Tsana’s July Status
Hello, readers! It’s been a month heavy on reading and also comic books. I will admit, I took advantage of having bought the first three volumes of Saga by reading them all in a day and queueing up the reviews to post while I was on holiday. (In case you were wondering why that particular week seemed slow.)
It’s been a bit of a long month, as well, with a lot happening, or so it feels looking back. The most dramatic news was that on of my favourite imprints, Strange Chemistry (of Angry Robot), closed its doors. Very sad news, especially for authors with upcoming books that were cancelled with various degrees of suddenness. I still have some Strange Chemistry books left in my review pile, so keep an eye out of those. (Sadly, there was one book I reviewed that got pulled before publication and another ARC I have which is presently not being published and hence I probably shouldn’t review… :-/ )
On a completely different note, my next status update will be a few days early (in the sense that I usually aim for the 15th of each month) because I will be off to WorldCon in London and then a holiday. Before that, there will also be something exciting coming to the blog, but you’ll have to wait to find out what. It does mean that I’ll probably have some reviews stored up to post while I’m away, so it won’t be a complete black hole. Anyway…
- The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne — A really excellent read. A different kind of near-future SF and one of my favourite books of the year.
- Short stories on the Hugo 2014 ballot — Generally pretty good. I’m very impressed with most of them.
- A semi-random selection of short stories — Good reads by design. Wouldn’t’ve bothered otherwise.
- Use Only As Directed edited by Simon Petrie and Edwina Harvey — A themed anthology where the theme (also the title) works very well and has produced some nicely broad stories.
- Bound by Alan Baxter — Dark Kung Fu urban fantasy.
- Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone — New comic book series. My favourite part was Red Sonja gaining clothes as the story went along. (Also, it was a good read.)
- Innocence Lost by Patty Jansen — Dutch-inspired fantasy world, a pretty quick read.
- Chasing the Valley: Borderlands by Skye Melki-Wegner — book two of the Chasing the Valley series (review of book 1 here). I really like this series. Steampunk dystopian is a very loose description.
- Saga Volume One by Brian K Vaughan — Science fictional comic book series, this volume won a Hugo last year.
- Saga Volume Two by Brian K Vaughan — Science fictional comic book series, this volume is shortlisted for a Hugo this year.
- Saga Volume Three by Brian K Vaughan — As above, but released this year.
- Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier — Awesome YA book. Set in 1930s Sydney, sort of about razor gangs. (Did you know that guns were illegal at that time in Australian history too? I didn’t.)
- Chasing the Valley: Skyfire by Skye Melki-Wegner — The last book in the Chasing the Valley trilogy. <3 although it had a bit of a weird end.
What am I currently reading?
I have another large book haul this month, which only serves to make me more behind on my reading. Such are the pitfalls of being a book blogger. And also of spontaneously buying books because you can.
- Ambassador 1: Seeing Red by Patty Jansen — purchased because on sale and because I’ve been meaning to read it.
- Bound by Alan Baxter — ARC from Voyager. Already reviewed.
- Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis — purchased because it looks pretty great.
- The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman — purchased paper book because we went to a paper bookshop and it saves me having to buy it when I’m at WorldCon or something.
- The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter — purchased at the same place and for the same reasons as above.
- Saga Volumes One, Two and Three — as above and also because Volume Two is Hugo shortlisted. Already reviewed: One, Two, Three.
- Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer — purchased with above because it’s pretty. And because I’m hoping it will motivate me to write a bit more than I’m currently managing.
- A Wrong Turn At the Office of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson — purchased because AWW and Aurealis Award shortlisting.
- Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes — ARC from (US) publisher via NetGalley. Looking forward to it.
- Help Fund my Robot Army!!! & Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects edited by John Joseph Adams — collection of SFF stories in the form of Kickstarter proposals. A Kickstarter that I backed a while ago (because that is the most obvious choice of delivery for such a book).
- Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier — Purchased because. Already reviewed.
- Big Bang (Hal Spacejock #7) by Simon Haynes — Purchased because I realised it existed.
- Daggers of Dresnia by Satima Flavel — ARC of the first in a début fantasy series (which was a smidge late getting to me).
- Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress — ARC via NetGalley of short (maybe novella?) SF book. Have enjoyed the author’s short stories in the past.
- Loving the Prince by Nicole Murphy — ARC via NetGalley, science fiction romance.
- The Sorcerer’s Spell by Dani Kristoff — ARC via NetGalley, fantasy erotica (eek).
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Chasing the Valley: Skyfire by Skye Melki-WegnerChasing the Valley, and the second book, Borderlands. It has been a journey I have enjoyed a lot; I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it before. This review will contain spoilers for the earlier books.
What if you achieve everything you’ve dreamed of – and it turns into a nightmare?Skyfire picks up only moments after Borderlands left off. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that it opens with the sky (in the distance) literally on fire. The crew has reached the promised land of the magnetic valley but it is not the verdant utopia they were lead to believe. (I suppose there wouldn’t’ve been much story if it were.)
