April Reads

This month has been about the comic books. I’d never been a huge fan of comics, but I’ve, as noted before, recently discovered the joys of graphic art. Apart from that, I’ve been reading another of the Clarke Award shorlisted novels and catching up on something I’d been meaning to read for a while now.

Next month, I think I’ll catch up on all of the Kim Stanley Robinson I’d been meaning to read in advance of 2312. I’ve fallen behind a little on things that I had been planning to do over the past couple of years; notably the attempt to increase the amount of literature by women I read, particularly genre. I shall attempt to pick up the pace on that a little too.

The City of Shifting Waters – J.-C. Mezieres and P. Christin
This is the first of the Valerian and Laureline comic books. Valerian and and Laureline are spatio-temporal agents from the 28th Century. In this book, they are sent back to New York in 1986, where they are to prevent Xombul, a renegade, who wishes to – what else – take over the galaxy. These comics aren’t overly long, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome, but I have to admit I found this a little weak. That said, I have been told the series does get better.
The Empire of a Thousand Planets – J.-C. Mezieres and P. Christin
The follow-up to The City of Shifting Waters. In this, Valerian and Laureline have to discover if the titular Empire of a Thousand planets is a threat to Galixity (the capital of Earth in the 28th Century). I enjoyed this a little more than The City of Shifting Waters. At the end of the comic, the publishers ask if some of the similarities in design between this and the Star Wars films is coincidence or more borrowing by George Lucas.
Adrift on the Sea of Rains – Ian Sales
Full review.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic – Alison Bechdel
I was more familiar with Bechdel through the Bechdel test (which I have now learned came from one of her older comics, which I will be sure to look out for). Fun Home is, definitely worth your time, though. It’s Bechdel’s autobiography dealing with her family life, her discovering her sexuality and resolving issues with the relationship with her father. I urge anyone interested in comic books to read this.
Dotter of her Father’s Eyes – Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot
It was purely chance that led me to read this immediately after the Bechdel, but I think the two share some themes. The Talbot’s book is both autobiographical and biographical, dealing as it does with Mary Talbot’s father’s worth chronicling the life and work of James Joyce and her own childhood, adolescence and early relationship with Bryan Talbot. There are some interesting scenes examining gender relations, parental expectations and literature (also, Bryan Talbot’s artwork is superb as ever). This is as good as the Bechdel. Read it.
The Arctic Marauder – Jacques Tardi
More Tardi; the artwork is in Tardi’s own inimitable style with the work itself being an homage to the work of Jules Verne. Excellent!
Coltrane – Paolo Parisi
More biographical gubbins told through the medium of comics. This is, once again, an interesting take on a reasonably familiar story. It is, of course, a story about Coltrane’s life and music. The book also looks at themes of how art is produced, addiction and racial divisions. This is also worth reading.
Sita’s Ramayana – Samhita & Moyna Chitrakar
This is a retelling of the classic Ramayana; something with which, I am now ashamed to say, I was previously completely unfamiliar with. This new interpretation takes a female view of the classic epic war saga. By doing so, Sita gains agency (which I assume she did not have before?) This is a beautiful piece of graphic art and one which prompts me to seek out some classic Indian literature.
Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
This is, as I’m sure you’re aware, is the second in The Hunger Games trilogy. I quite liked The Hunger Games. However, remember when you’d be told that it’s not acceptable to describe a novel as boring? Well, I think in some cases, one should be allowed to do so. This is crashingly dull. Awful.
Nel-son – Edited by Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix
This was an experiment, with the profits going to the homeless charity, Shelter. 54 different artists and writers collaborate to each present a day in each year of the life of Nel. Given the many different styles and voices, there is a danger that this could be of little more than academic interest as an experiment in storytelling. Kudos to the creative team, however, this really worked.
The Tourmaline – Paul Park
The follow up to A Princess of Roumania, this picks up where the last novel left off with Miranda growing into her role and the ambitions of her enemies being realised. A strange and fascinating world. Park also writes with a distinctive voice. I’ve been enjoying this series a great deal.
Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
See Catching Fire. I was happy when this ended.
Rocket Science – Edited by Ian Sales
It’s been a good month for Ian Sales – he’s got his Moon-based series of novellas underway and has curated his first anthology. I’ve noted before that I appreciate his taste in genre fiction. He has, I believe, a good eye (or, at least, some similar tastes to me) for what is worth reading. Rocket Science brings together a number of space-based short stories and non-fiction pieces on science and engineering in space. Some of which were fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed this and hope he decides to work on another anthology in future.
Icehenge – Kim Stanley Robinson
Icehenge is set over hundreds of years and concerns the mystery of an ice circle built on Pluto (then, of course, Pluto was still considered a planet). The plot concerns the mystery of how such a structure would end up so far from (as far as anyone was aware at the time) intelligent life. Robinson also covers the study of history and archaeology. Especially interesting in this novel, given that people can live for hundreds of years and would have memories of the events being described (although this does happen in real life too. Hooray for historical revisionism).
Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke – Edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin
Some stories set in and about London. Some good stories in this, I particularly enjoyed Lavie Tidhar’s guide to London pubs and Adam Roberts’ Martin Citywit, it had some terrible, terrible punning. Which is great.
Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
This is quite a work of literature. A take on and subversion of western myths this novel is my favourite work (that I’ve read so far) of McCarthy’s. This novel is one which doesn’t shy from its portrayal of the baser elements of human behaviour. It is certainly hard to read in that sense, but it is an admirable work. Fantastic.
Hull Zero Three – Greg Bear
This was shortlisted for Clarke Award this year. Some of it is quite nice, in places Bear has quite a way with words. A mystery set aboard a generation starship, an SF trope that I have to admit I quite enjoy, this didn’t quite click with me. I think I’m just not a huge fan of Greg Bear, in novels, anyway; I thoroughly enjoyed the novella length version of Blood Music, but was less keen on the full novel – I felt it overstayed its welcome. The same with this, I think.
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