The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

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The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Tue Jun 03, 2014 9:12 pm

*DISCLAIMER*

The opinionated opinions expressed in this thread are either solely those of me, Quatermass, or else based on quotable sources I've pinched from elsewhere. They are not the opinions of the Terry Pratchett Forum, its members, Terry Pratchett, Transworld Publishers, God (who may or may not exist, and so is some sort of Schrodinger's deity), and thus are only true, for a given value of true as coloured by a warped and twisted mind. If you don't like it, then there is a place in Slice up in the Ramtops that I believe you can visit. :P Thank you.


So, with all that semi-seriousness out of the way, let's get the ball rolling.

On another BBS, I used to do these review threads, partly as an exercise to get me to read new things. I even did similar threads for other things to review. However, said BBS is not interesting me any more, and I have decided to take my review threads elsewhere. The book review thread, or blog, or whatever, I have decided to do here.

The rules are simple:

*I must read, and/or finish, at least one new book that I haven't read each week. A week is defined as being the same named day after the last day I read and reviewed a book, regardless of the time (as long as it is the same day at my time, AEST). That is, if my last book reviewed and read was on a Saturday, my next book must be finished and reviewed by the end of the next Saturday.

*If I have started, but not finished, a book prior to starting this thread, then I may include it, as long as I have not read it all the way through at any stage.

*I must write a review.

*The book has to be relatively substantial. That is, I will not read an individual issue of a comic or manga (though an individual collected volume is fine), or a screenplay, unless said screenplay is accompanied by a making-of book, or a children's picture book. In addition, I will not be reviewing webcomics (unless available in printed form) or fanfiction. Online literature of any kind not published in physical form would normally be excluded, except I have a bit of Twitterature (a novella, to be precise) to review as part of this book-reading blog.

Now, some caveats...

*I will NOT take reading suggestions. Anyone who does so will find themselves being given a very rude answer. However, comments and dissenting opinions (NOT reviews: this is MY review thread) are welcome, as long as they are decent and well-thought out.

*One of the unofficial rules, albeit one I might break (as it is an unofficial rule) is that I don't review two things of the same sort back to back. That is, I don't read two graphic novels back to back, two Doctor Who books back to back...you get the idea. I may break it on rare occasion, depending on circumstances...

*I used to have a very skewed scoring system. A few of you may remember said system when I started a similar thread going back over the Discworld novels, as well as the dispute that followed. After some consideration, I have adopted a new, still skewed but far less so, scoring system based on five stars. The scores are still my business. Dispute with the scoring system at your peril. In this thread, I am Stephen Fry on QI, and you really don't want to be klaxoned. :P

The first book to be reviewed will probably be Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher. Amongst the other delights coming your way will include the full-length Mervyn Stone novel DVD Extras Include: Murder and the Twitter Mervyn Stone novella The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd, both by Nev Fountain, Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui, Doctor Who: The Sands of Time by Justin Richards, and Lamb by Christopher Moore. Watch this space...
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Wed Jun 04, 2014 9:16 am

BOOK 1

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

In the first book reviewed for this particular review blog, I have finished a book that I have been meaning to read for some time. Jim Butcher writes a number of popular fantasy novels, particularly the Dresden Files, about a wizard detective working the mean streets of Chicago, and the Codex Alera series. The latter intrigued me, not least because Jim Butcher wrote it as a challenge. He was apparently told that nobody could create a good book from a bad idea, so he challenged said person to give him two bad ideas for books. The person gave him the concepts of the Lost Roman Legion (the famous Ninth Spanish Legion), and Pokémon. Did Butcher succeed in the challenge?

