directed by F. Gary Gray)
The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.

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REVIEW: “Good Omens” (2019 TV Series)

good omens posterI love Neil Gaiman’s books. Obviously. I talk about them all the time. I write religiously about the American Gods TV series. One of the first Gaiman novels I ever read was his collaboration with Terry Pratchett (of Discworld fame), Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. It was one of those books that felt akin to Douglas Adams’ novels and it was a book that I really loved. Naturally, I’d heard rumors of it being turned into a film for years, though nothing ever seemed to come of it until Amazon Prime and BBC announced they were co-producing a six-episode adaptation, written and executive produced by Gaiman, himself. I’m a big fan of authors getting to adapt their own stories for various mediums – though, often, many authors don’t do such a great job with those adaptations as they don’t understand the constraints of whichever medium the story is being adapted for. Gaiman, however, has plenty of experience writing for film, TV, comics, and prose, so if any author could successfully translate their novel into a visual medium, it would be Neil Gaiman. Thankfully, that’s exactly what he did with this adaptation, too. These six episodes of Good Omens are so delightfully accurate to the novel, so immensely entertaining, and so well put together that it is just so joyous to watch. This is one of those shows that I might revisit yearly just for the hell of it. (Mild spoilers for both the novel and the show ahead!)

Good Omens (written by Neil Gaiman, directed by Douglas Mackinnon)
Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and Crowley (David Tennant), of Heaven and Hell respectively, have grown rather fond of the Earth. So it’s terrible news that it’s about to end. The armies of Good and Evil are amassing. The Four Horsemen are ready to ride. Everything is going according to the Divine Plan…except that someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist. Can our heroes find him and stop Armageddon before it’s too late?

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REVIEW: “Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town” by Adam Christopher

91geul5xcolStranger Things is returning to screens this summer for its third season and it seems that Netflix is pulling out all the stops to promote it. With multiple novels and comic mini-series, the Stranger Things universe just seems to be growing and growing. And, here’s the thing: these Stranger Things novels are really turning out to be pretty enjoyable reads. I loved the first one, Suspicious Minds (written by Gwenda Bond) and I quite enjoyed this second one, Darkness on the Edge of Town. It’s not quite as spectacular as the first one – and it doesn’t quite reveal anything as shocking or interesting as that book – but it ends up being a pretty solid crime novel with a Stranger Things twist. (Mild spoilers for the novel follow.)

“Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town” by Adam Christopher 
Christmas, Hawkins, 1984. All Chief Jim Hopper wants is to enjoy a quiet first Christmas with Eleven, but his adopted daughter has other plans. Over Hopper’s protests, she pulls a cardboard box marked “New York” out of the basement—and the tough questions begin. Why did Hopper leave Hawkins all those years ago? What does “Vietnam” mean? And why has he never talked about New York?

Although he’d rather face a horde of demogorgons than talk about his own past, Hopper knows that he can’t deny the truth any longer. And so begins the story of the incident in New York—the last big case before everything changed. . . .

Summer, New York City, 1977
. Hopper is starting over after returning home from Vietnam. A young daughter, a caring wife, and a new beat as an NYPD detective make it easy to slip back into life as a civilian. But after shadowy federal agents suddenly show up and seize the files about a series of brutal, unsolved murders, Hopper takes matters into his own hands, risking everything to discover the truth.

Soon Hopper is undercover among New York’s notorious street gangs. But just as he’s about to crack the case, a blackout rolls across the boroughs, plunging Hopper into a darkness deeper than any he’s faced before.

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