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.