Monthly Archives: April 2016

Our Weekly Dark Horse Presents Volume 14

Our Weekly Dark Horse Presents Vol 14


Yay! I’m posting this before the week officially ends! Maintaining my weekly goal of reading and reviewing an issue of Dark Horse Presents makes me happy. In case you missed my previous reviews on this Dark Horse Presents is my favorite comic book anthology and was published back in the 80’s and 90’s. I’m attempting to read and review my way through the whole series a week at a time. 


Concrete by Paul Chadwick is the flagship of the early part of this comic book series. It is a beautiful and magical take that somehow always touches the heart of what makes us human and this chapter is another fine example of that as Concrete considers his possible immortality. 


Another chapter of Masque by Mark Badger in which-oh look! Something interesting! A preview for the first Aliens’ comic book series! Dark Horse Comics rocked the Alien franchise! Expect to see some Alien stories within future Dark Horse Presents comics! Where were we? Oh? Masque? Yeah. Masque. By Mark Badger. 


Mr Monster by Michael T Gilbert is a little bit of comic book fluff. Scientist turned magical monster hunter. Not bad just cheesy. 


Dinosaur Tales by Mark A Nelson is just what it sounds like! And it was pretty cool. Dinosaurs always get you some points. 

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AKIRA

I still remember how amazed I was when I first watched the movie Akira. It was one of the most impressive SciFi films I had ever seen and definitely the best animated film! The soundtrack drew me in, the story compelled me and the characters propelled me into this incredibly epic movie. I loved it. I watched it often. But strangely enough I never sought out and read the comic book series that it was based upon. This was a mistake. 
 I have finally corrected that mistake. I can report that the comic book series Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo gave me everything the movie gave me and more. It was awesome. Truly majestically awesome. Akira is one of the greatest stories ever told and it is told well. 
The characters are complex and varied. The comic book brings out such depth in them. They come alive in a way that the movie just couldn’t bring them to life. Tetsuo’s tragic character truly becomes a tragic character. Akira himself becomes something far more ominous and alive than the movie can convey. The city itself becomes more fully realized and more a part of the story. 


And dat art tho! So impressive! So full and vibrant and alive! Even the tanks. I’ve never seen more impressively drawn tanks. The amount of detail put into what others would consider throwaway panels is awe inspiring. 


Then the pacing of the story. It is so fast paced and action filled that you’re already fifty then a hundred then two hundred pages in before you realize any time has passed. I read the entire story within a week because it was near impossible to set it down. 2,187 pages of awesomeness. It is impressive how much you are drawn into the world. 


I was able to find all six volumes of Akira at my local library. It has an excellent selection of graphic novels! Libraries are awesome and I am thankful for the impact that librarians have had on my life through their quiet work. 


Would I recommend Akira to people who don’t normally read comic books? Yes. Yes I would because here within the pages of Akira you find one of the masterpieces of SciFi. Yes I think you should read Akira. 

Ten Years Of Heresy

Imagine it is the year 40,000. You a part of a vast galactic empire that is based out of Earth. You only know war. On every border you are attacked. The enemy has struck deep into the heart of your territory. War is all there is. You long for the God Emperor to awaken and rescue humanity from itself but He has been locked away for 10,000 years and you aren’t even convinced that He is still alive anymore… yet you have lived your whole life for Him, and you know you’ll die for Him. For there is only war. 
This is the grim dark universe of Warhammer40K it is a universe in which humanity barely holds on, seems on the verge of destruction, but still fights. It is a harsh future which promises only destruction and the slow fight leading to it. What happened to humanity to set it on this path of constant warfare? 


To answer that you’ll need to turn back time 10,000 years to a golden age of expansion and enlightenment. To a time when the glorious Emperor walked amongst his chosen warriors and guided humanity. To a time before he was a God locked away from all of humanity. To a time when everything seemed possible and promising. To a time when the future was bright. To a time when the Emperor’s chosen sons took up the mantle of leadership. You would have to return to a time when his greatest son, Horus, turned his heart away from his own father and betrayed him. To when Horus split the galaxy into warring fragments. To a time when Horus believed the Heresy of Chaos and fell victim to it. To the time of The Horus Heresy. 


