Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

This was a strange book that was well written that was not for me.

I first discovered Rivers Solomon with Rivers’s first novel, The Unkindness of Ghosts, set on a generation ship that has instituted a version of 19th century southern slavery (for undisclosed reasons).  It was excellent - raw and interesting and beautiful.  So I eagerly bought and dove into the Deep, Rivers’s novella based on a song about mermaids who evolved from enslaved pregnant people tossed overboard during the Atlantic crossing.  I did not love it - the plot was too non linear for me, the language too poetic for my tastes.  I couldn’t follow it. 

So I went into Sorrowland with lowered expectations.  It was a good book - an albino black woman escapes her black power cult after being experimented on, after which she has twins and lives off the land while on the run. And she sees ghosts.  The story was interesting, the writing excellent, but I couldn’t find a way to like the protagonist. I know she was supposed to be a flawed character, and I can appreciate her, but fairly early in the book she leaves her twin infants asleep alone in the woods in the middle of the night while she seeks out a sexual encounter. I was never able to move past that act of child endangerment and I could never like her or trust her again after that. I know she didn’t always make the best choices and that she was only 15 years old at the time, but I just could not get over that and it made it impossible for me to ever like her. This book is good.  It is just not for me. 

Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s new novel has been highly anticipated since it was announced.  I was very much looking forward to it.  I really enjoyed the Martian, as did most people - it was a real crossover hit.  Artemis, his second novel, less so.  I enjoyed it, but his lunar heist novel showed some real deficiencies in plot and characterization. So I was excited when the publisher and NetGalley gave me an eARC, but a little trepidatious.  

While clunky in parts and overly long, Hail Mary delivers.  Mostly, it is enjoyable because it replicates the enjoyable parts of the Martin.  Like the Martian, this book consists mainly of first person narration, science puzzles and too much exposition, ratcheting tension cause by solving one problem only for another to arise. 

Weir also creates a realistic, believable first contact scenario.  I don’t want to spoil anything but the alien/human interaction is one of the best parts of this book.

If you liked the Martian, you’ll probably enjoy the heck out of this book.  

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Together We Will Go by J. Michael Straczynski

I have the utmost respect for JMS.  I loved Babylon 5 since I was first introduced to it in college.  I loved everything about it, and am still amazed by the fact that JMS wrote every episode of seasons 3 and 4, and all but one of 5.  I don’t think anyone else has ever surpassed that stunning accomplishment. 

I later came to realize that JMS was the reason why I had enjoyed so many of the cartoons of my youth. His work on the Masters of the Universe, the Real Ghostbusters, and Captain Power were all ahead of their times. I read a number of his comics and enjoyed many of them. And when his autobiography came out a while back, I devoured it with delight.  (The fact that Peter Jurasik narrated it didn’t hurt.). I read one of his few fiction novels in the past and really enjoyed it, even though I’m not a big horror fan.

So I was thrilled when I found out he was writing a new novel and even more thrilled when I got an eARC from NetGalley and the publisher. 

I wish I hadn’t.

Together We Will Go is a terrible idea executed poorly.  The premise of the novel is a bunch of suicidal people get together to ride a bus across country in order to drive off a cliff in the Pacific Ocean. The book seems like it is trying to respectfully deal with all the many different reasons why someone might want to end their life. It fails this miserably. For example, a character with chronic debilitating pain suddenly seems to lose all of the pain once she falls in love. Various characters mental illnesses are treated as either comic relief or just treated poorly. What characters are unlikable, the plot is full of holes, and what could have been an insightful story ends up feeling incredibly facile. 

This book is terribly disappointing. I will definitely seek out JMS’s next book or project, but until then, I’m going to go back and rewatch Babylon 5. At least there, the subject of Commander Ivonova’s mother’s suicide was treated with dignity and respect. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Marriage Story: An American Memoir by Richard Russo

I love everything Richard Russo has written.  I first learned about him when looking for a birthday present for a friend.  I saw Empire Falls in paperback in a Boston Barnes and Noble and it looked so good, I bought two copies - one for him and one for me.  I believe it had recently won the Pulitzer Prize.  I found it unputdownable.  I went back and started reading his entire back catalog and love it all.  I got this biographical essay an an eARC from NetGalley and very much enjoyed it.  It retread a lot of the same ground as in Elsewhere, the author’s memoir, but that doesn’t mean it was not enjoyable.  My wife says that all of his books are basically the same, and I guess that might be true from a certain point of view, but I could read his stuff forever.  

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier

Cheer Up is delightful.  My comic tastes usually run to the super heroic, but I had been hearing a bunch about this teen/YA cheerleader comic, so I wanted to check it out.  Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley, I was able to read an eARC and I loved it! The characters are well drawn and three dimensional, and i can’t wait to read more from this author in the future!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

I loved loved loved A Memory Called Empire when it came out.  It was stunning and wonderful and I didn’t want it to end.  It was everything I wanted in a space opera - politics and romance and space stations and aliens beyond the edge of known space.  It brought back all of those good Babylon 5 feels.  I was thrilled when it won the Hugo (in a very tough, competitive year) and I was dying to read the sequel.   I was thrilled when Tor and NetGalley gave me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.  But I was afraid.  Could it possibly live up to my personal expectations? 


Yes it did.


The author really opened up the universe by adding in other point of view characters, so it’s not just Ambassador Dzmare, but also Three Seagrass, the 90% imperial clone Eight Antidote, and a new character.  Those mysterious alien threats from beyond known space? It’s all about them! It’s a marvelous First Contact story, it’s a love story, it’s a political story, it’s a military story, it’s ALL I want from space opera, basically all I want from science fiction. It’s a practically perfect book and the worst part about it was that it ended and I don’t know when/if there will be a followup.  This book will be on my Hugo ballot for sure.  

Saturday, February 20, 2021

 I dig these kind of games. Always fun to go bargain hunting, or see if you can make your favorite team for the right price. So I made one for Exo-Squad. Enjoy!