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Transmetropolitan (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 23 October 2016 00:00

omics. Love 'em. And Transmetropolitan is why I love them. Yeah, some of them are superhero yarns, the same as they were for eighty years. But sometime they push the boundaries forward.

Transmetropolitan is one of these. In ways, it reminded me a lot of American Flagg (review to follow next week - yeah, Transmet got me to read all those old back issues). Across ten collected compilations (I was missing #2, but that's a minor blip), we see a dark story unfold, one that watches a corruptly evil man (yet with a seemingly good heart deep down) make an impact in a city he hates, for the good of all.

So the main character is Spider Jerusalem, a hairy fellow who'd make his claim to fame with a book five years in the past. Now atop his mountain, surrounded by security systems (including the skulls of editors) he has it made. That is, until one editor calls him on two books he owes. And thus Spider finds himself having to descend into the city, the cesspool he loathes, to crank out two books and (hopefully) return to his nirvana. But as he begins to cover the various factions of the city (seemingly some sprawl of New York and other metropolitan areas) he finds himself getting involved with politics. And that leads him down a dark path to sinister motives; assassinations, mass killings, the black place were corrupted absolute power dwells.

It takes a while to settle into the story (as it does for the various plotlines to gel). At first I wasn't sure if this was a tribute to Hunter Thompson or just an exercise in random obscenity (Spider has a two-faced cat that is simply grotesque) or whatever. Once or twice I nearly put it down. But gradually something resembling a story began to firm up, something that seemed to draw it all together.

As mentioned, it reminded me a lot of American Flagg (to be reviewed next week), with the over-mediaed atmosphere, a society swimming in pornography, guns and violence, where life is cheap and dystrophia is a day-to-day thing. But where Flagg came right out of the box establishing characters and relationships (which it would later alter cleverly), Transmetropolitan groped about a while. And one thing that really bugged me - of course there is a university where the cops show up, there is an altercation, and the ranks open fire. Fine. But I was a little taken aback by their taking the famous Kent State picture and re-drawing it to their needs. That seemed like a quick grab at using an existing cultural meme to carry the horror of the moment - I thought it was lazy. You've got your own world. Make it work yourself.

But overall, it was fun and quirky and a little sad at the end. So, yes, if you don't mind reading something that will throw muck into your eyeballs and challenge any ethics you have, check out this strip. I actually really liked it. But I'm an old guy - gotta say I prefer it's daddy piece, Flagg, just a little bit more.

But yeah, check it out.


Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2016 21:38
The Siege of Dome (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 16 October 2016 00:00

his is the second part of Empyrion, which started with The Search for Fierra. I'd finished the first monster part, and after wandering through a number of other books, came back to see where Orion Treet and his heroes had gotten to. As we left them, there was blood in the sand - Treet hiding in the evil colony of Dome, his girlfriend and another fellow traveler remaining with the elf-loving Fierrians, and former pilot Crocker (having been brainwashed) having pulled a Manchurian Candidate by tearing out the throat of their cute guide and going, literally, jungle, so yes, lots to pick up here.

Overall, it's like this. The hero and three other people are sent by a corporation to find out what happened to an illegal colony placed on the other end of a wormhole. Turns out the hole isn't really understood and they pop out, not a year after the founding, but some three millennium downstream. So now the folks on the planet Empyrion have split into two distinct collections of humans, the Dome (scheming bastards running a nasty enclosure of groveling peasants and nasty celebrations) and Fierra (a utopia in every sense of the word, where they don't have money and everyone does whatever they want to their heart's content).

Okay, a word about this - I had a hard time buying into it. I don't care if two groups of humans split after a revolt and evolve in total isolation (well, outside of an evil-establishing nuking of the elves by the trolls); it's hard to imagine that human civilizations end up so different. Yes, I could easily see things degrading to Dome, but I have a hard time understanding how they could elevate to Fierra. The same clay thrown in two different rooms will probably not produce a mud pot and a Ming vase - it just doesn't feel right. Without any idea of how the Fierra came about, it's hard to imagine it. Without Well's comet gas or the high reaches of Shangri-La, it just rings false. I had a hard time passing that off as possible.

Also, in a closed society like Dome, when the final battle came and the rebels rise, Dome throws battalions of "Invisibles" (their secret shock troops) into battle. In a meek, closed society (literally under a dome) it's hard to imagine anyway of maintaining thousands and thousands of troops in battle-ready status. And as the battle rages, the Invisibles die enmass and I'm left thinking, Where are all these guys coming from? Still, the end of the book was enjoyable and it didn't quite go where I thought it was so there was that. Yes, just old eighties scifi with a little utopic moralizing, and fun action, and a lot of mind-bending mental games. A good enough read which will likely go back into the book box shortly, there to stay until I turn 90 and forget it all a third time.


Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2016 14:39
The Story of the Treasure Seekers (Audio Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 09 October 2016 00:00

nother audio book to while away the excel auditing hours, this time from a story written by Edith Nesbit. She wrote The Railway Children, a story of children with pluck which I enjoyed (but alas, which I read long before I’d gotten into the review-blog business). And this one is also of pluckish children but written before, well back in 1899.

So we’ve a largely offscreen father whose children (Dora, Oswald, Dicky, Alice, Noel, and H.O. (Horace Octavius)) (who seem a little overkeen on adventure books) attempt to win back the family fortunes of the Bastables (which, I need to say, is an excellent name for heroes, but perhaps not for plucky children. Where did Edith come up with this?). They are clearly poor; their father struggling with a failing business and their mother passed on. Food is scarce, money moreso. They no longer can afford to go to school. So home they stay, with imaginations burning. Their wish is to elevate themselves out of poverty (not as a blunt mission statement, no. Rather, they wish to seek treasure).

And that’s largely the story – each chapter delineating their quests. For each is a misunderstanding of the real world. Yet around them are kindly people, ones who don’t just give dirty orphans a handout but rather ones who treat them as little adults, playing along with their games and further fueling their fantasies. There is one fellow (known as Mr. Burglar), apprehended in the middle of a supposed break in. This fellow gives them his word of honor he will not attempt to escape, and regales the children with stories of his past efforts in crime (including, fantastically, the captain of a pirate ship). But then a real burglar attempts to break in that the story takes a charming turn.

And that’s this book. The children with their hijinks, making a go at every method of wealth and getting nowhere. And the adults around them (I dearly loved Albert’s Uncle next door over), operating gamely in their make-believe worlds. And on it goes, misunderstanding and calamity, with people being assaulted by youthful highwaymen on the heath, with attempts to start newspapers and produce medicines, all wrapped up in the childlike innocence that lends an air of magic to depressing poverty. Of course, in the end, yet another misinterpretation of the facts permit the children to shine on just the right fellow at exactly just the right time, bringing about comfort and rising fortune and a happy ending all around. Silly, yes, but I liked it.

I was a little reluctant to begin this one. The text was read by one Karen Savage from Waco, Texas – what sort of rootin’-tootin’ cowgirl would this be? But Ms. Savage was a prim and proper English accent, one that lent itself perfectly to the effort. It helped to bring the air of the tale across in perfect fashion. For, mom and dads, you might want to pull down these audio files and let your kiddies get their storytimes from your tablet for the next week or so.

And for the rest of you, by all means, listen to this book. It’s pure delight.

You can get it HERE.


P.S. Interesting closing note - I thought one of the childrens' names had sounded familiar. Of course, Oswald Bastable was the hero of Michael Moorcock's Warlord of the Air trilogy. Interestingly, he picked the name because Ms. Nesbit was also a founding member of a society with aims to bring socialism non-violently into the mainstream. As his book was about neo-colonialism run amok, he did so as a tip of the hat to her. But seriously, I think it was just becuase it was one bitchin' name!

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2016 13:31
Floor Games (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 02 October 2016 00:00

can only imagine what being H.G. Well's kid must have been like. Sure, his dad was a bit out there, with Free Love and his divorce and such. Who knows what that would have been like, at the tale end of the oh-so-proper Victorian Age.

But then again, it must have been fun, too. I mean, wow, your dad was writing about Martians striding about in fighting machines, blasting crowds of people. He wasn't, say, a chemist. He was an early pioneer of writing. Imagine the bedtime stories.

Or the play sessions.

This one came out in 1911 (and predated his more detailed work, Little Wars (which it mentions) by two years. It is not much of a read - I did it over a couple of work breaks. But it shows the sort of imagination he had, the sort he'd pass onto his children.

In this book, he talks about the games they would play. There were ones where boards on the floor represented islands. Another held twin cities, constructed of blocks and various left-over toys. In both, he describes (through a child's eyes (and the eyes of the great imagineer)) the world they'd constructed. He takes us around on a tour, telling the names of the citizens and the creatures encountered in the most charming fashion. It was just enjoyable to lose myself in this strange little world of wind-up trains, of soldiers missing legs, and of toys lost from their original use and repurposed into more imaginative pursuits.

Like I said, it reminded me of my own childhood, of our playroom above the garage in Southern California, of bent Hot Wheel cars, of army men, of card houses, and of play in a world that needed no rules and had no end. And also of my sister and I making our muddy "zoo" on the side yard, with every toy animal we could collect (how heartbroken I was when the plaster squirrel lost most of his coat in the rain).

Really, that's all this book is, an idle recording by Wells of the game he and his children played, one that will bring back memories, not only his, but your own. You can get it free HERE, and it's worth the quarter hour or so you'll put into reading it. A delight!


Last Updated on Sunday, 18 September 2016 15:42

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