The Aleran Empire, on a world where everyone, from the First Lord to the lowliest slave, can bond with Furies, elemental forces at their beck and call. Everyone, it seems, save for Tavi, a teenager living in the steadholdt of Bernardholdt, in the valley of Calderon, with his uncle Bernard and aunt Isana. Considered a cripple at best, and a freak at worst, Tavi, while out trying to protect sheep, ends up attacked by the savage Marat, and stranded in the middle of a storm. There, he encounters Amara, an apprentice Cursor, a spy for the First Lord, whose mentor Fidelius has turned traitor, and allied himself with those intending to overthrow the First Lord. An army of Marat, allied to these traitors, is poised to flood Calderon, and Tavi and Amara may not be able to stop them…

I have to give Jim Butcher kudos for taking a combination of ideas that could easily have led to disaster, and turned it into an enjoyable romp. True, the story is pretty much little more than an enjoyable and somewhat clichéd fantasy romp, and there is clearly a lot being established for future volumes (many things blatantly so), but even so, it did grab me. And certainly Butcher did put quite a bit of thought into the world. It’s enjoyable, despite and because of its clichéd elements.

Tavi is a good protagonist, given how he is forced to rely on his wits without any furies to call his own. The other characters run the spectrum of various archetypes, albeit with enough nuances to set them apart. Indeed, many of the villains have sympathetic, or at least understandable motives, although some are just plain vile. I just wish a little more was done to develop the Marat, especially Kitai, as well as a few other characters.

Overall, this book was a good start to this book-reading blog. An enjoyable, if not really perfect, work that may yet rope me into the Codex Alera series…

****

FIRST WORDS: The course of history is determined not by battles, by sieges, or usurpations, but by the actions of the individual.

LAST WORDS: (Not recorded due to spoilers)
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Sat Jun 07, 2014 3:34 am

BOOK 2

The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd
by Nev Fountain


I hold most new literary media in some contempt, I have to say. I’m not overly fond of ebooks, and I find the concept of writing a novel via the Twitter or a blog to be a bemusing concept. I much prefer the tactile sensation of holding a book in my hand. Even so, it would be remiss of me to completely dismiss these new media. I do enjoy some fanfiction published online, and there is some more professional works around as well. So what may be my only venture into the latter for these blogs comes from a series I have already dipped into. Nev Fountain’s Mervyn Stone series, about a former script editor of a kitsch science fiction TV show turned amateur detective, has already hooked me with two books and an audio drama. With a final book and a Twitter novel to go, I decided on the latter. Compiled on a blog from a Twitter account, and printed by me, this novella told by tweets could be either a novel experience, or a badly failed experiment…

Mervyn Stone is in deep trouble. The former Vixens from the Void script editor has woken to find himself in an unfamiliar place, with a man whose head has been caved in with a Perspex brick, and he’s the prime suspect. But the victim was a notable collector of memorabilia, and the police soon concede that Stone may not be a would-be burglar, not when there’s more valuable stuff that can be taken. What follows is a series of murders, Stone tweeting about them, involving science fiction memorabilia. Between demented fans, the police, ex-stars of Vixens from the Void, and Twitter, Stone has his work cut out for him, especially once the killer has Stone in their sights…

The story is effectively only really a short novella, and thus, it’s not a particularly packed or brilliant story. The twists of the mystery are fine enough, though, with the revelation of the killer being quite a surprise, and there’s plenty of humour to be mined. But there’s not as much meat as I would expect from a full-blown novel, and that unfortunately cuts down on the score a tad. However, the structure of the novel isn’t affected too adversely by the nature of tweeting it. It just means a few sentences are more laconic than usual.

It’s a novelty for once to have a Mervyn Stone story written purely from his perspective, or at least from a first-person viewpoint. I do have to wonder at the sanity of some of his actions at times, even compared to a few of the things I read him do in the novels. But he is a voice of sardonic observation. The other characters are fine enough, though the length doesn’t allow for much development. The killer, who tweets via Stone’s account at one point, is suitably demented and immature, and the McKnutts are certainly interesting.

Overall, The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd was a brave experiment, and while it is certainly both entertaining and a decent mystery, it just lacks meat on the bones. A shame, really.