Danika and her crew of refugees finally reach the Magnetic Valley. Will it be the safe refuge and land of freedom they had imagined? When a runaway girl is shot down before their eyes, Danika and her friends realise that this new land is no paradise. They must try to fit in at all costs – even if revealing their secrets will mean a death sentence.
The conclusion to the Chasing the Valley trilogy will reveal explosive surprises and terrifying new dangers.
The country they find themselves in is an improvement on what they left behind but not as much as they had hoped. There are strange laws about what people with certain proclivities (magic) can and can’t do in society and the ruler is a three hundred year old man with a singular proclivity. The crew quickly learn that no one likes to question the ruler or speak against him at all (always suspicious). Have they stumbled out of the frying pan and into the fire? If you mean a literal fire (in the sky), then yes. But enough about the plot.
I’m a bit conflicted with how this series finished off. On the one hand, all three books have very different settings and new problems to go with them. The new setting isn’t actually the part I feel conflicted about. It’s the way in which the story escalated book to book. The personal stakes were already pretty high (death if they didn’t flee in book one), but by the third book new revelations up the ante to the point of them needing to save the world.
But the thing is, it was all actually foreshadowed from the start. So although some elements seemed to me to come from left field, they didn’t, not really. I have no doubt that the author had planned out the entire series before book one was done.
It also ended in a place where I wanted to know what happened next. Sure, the world was safe (that’s so not a spoiler) and everything was probably going to be OK… but that doesn’t mean that the next step was obvious. I would like there to be more books about Dannika and the others, but I suspect there might not be.
Oh, and the thing I complained about in my review of Borderlands — someone not picking up an important object — was actually resolved. Not quite the way I would’ have liked it to be, but in a way that made sufficient sense given the plot. So yay.
Anyway, Chasing the Valley is an excellent series. All three books have been very close to being five stars for me, but just not quite. Skyfire is the same. Obviously, that still makes it a really good series. I highly recommend it to everyone.
4.5 / 5 stars
First published: July 2014, Random House AU
Series: Chasing the Valley, book 3 of 3
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge
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Saga Volume Three by Brian K Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples
Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the universe. Searching for their literary hero, new parents Marko and Alana travel to a cosmic lighthouse on the planet Quietus, while the couple’s multiple pursuers finally close in on their targets.When I read the first two volumes (my reviews of Volume One and Volume Two), I was a little weary of the number of female characters. But as the story has progressed, it seems to have accreted more of them, which I appreciated. The cover art of this volume is a good example; neither of those two characters were proper characters when the story started.
Gwendolyn, the woman on the cover, while not wearing what I would call sensible clothes (but they could be worse), proves herself to be an interesting character. We first learn of her only through Marko, who was engaged to her before he went to war. She initially sounds relatively insignificant but when she shows up in person, we find out that, just as Marko changed when he went to war, so to did Gwendolyn when she stayed back.
One of my favourite characters, who’s been around since Volume One but who I haven’t mentioned, is Izabel. She’s the ghost of a teenage girl who died stepping on a landmine. More accurately, the ghost of half a teenage girl. She’s pretty great and not the kind of character I would have expected to see. (Even if we can see her intestines.) Also, she provides a counterpoint to everyone being wrapped up in the war. Although her parents were freedom fighters and despite the way she died, she’s not invested at all.
We also get to know two new characters with their own story line: two reporters who have caught the trail of the story of Alana, Marko and their child. They run around trying to chase down leads and, in the process, we learn about their home world. Really, I think it’s fair to say that the more we learn about each character, the more interesting they become.
I’ve been enjoying Saga and I’m sad that I now have to wait for an indeterminate time for the next volume. I also recommend starting from the start if this is the first review that you’re reading.
4 / 5 stars
First published: March 2014, Image Comics
Series: Saga, Volume 3 of ongoing
Format read: Paper! Glossiness!
Source: Purchased from the Science Fiction Bookshop
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Saga Volume Two by Brian K Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples
SAGA is sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the universe. Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and horrific monsters, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters her strangest adventure yet… grandparents.
I didn’t think about it that much when I was reading Volume One, but I quite like the style of the narration in Saga. The way it’s included puts me in mind of voice overs in movies which take place over action-y scenes and that was exactly how I pictured it. It also means that, despite the narrator still being a baby in the comic (not much time has passed since it started), we can start to get to know her as an adult.
Volume Two introduces a few new characters — one in particular that I wasn’t expecting to see so soon — and progresses the plot incrementally. That is one of the frustrating things about reviewing comic books; the nature of the medium makes them very brief and difficult to go into much depth over. (I say this before having listened to the Galactic Suburbia Spoileriffic episode; I’m sure they found plenty to talk about for almost two hours.) So I present a few random thoughts.
