Novel Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Gemina by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The exciting and worthy sequel to Illuminae ably walks the fine line between stylistic consistency and narrative predictability. Like the first in the series, this novel takes the form of epistolary dossier with a smattering of emails, texts and video transcriptions. A brilliant if not ominous addition is the new heroine’s hand-drawn journal bringing a graphic element into the mix. A bullet hole through each page and an increasingly larger blood stain marring her sketches provide appropriately unsubtle foreshadowing.

The previous trilogy of protagonists [Kady, Ezra, and the existential AI–AIDAN] take a backseat to a new trilogy of sub-adult heroes. Hanna, of the aforementioned journal, is the well to-do daughter of the Heimdall Space Station captain. With all survivors of the first book crammed on the science vessel, Hypatia, due to arrive within days, the Bei-Tech Corporation plans a full-scale attack on the Heimdall and its wormhole to keep news of its atrocities from getting out. Working with her are teenaged, unregistered cousins, Nik and Ella, the scions of a mafia family. Heavily inked Nik has already done time for murder and has the survival instincts and resourcefulness to prove it. His plague-stricken cousin Ella [think: Polio] may not have use of her lower body, but she makes up for that in cyber know-how.

Whereas in the first book the Bei-Tech attackers remain largely nameless and most threats seem to come from within, this novel leans into new subgenres quite unlike the those of the first book. The first subgenre to this sci-fi is clearly Thriller as 2 dozen highly trained militants are sent to Heimdall to kill everyone on the space station and to pave the way for a drone attack to finish off the Hypatia and the Kerenza colony. A 25th operative is already working undercover on the station. A second subgenre [Horror] emerges from the recreation of the mafia family. To foster their drug trafficking, Nik and Ella’s family farms psychotropic substance-secreting, parasitic aliens in underused parts of the station. These aliens resemble four-headed hydras crossed with lamprey eels and have the cuddle-factor and predatory instincts of Ridley Scott’s aliens. What could possibly go wrong??

The huge Win in this book and series lies in the unreliable narration provided by the dossier files as emails and texts reach Facebook levels of news-reliability.

This series is highly recommended.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This brilliant, hefty tome and yet quick read turns the epistolary novel on its head by presenting a researched dossier submitted by the unnamed Illuminae about a sequence of shocking events in the far reaches of space. With a few “researcher notes” amending the files, the dossier contains intercepted memos and emails, dictations of video footage, interviews and AI internal processing.

Indubitably “Young Adult” with two teenaged heroes. Anti-authority, computer hacker Kady and her ex-boyfriend looking for a leader and a romantic reunion, Ezra, play the star-crossing ex-lovers hoping that their story can end less tragically than Romeo and Juliet’s. The tale is also “Sci-fi”, as everything takes place in a far stretch of the universe, first on an illegal mining outpost on an otherwise insignificant planet, and then later on spaceships crossing the void in order to reach a space station. The vastness of space and the loneliness therein are major themes, so too is the breakdown of civilization and order when outside of the view of the rest of humanity.

More interestingly, the subgenres of the novel defy expectation as they morph from one into another. Each holds its own quite convincingly taking the reader on a desperate ride. The first subgenre is militaristic as notions of business, government and military all roil uncleanly together. Then, an unreliable and independent AI abducts the plot. Finally, medical engineering of the nefarious, speculative sort surfaces turning the novel into a full-blown thriller.

The quick pace has the accelerator to the floor the entire time.

I absolutely recommend this is series opener and look forward to the sequels.
 
 
 
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Graphic Novel Review: Rat Queens, Volume 1: “Sass and Sorcery” by Kurtis J. Wiebe

Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & SorceryRat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Girl-Power, high fantasy comes to vivid realization under Roc Upchurch’s fun, compelling art in Wiebe’s graphic series Rat Queens. The Queens are an irreverent band of mercenaries dealing in death, mayhem and hedonism. With a bounty on their heads.

Betty, the shroom-popping drunken smidgeon [think: hobbit], is busy chasing women when not thieving and skulking. Dee, the atheist healer human, is the daughter of squid-worshiping zealots. Violet, the hipster battle-dwarf, seeks her own destiny despite her male twin’s best efforts. And, finally, Hannah, is the goth-elf mage with the heart of an S&M madame.

Money, vengeance and pleasure guide their lives in what proves to be a romp of a series.

Recommended.