***

FIRST WORDS: Oh God.

LAST WORDS: (Not recorded due to spoilers)
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Wed Jun 11, 2014 5:59 am

BOOK 3

Red Dwarf: Space Corps Survival Manual by Paul Alexander


Amongst the many things I am a fan of, one of my favourite things is Red Dwarf. It’s certainly my personal favourite science fiction comedies, surpassing Futurama and even Douglas Adams’ magnum opus The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. While I’m not into collecting the books as much as I am for, say, Doctor Who, I do keep an eye out. And so, I recently came across this book, a fictional survival guide for the Space Corps from the series…

The Space Corps Survival Manual: an essential piece of kit for every spacer within the Space Corps. Unfortunately for the crew of Red Dwarf, the manual was written by a psychotic, sadistic, cannibalistic survivalist. And as lacking in survival competence as they may be, they may be better off without this survival guide…

And frankly, so too might the average reader. Paul Alexander was one of the writers brought in from the seventh series onwards. While that series was when the rot set in, according to some viewers, I didn’t actually think so. However, in this case, I think that the manual should have been written by Doug Naylor. The good news is, some of it is funny, it’s mostly in character, and it expands on more than a few aspects of the Red Dwarf universe. It certainly has enough to mildly amuse the average Red Dwarf fan.

The bad news? It has an extreme preoccupation with cannibalism. Don’t get me wrong, I can laugh at cannibalism. Unfortunately, going on and on about it is either going to disgust, or bore the reader. I frankly had the latter reaction. I would also say that the book is too short, but due to said preoccupation, even at 112 pages, it is actually a tad too long. You could cut out half of the book, and improve it markedly. Not only that, but the drill sergeant nasty-style narration got old almost as quickly as the cannibalism jokes.

Overall, it was a moderately interesting bit of time to kill, but I was disappointed by the Space Corps Survival Manual. If you can get it cheap, second-hand like I did, then good on you. And I pity anyone who bought it at ridiculous expense on eBay or something. Unless it was autographed.

**½

FIRST WORDS: OK, Grunts, listen up.

LAST WORDS: (Not recorded due to spoilers)
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby The Mad Collector » Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:35 am

Interesting reviews Q, I've not read any of the books mentioned so cannot comment on them but keep it up, you may persuade me to try a book I would not have previously considered.
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:47 am

The Mad Collector wrote:Interesting reviews Q, I've not read any of the books mentioned so cannot comment on them but keep it up, you may persuade me to try a book I would not have previously considered.


It's early days yet. BTW, you can access The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd in blog form online. The first part is here:

http://nevfountain.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/the-pen-is-mightier-than-the-nerd-a-twitter-novel-part-one/

Even so, it's probably better that you read the first Mervyn Stone book, Geek Tragedy. I'm sure you could get it via a decent bookshop, or else Amazon or Book Depository.

Another one I might be finishing soon may be the latest edition of Future Noir, Paul M Sammon's behind the scenes book about Blade Runner. And the second volume of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica manga.

I usually give books much higher scores, so to come across a few lesser ones helps balance things out. The Red Dwarf one was majorly disappointing, but I bought it for $2.50, so it wasn't too bad.
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Catch-up » Wed Jun 11, 2014 11:44 pm

I remember you mentioning Geek Tragedy. It's on my list now!
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Sat Jun 14, 2014 9:12 pm

BOOK 4

Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, second edition by Paul M Sammon


Each era seems to have its defining science fiction movie, or movies. Metropolis was perhaps the definitive work of the silent era for science fiction, The Day the Earth Stood Still for the 1950s, and Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Alien for the late 70s. And one of those for the early 80s was Blade Runner, the adaptation of the Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I have borrowed this book on and off from the library before, but never managed to get through it all. That’s now changed…

During the making of Blade Runner, Paul M Sammon was given access to the set to do a series of reports on the making of the film. He got an insider look at the trials and tribulations that went into making Blade Runner. Future Noir, however, goes further than just the filming. It goes into the long process of adapting Philip K Dick’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the troubled post-production, the disappointing cinematic release and the afterlife of becoming a cult classic, and beyond, with reactions from cast, crew, and many others...