The Horus Heresy is an excellent Military SciFi series that covers the fall of the greatest galactic empire in epic heroic fashion. It is the tenth anniversary of the publication of Horus Rising by Dan Abnett. Ten years and over thirty books later the Horus Heresy is still going strong! I am twenty books into this excellent series. Each new book adds an extra layer to this epic story. It has kept me following year after year and book after book. The authors (there are several contributing authors to the series) keep the story fresh, interesting, engaging, and worth reading. This is an excellent series for anyone to read and if you are a fan of Military SciFi you’d be hard pressed to find something better to invest in. Here’s to a wonderful ten past years and here’s to many more stories in The Horus Heresy! 

Studying Star Systems

Jhereg by Steven Brust is an excellent fantasy novel that combines witchcraft, assassination, sorcery, fantastical creatures, crime, wit, and honor. More on this book later.   
 

 A question was asked of me recently: “How do you decide how many stars you how a book on GoodReads/Amazon/Netgalley?” It is a great question without an easy answer for me. Take Jhereg for instance: this book is amazing. I remember reading it years and years ago and being captivated by the author’s style and the story he created. I recalled it being a very quick read as it is part of a series that consists of short books with fast paced intrigue and action. I could have given it a five star review for the memory, or a three star review as I wished it to be longer, or a four star review as I thought it was exceptional at the time, but how to fairly judge and review a book that you read years before these review sites were available? This can be perplexing for me. 

  
 

 I ended up giving Jhereg four stars although I sometimes feel I should bump it up to five but while I truly enjoy this story I love so many others more and love some other books by the same author more. That reasoning (combined with a few other thoughts) led me to mark this as four stars. When I reread the book last year I felt that was a fair assessment, and I mainly try to be fair. 

  
That said there are a few three and four star books I have given five stars to purely because of the emotional response I’ve had to the book. Or due to the fact that I’ve interacted with the author and want to give them a higher review as I admire what they’ve done and want to spread the word. To the author the difference between five star and for star reviews can mean even more than it does to the reviewers. This is another factor that can weigh on my mind as I try to give a fair review. 

  
This has also kept me from leaving one or two star reviews sometimes even when I felt the works deserved it. Sometimes you can judge a work unfairly just because you didn’t connect in the way you wanted to, so I try to consider that when I dislike a story. 

  
All this to say I don’t have a set in stone method of rating books other than I try to be fair and positive. I think I do reasonably well there. My primary goal in giving a review is not to give stars; it is to relay how a book made me feel, what I connected with, how the story became internalized. I try to personalize the reading experience and share that. Sometimes I might give a book an extra star or two but if I do then it is because something within that book connected with me and I was able to see what the author was attempting to accomplish. Or it’s been 20 years since I read the book and I’m trying my best to recollect it! 

  
 In closing: Reviews matter a lot to most authors. Please write reviews. Please spread the word about books you love. Please be nice. And please tell me how you work your star system! 

Our Weekly Dark Horse Presents Volume 13

Our Weekly Dark Horse Presents Vol 13

  
Well uhm… this volume was all like:

  
With another confusing chapter of this:

  
And then it took a turn like this:

  
Like I’ve said before not all volumes of a comic book anthology will be great… but I mean I at least always hope to enjoy one story included in each one. Oh well. Here’s hoping the next volume is better! 

A Magical Book Story

The Wheel Of Time, Memory Sorrow And Thorn, The Heritage Of Shannara: Three epic and beautiful fantasy series that I discovered all around the same time in my life.   
I still remember finding The Eye Of The World, The Dragonbone Chair, and The Scions Of Shannara at my local library back when I was around the same age as the main characters within the pages of these stories. It was at a time shortly after my family had moved across country to a new state, having to make new friends, and create a new life. If you were raised in a military family you know the drill. Moving happens! Starting over in a new place has its ups and downs but at the time I found these books I was experiencing a particularly down time. There are always plenty of reasons why someone will experience down times or up times or travel from one to another, but in the midst of all the reasons and everything that was happening I found these three books at my library and brought them home. 
I agonized over which to read first! Knowing that each started off a series and that I’d probably want to read all the available books in the series before starting the next. So I hemmed and hawed, I went back and forth trying to decide, attempting to somehow pick the exact right one to start first. Without fail each one I read drew me in completely. I ended up devouring them all and reading every book written at that time in each of the series and eventually completed all of them. You might be wondering which book I read first… but that’s not the important thing and that isn’t what this is about. 