I was amused that the language written in blue letters is called Blue. I also checked what it was with Google Translate. I had suspected it was Esperanto, and turns out it is. It was an interesting choice to have a couple of pages of dialogue written entirely in Blue. That was the point at which I decided to check what the language was, but I ended up not translating all of it because it wasn’t mysterious from the context (and also because lazy). Still, it was an interesting contrast to other scenes where only one person is speaking in Blue and the other doesn’t necessarily understand them.
I was also really taken by the style of the historical vision art. (I would call it a flashback but it flashed to before the character’s lifetime.) The way it sort of blurred was really cool. It was only used in one bit, but it was memorable.
Saga Volume Two is a recommended read for people who have read and enjoyed Volume One. I don’t recommend starting at Volume Two because of plot continuity. I am definitely going to read the third volume.
4 / 5 stars
First published: 2013, Image Comics
Series: Saga, Volume Two of ongoing (? Three so far)
Format read: Paper!
Source: Purchased from the Science Fiction Bookshop
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Saga Volume One by Brian K Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples
When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.The story opens with the baby on the cover being born and is lightly narrated by her future self. This opening volume sets up several story lines: there’s the parents trying to keep their baby safe and not get themselves killed in the middle of a warzone, and there are two unrelated character groups trying to track them down and kill them (and capture the baby).
From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.
The story deals with forbidden love — the parents come from different races (who, obviously can interbreed) — particularly in the reactions of other characters when they are confronted with the couple. It’s also pretty gritty, in that there’s a lot of violence and hardly anyone is a nice person (although possibly not as literally bloody as grimdark fantasy, but I’m not so sure). Also there are a lot of boobs, some of them needless. Like the spider lady bounty hunter really didn’t need to be topless (and as a bounty hunter, I have to wonder why it seemed like a good idea). By contrast, the only penises that appear are in the background on a (weird) prostitute planet, which still contains more boobs. If you didn’t pick it up from the last few sentences, this is not really a PG read; it’s definitely intended for adults.
So far, I’m enjoying the story, which is just as well because I already have volumes two and three ready to go. It’s definitely aimed at SFF readers and I wouldn’t call it anything other than science fantasy, genre-wise. (OK, I lied, I might also call it space opera, but I remain faintly confused about what space opera actually is.) There are some interesting species represented, like the robots that book completely human (to the point of reproducing the same way) except for having screens for faces. By contrast, the welcoming committee on the prostitute planet was a bit weird and alarming.
Saga seems not to be for the faint of heart, but it’s not as dark as quite a lot of fantasy books I’ve read.
4 / 5 stars
First published: 2012, Image Comics
Series: Saga, Volume 1 of (ongoing?)
Format read: Paper! Gasp!
Source: Purchased from Bokus.com (Swedish retailer)
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Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of Plagues by Gail SimoneHumble Bundle, an excellent deal.
Gail Simone (Batgirl, Birds of Prey) gives the iconic fantasy heroine a fresh new attitude! Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, intends to pay back a blood debt owed to the one man who has gained her respect… even if it means leading a doomed army to their certain deaths! Who is Dark Annisia, and how has this fearsome warrior accomplished what no god nor demon has been able to do: force Sonja to her knees in surrender? An epic tale of blood, lust, and vengeance, Queen of the Plagues takes Red Sonja from the depths of her own grave to the heights of battlefield glory.This is forms an introduction and origin story for Red Sonja. Not having read about her before — in fact, the main reason I’d even heard about her was thanks to my mother talking about her in the context of Conan the Barbarian books. But I wanted to give it a go because of the female lead character and because I’ve heard lots of good things about Gail Simone.
The story is split between the “present” and events that happened three years earlier. Sonja’s city is threatened by both plague and a supernatural (or, well, non-human) army, and it is her job to defend it. With the help of two teenage body guards. The story is filled out by flashbacks to Sonja’s time as a gladiator-type slave three years earlier and to her childhood.
It was an interesting story and I enjoyed learning about Sonja as I turned the pages. I also liked the progression of her clothing. Although the start of each issue had a full-page illustration of the traditional chainmail bikini, and she was wearing aforementioned bikini at the start, she gradually acquires more clothes as the story progresses. By the end she was even in full-body armour, which was exciting. I don’t know if it will stick in subsequent issues, but it made me happy. That chainmail bikini is SO incredibly stupid.
Anyway, I highly recommend Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of Plagues to anyone with a passing interest in the character or barbarian-type stories in general. I’ll definitely be getting the second volume when it comes out (later in the year, according to Goodreads).
4 / 5 stars
First published: February 2014, Dynamite Entertainment
Series: Red Sonja Volume 1 of ongoing
Format read: ePub comic (on iPad iBooks — not a bad experience, almost as good as ComiXology, which I shall be avoiding in the future)
Source: Humble Bundle
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