Many making-of books tend to be triumphs of style over substance, particularly the modern ones. Filled with glossy photos, but less on the process of the film. The same cannot be said for Future Noir. Indeed, it is both exhaustive, and exhausting, and you could easily use the book to stop a door or to beat a goat to death. Don’t sit down to read it unless you’ve got a lot of time to spare. However, this is not a complaint. Indeed, my only real complaint is a lack of gloss, and even that’s more of a grumble than an actual criticism. That, and that the book might only appeal either to fans of Blade Runner, or else people who enjoy reading about how movies are made.

Like the movie itself, Future Noir provides a lot of information, but at times allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. There’s a lot of interviews, as well as a ridiculous enlightening information, going over the movie on a scene-by-scene basis, pointing out things many viewers may have missed, as well as saying how it was done. Sammon writes in a way that forgoes the more drier writing styles of similarly in-depth books, though, and his relationship with the cast and crew help give the book a candid air many others lack.

Overall, Future Noir was a surprisingly excellent work. It joins a small, elite cadre of books that, in my opinion, approach or reach perfection.

*****

FIRST WORDS: Like the film it examines, Future Noir ultimately reflects the vision of one person- but it took a legion of unsung collaborators to help bring that vision into focus.

LAST WORDS: Have a better one.

BTW, it's worth pointing out that this second edition was done for the 2007 Final Cut re-release...
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Sun Jun 15, 2014 9:04 pm

BOOK 5

Puella Magi Madoka Magica, volume 2 by Magica Quartet, illustrated by Hanokage


In a previous book-reading blog, done for another BBS, I read and reviewed the first volume of the manga version of the bizarrely named Puella Magi Madoka Magica. While the story was intriguing, I was yet to see anything that truly engrossed me in a series that was said to deconstruct the whole magical girl genre popular in manga and anime. But sometimes, first volumes of serial works like this one take some time to get off the ground, and I hoped that, with the second volume, things would start to get interesting…

Sayaka has just made a contract with the mysterious Kyubey to become a magical girl, in exchange for healing the object of her unrequited affections, Kyosuke. But Madoka is about to witness how such a decision could be not only Sayaka’s downfall, but her own. As aggressive magical girl Kyoko attacks those she views as poaching on her turf, the mysterious Homura gets even more persistent in trying to stop Madoka from agreeing to Kyubey’s bargain. What are the true natures of the Soul Gems? Will Homura be able to stop Madoka from making the worst mistake of her life? And will Sayaka’s spiralling plummet into despair have the darkest of consequences?

Wow. After the slightly disappointing debut volume, this one takes a quantum leap forward. Far more about the storyline is explained, revelation after revelation hitting the reader, with the very last lines of this volume being a very shock to the system. And the interactions between the characters is quite good, if somewhat distressing. Everyone, barring Madoka, has their own agenda, and there is a perverse interest in watching those grind together like badly-greased gears. It’s not a perfect story, but the focus shift onto the characters and the nature of the magical girls in this is a very welcome one. Of course, it may be so dark, it will probably turn off many readers, but for me, it’s interestingly dark.

As before, Madoka is a somewhat flat protagonist. Not that this is a bad thing, but she is considerably less interesting than the others. Indeed, the volume is more about Sayaka’s tragic spiralling into the depths of despair, and one is torn in a good way between hating her and feeling nothing but sympathy and sorrow for her. More about Kyubey and Homura are revealed that shed new light on these characters, while Kyoko soon reveals what events drove her to become the aggressive sociopath that she is.