  
You see the important thing is that in the midst of a personally difficult time I discovered these beautiful stories of flawed characters that were around my age that I found myself identifying with. I found solace in the pages of these stories and turned to them time and again. I read the available books and then read them again. And again. And again. Finding myself and losing myself within the books. In my thoughts I became a part of the stories. The books helped redirect my creativity and focus. The authors (Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, and Tad Williams) will never know the impact their stories had upon my life. 

  
This is yet another reason we need stories. Lots of them. We need diversity in books. We need YA Books, SciFi, Mystery, History, Fantasy, Romance, Western, Children’s Books, Graphic Novels; we need them all and more. 

  
I found that I could identify with the characters in these stories. That helped me through a difficult time and has always stayed with me. With greater diversity in our stories even more of us will be able to easily identify with more characters and find the stories that can help us through our difficult times and encourage us during our best times. Stories are magical. I’m thankful to have found the magic I needed. I’m hopeful that you will find the magic you need too. 

  
And if you’re still wondering which book I read first well that’s a secret of my own that maybe one day I’ll tell… but not today.

A Sad Song For Ice And Fire (or why I am avoiding the GOT tv show)

Around fifteen years ago I picked up a book named A Game Of Thrones by one George R R Martin. I read it and was amazed. I hunted down the next book A Clash Of Kings and was blown away. I quickly found A Storm Of Swords and thought that the series known as A Song Of Ice And Fire was the best work of literature currently being written.   
My love for the series compelled me to read all three books again, and to seek out others who loved this series as I did. I met one of my best friends as a result. I read all three books again so that I could seek out the hidden truths GRRM sprinkled throughout the books. I continued to be amazed by them. And I waited for the next book. 

  
And waited. And waited. And waited. After years of waiting the news came out that A Feast For Crows was being published! Joyously I read the first three books again in preparation for AFFC and I discussed all the possible plot lines and ideas of what the story might hold. I hoped the book would be as amazing as the first three. I worried it wouldn’t be. I picked it up and started to read. I was amazed all over again. When an author takes a character that you HATED and causes you to start loving that same character then you have witnessed true magic. Truly rare magic. 

  
I settled in to wait for the next book. Preparing myself for the wait. And waited. And waited. Then something strange happened. A tv show? Really? Ok, but the story isn’t finished yet! How can you air a tv show before the story is over? What if the books aren’t finished first? Would you let this tv show spoil the books? What if the actors are different from what I picture? What if the directors mess up the story? How will you convey the depth of this series? Why would GRRM allow this to happen? Yet he did. And the show was very successful. A lot of people loved it. The audience grew. 

  
Meanwhile they announced A Dance With Dragons was about to be released. I picked up A Game Of Thrones and read through the whole series again. I read ADWD. I discussed it with my friends. I enjoyed it. Yet I realized something depressing. Everyone really wanted to talk about the tv show. About the actors and if they were doing a good job. Don’t you love the sets? Aren’t the costumes amazing? Did you see what they did on the tv show? 
I stopped watching the tv show after the first season. Not because it was bad. It was fine. I quit watching it for two reasons. First: I didn’t want someone else’s interpretation of the series or characters coloring my concepts and views of the series. Secondly: I didn’t want to get attached to a tv show that might bypass the books. 

  
The tv show is bypassing the books. This is awful to me as I want to enjoy the books as GRRM writes them. It means I have to avoid potential spoilers about this show. t means I can’t discuss this series with my friends, because even well meaning unintentional things they’d want to say about the show will frustrate me as it points to possible plot lines that haven’t happened and might not happen in the books. It takes A Song Of Ice And Fire away from many of us readers and replaced it with Game Of Thrones as HBO interprets it. And yes I know GRRM has his hand in this tv show and approves of it. That’s fine. I’m even happy for you if you love and enjoy the tv show. But that show isn’t ASOIAF for me. It saddens me that this is happening. It takes some of the fun and joy away from the books for me. But it is happening and many are celebrating it. I just can’t join in on the celebration with them. 

  
For those of you that can’t wait for the conclusion of the tv show I do hope you enjoy it. I’ll be avoiding it and any discussion of it. I do feel a bit cheated out of something special by how GRRM has allowed this to progress, and I hope other authors take note of this and choose to wait on tv/movie deals until the series has progressed closer to the end. Authors don’t “owe” their readers anything, it is true. That’s just a request from a reader. I hope it is considered. 
And I hope to avoid spoilers of a book series that has meant so much to me for so long.