 
 
 
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Graphic Novel Review: Liberty: Deception, Issue 1 by Travis Vengroff

Liberty: Deception (Liberty: Deception #1)Liberty: Deception by Travis Vengroff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Liberty page 35 colors jpg

Stunning visuals lead the way with this dystopian graphic novel of a sci-fi off-planet society of sheltered “citizens” and starved “fringers” rumored to be barely human cannibals. The State-controlled media keeps a tight rein on its image, its heroes and its enemies of the State. It’s all propaganda with the biggest “hero” being nothing more than a glorified soap opera actor. That is, until his popularity makes him an extinguishable threat, too.

There exists a fantastic Liberty: Deception, Issue 0 showing the bleak life in the fringe. But this 1st issue follows the condemned actor using his fame and subterfuge to make his way out to the fringe. Along the way, he teams up with some of the previously introduced rogue fringers.

This series is highly recommended.
 
 
 
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Graphic Novel Review: Silent Hill: Past Life by Tom Waltz

Silent Hill: Past LifeSilent Hill: Past Life by Tom Waltz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A horror graphic novel comes to full creepy realization due to the artwork of Menton3. The idea of skeletons in one’s closet proves quite literal when the secrets from the past refuse to stay in the past.

Jebediah Foster lived a rough and bloody life out in the Dakota Territory. He killed more than a few folks [American Indians, a barmaid, a bartender et al]. Then he married, quit drinking and moved Eastward to escape his past. His very pregnant wife seems unaware of Jeb’s past. Jeb himself barely remembers it through the hazy drunken memories.

They move to Esther’s uncle’s house in Silent Hill which they inherited. Everyone they run into seems to know Jeb and a lot about him. But, he can’t quite put a finger on why they should know him and a past he’d prefer not to acknowledge. But some definitely know him–a crazy Native American woman, the sheriff, the barman, the barman’s wife . . .
 
 
 
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Graphic Release: Genesis V by Double Take

ISSUE_5_8-9-162_471x720_72_RGB ISSUE_5_8-9-167_471x720_72_RGB ISSUE_5_8-9-1610_471x720_72_RGB

With the June release of Genesis IV, I praised the sheer number and intensity of social issues raised about privilege, race, gender and sexuality. Set against the backdrop of 1960’s middle America, the contemporary issues rang clear. The series even provided neutral voices in the form of non-Earth beings. If there was any major complaint to be made about the series that drops 10 simultaneous issues together in the Genesis package, it’s that the confluence of zombie lore, mutant superhero lore and alien lore all melding in a single series was indubitably confusing for a single read-through, or five.

This 5th installment to the series addresses the confusion by providing a helpful recap narrator, Kevin, at the start of each issue. He manages to sum up that title’s major characters and their arcs, while providing clarity on previous ambiguities of which there were plenty. He also pulls the separate titles together contextually.

What doesn’t happen is–anything.

With the series finale coming within the next month or so, all the undead meat has apparently been saved for later. Some of the titles even take a serious step back as they merely provide altered perspectives on events already seen in episode #4. The clarity is welcome, but could also have come throughout the series allowing each issue to grind forward.

I’ve previously read Genesis I, Genesis II, and Genesis III.

Graphic Novel Review: Injection, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis

Injection, Vol. 1Injection, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Magic is merely science not yet understood–or so the theory goes. This series stems directly from that maxim as in an effort to break new ground in scientific understanding and possibilities, unexplained forces and entities are released into the world. Merging artificial intelligence with the physics-defying lore of the Fae, unleashes new horrors upon the rationalist people of the 21st Century.

A few years prior, a loose round table of 5 geniuses gather to drive innovation into the Modern world. They create The Injection, an artificial intelligence, not mimicking human intelligence, that takes advantage of all cyber possibilities and the connectivity of the modern world along with unknown physics that reflect ancient folklore surrounding megaliths and fairy stones. The Injection is the team’s creation, but not theirs to command . . .

The full breadth of the tale takes a long time to establish, but eventually gets there–wherever that there is. The art by Declan Shalvey gets the job done unevenly. Supernaturally tainted scenes stand out nicely, while real world scenes get a cartoon-y, flat treatment–especially on the interiors. Exterior scenes, both urban and rural are nicely rendered.

I’ve previously read Ellis’ Trees, Vol. 1 which made my Jaffalogue’s Best Reads of 2015.

 

 

 

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