Overall, while nowhere near perfect, the second volume of Puella Magi Madoka Magica was a definite quantum leap in quality. A good continuation of the series that promises much for the final volume…


****

FIRST WORDS: Is it true?

LAST WORDS: (Not recorded due to spoilers)
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Mon Jun 16, 2014 9:51 pm

BOOK 6

Doctor Who: The Vault: Treasures from the First 50 Years by Marcus Hearn


Last year, the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, saw the release of many things designed to commemorate this awe-inspiring milestone. Amongst these works was The Vault, a big lavish book that caught my eye, though the expense deterred me from getting it, save for from the library. But would that borrowing inspire me to save up to get it?

Doctor Who: The Vault is no less than a museum in book form, as author Marcus Hearn puts it, of Doctor Who ephemera, memorabilia, and rare artifacts, costumes, props, and the like from the show. For each year of the show’s history, an essay is also given, on topics ranging from the show’s troubled inception, all the way to an examination of the fandom. Big, glossy, and intriguing.

Often, books like this are a triumph of style over substance, of gloss over information, and I have to confess that this book is certainly that more than many other books of this type. The essays, to be fair, are interesting, with even a few facts and anecdotes that I haven’t heard yet. The images are colourful, glossy, and more often than I thought of things I haven’t seen. There is, for example, a studio floor plan for the first Doctor Who episode, as well as costume designs that I have never seen.

And yet, I am left dissatisfied. Not because this is a bad book. It’s quite a good book, but I feel that it would only appeal to the hardcore Whovian, one who has money to burn, and yet, a relative newcomer to the series. The substance is there, but it’s not as much as I would have wanted, I have to confess.

Doctor Who: The Vault was a good book, but it’s not as great as it could have been, at least in my opinion. Glossy, and intriguing, but not as substantial as I wanted.

***½

FIRST WORDS: Every major anniversary of Doctor Who has been marked with a special publication, and the past weighed heavily on my considerations for this celebration of the 50th.

LAST WORDS: The TARDIS remains the series’ greatest artefact; the gateway to the Doctor’s adventures since he and his granddaughter stole it from a repair shop on Gallifrey, “a very long time ago…”
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Tue Jun 17, 2014 6:18 am

Bit of a caveat: my computer's been playing up of late, and suddenly, it's starting to play up even more. It's getting old. If necessary, I will either use another computer to post reviews, or else I might suspend this thread until I can get another one. At the moment, though, I intend to try and use this computer until it starts smoking...
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:08 am

BOOK 7

Fullmetal Alchemist 3-in-1, volumes 16-18 by Hiromu Arakawa


Before moving my book-reading blog to the Terry Pratchett forums, one series that I had started relatively recently was Fullmetal Alchemist. Despite an enjoyable but unpromising beginning, I grew to enjoy this manga series. Now, after a hiatus, I have managed to obtain the next three volumes that I intend to read in an omnibus edition…

Edward and Alphonse Elric have just learned the horrid truth about the Ishbalan War. However, deciding they need to stop the plans of the mysterious Father and his Homunculus underlings, they decide to try and track down May Chang, whose alchemy wasn’t affected by Father’s apparent control over alchemy. Meanwhile, Scar has learned the truth about the Ishbalan War from a man he wants to kill, Dr Marcoh, but decides to take the alchemist with him and May Chang to find out more about the alchemy of Amestris. And psychopathic State Alchemist Solf J Kimblee has been released by Father to hunt Scar and Marcoh down. Their paths all intersect in the far north, at the Fortress of Briggs, where the formidable Major General Olivier Armstrong, a woman of formidable strength and unshakeable values, awaits. But can the Elrics trust the harsh Olivier Armstrong? What creature digs a tunnel deep beneath the surface of the fortress? And what link does the tunnel have to a frightening plot that will soon consume Amestris in the fires of a massive alchemic reaction?

After so long enjoying the series, I found that this particular volume kicked it up a notch. Certainly, these larger omnibuses are a more satisfying way of reading these serial stories, and this omnibus volume certainly doesn’t disappoint, with excellent revelations that hearken back to earlier volumes, clarifying things. We even have the last two Homunculi revealed. Not actually perfect, but a bloody good show all the same.

As usual, the Elric brothers are good characters, as are Winry, though the latter is given more development. Of the new characters introduced at Briggs, Olivier Armstrong (the sister of the boisterous and good-natured regular character Alex Louis Armstrong) and Major Miles are perhaps the most interesting, though I can’t say that of the others. The former could have easily fallen into an ice queen stereotype, but swiftly reveals nuances that work well, while Miles’ own story is tied up with Scar, who himself is given much development. Kimblee could also have been a stereotypical psycho, but one of his scenes later in the omnibus show him to be more complicated than the average fictional psycho, though complexity doesn’t necessarily mean sympathetic. It just makes him more interesting. And the revelation involving the true identity of the Homunculus Pride is pretty damned shocking.

Overall, I enjoyed this omnibus volume of Fullmetal Alchemist immensely. Not actually perfect, but pretty damned close.

****½

FIRST WORDS: That’s…

LAST WORDS: …one more person…
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Sat Jun 21, 2014 4:07 am

BOOK 8

Doctor Who: Borrowed Time by Naomi A Alderman


I have been wary of going after Doctor Who novels based on the new series. And yet, one that was always on the to-read list for some time was Borrowed Time. It seemed to have a unique concept, one that appealed to me. After all, for a show purporting to be about time travel, Doctor Who does little enough with the possibilities of time. But would this work from an apparent newcomer work?

Amy and Rory are enjoying a romantic vacation after their marriage, only for the Doctor to pop in to give them an unusual wedding present: a tulip, the catalyst for one of the first economic bubbles in history. Deciding they need a lesson on the nature of economic bubbles, the Doctor takes them to a time just before one of the infamous bank collapses in history: the collapse of the Lexington International Bank in 2007. But there, they soon find that the bank is at the centre of some very dubious activity, of lending on a massive scale. But not of money. The lending is time. The mysterious Mr Symington and Mr Blenkinsop have been lending time to people who rarely have enough time to do things in their lives. Unfortunately, they are working to an agenda of their own, and the interest they are charging their clients turns out to be dangerously ruinous. What, or who, is the parasitic Time Harvester? What connection does it have to a mysterious facility beneath the Millennium Dome? And can the Doctor and his companions stop their adversaries from stealing time from all humanity?

For a newcomer, Naomi Alderman writes extremely well. Indeed, the main complaint I have about the story proper is that she drops too many references into her story. However, she uses quite an original and thought-provoking plot that not only exploits the possibilities of time and time travel, but also gives a not-really-subtle but still entertaining lesson on economics and debt.

The Doctor, Amy and Rory could have stepped straight off the screen, and are written fairly well. The other characters, not quite so much, thought there are some interesting ones here and there. Symington and Blenkinsop are fairly standard two-person team villains, but Nadia is another matter, being one of their earlier victims. And the Yomalet-Ram is also intriguing and enigmatic, and would be good to make a re-appearance.

Overall, while not perfect, Borrowed Time was nonetheless an excellent effort for Doctor Who fiction. A combination of satire, education, and rollicking good science fiction.


****½

FIRST WORDS: The view on the monitors was dark.

LAST WORDS: (Not recorded due to spoilers)
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Sat Jun 21, 2014 7:52 am

BOOK 9

Fullmetal Alchemist, volume 19 by Hiromu Arakawa


Now, I come to the next volume of Fullmetal Alchemist. Having been impressed by the previous omnibus volume, I find myself, out of necessity, having to go back to individual volumes. But this may not be a bad thing, as the story is now rapidly gaining momentum…

Ed engages in a dangerous plan to take out the psychopathic Kimblee, only to find himself in greater trouble, while Riza Hawkeye manages to communicate to Roy Mustang that Selim Bradley is none other than the first of Father’s Homunculi, Pride. Meanwhile, Scar, Alphonse, May and Winry decipher the truth behind the notes of Scar’s brother, and Major General Armstrong engages in a dangerous mission to find out more about Father’s plot. And behind the scenes, both Father and the Elric brother’s father Von Hohenheim reminisce on their respective pasts, and the terrible events that led to the destruction of an entire ancient nation, only to grant those two immortality. And Von Hohenheim embarks on a course of action that leads him to make a declaration of war against Father and the Homunculi…

While not quite as engrossing as the previous volume, or rather, the omnibus, this story is key in that we get at last a bit more explanation. In fact, we get a substantial glimpse into the lives of not only Von Hohenheim, but also Father, and how the latter looks so much like the former, as well as what happened to the people of Xerxes (or Cselkcess, as it is translated in this version). We even have a welcome and heartwarming link to characters who haven’t been seen in a while.

The emphasis on this volume is spread out somewhat. We finally get some insight into Von Hohenheim and Father, as well as some development, as mentioned before, but we don’t get much from the Elrics. I guess it’s due more to the spreading out of the story across all the characters at this point in time, but it also lessens development.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this latest volume of Fullmetal Alchemist. Not as good as the last, but certainly hooking me for the next one…

****

FIRST WORDS: On Kimblee’s right hand is the symbol for the sun…

LAST WORDS: Now things are really getting interesting!
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Re: The Quatermass Book Reading Blog TP1: Regenerated...

Postby Quatermass » Sun Jun 22, 2014 2:46 am

BOOK 10

Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case by Agatha Christie


I am not fond of mystery novels, I have to say. Thrillers are another matter, but it takes quite a bit for a mystery novel to interest me, partly because my reading style, rather rapid, also causes me to miss more than a few clues. Even so, I have enjoyed a couple of Agatha Christie’s works, including her Miss Marple story The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, and her famous closed circle mystery And Then There Were None. Now, it is about time that I try her famous detective Hercule Poirot, ironically starting with his very last case. The concept of it appealed to me, but did I make the right choice?

Captain Hastings has been summoned to Styles Court by Hercule Poirot, the very place where their detective work began. But Poirot has seen better days. Crippled by arthritis, troubled by heart problems, he is determined to solve the mysterious case of a murderer who is the only common element in five murders of very different people. But this mysterious suspect, known only as X, is one of the guests at Styles. And only Poirot knows who it is. Deliberately kept out of the loop by his old friend, Hastings resolves to track down X himself. But he has his work cut out. From the diffident Norton to the henpecked Colonel Luttrel, from the cold Dr Franklin to Hastings’ own daughter Judith, the suspects are many, and nobody is immune to the influence of X, not even Hastings himself…

Like I said, I’m not fond of mysteries. But the central conceit of Curtain is an excellent one, and I can see why Christie held this back to be Poirot’s last case. There are interesting themes about euthanasia and eugenics, which would have been pretty strong stuff back when this was first published, never mind nowadays. And the ending is certainly shocking enough.

Unfortunately, I have to say that I can’t think much of the characters. Hastings is fine, if only because he’s the POV character, but I find it hard to believe how Poirot could have been so popular. Either he’s being more fractious than he usually is, especially to one he calls a friend, or else he is rather unlikeable, and I certainly can see why Christie didn’t like to write for him. I certainly feel little sympathy for Hastings’ daughter, Judith, while the other characters range the gamut from the mildly interesting to the frankly irritating.

Curtain wasn’t a great book, but it was an entertaining enough mystery. Maybe it was wrong of me to start at the end of Poirot’s career, but that’s what I did.


***½

FIRST WORDS: Who is there who has not felt a sudden startled pang at reliving an old experience, or feeling an old emotion?

LAST WORDS: (Not recorded due to spoilers)
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