Paolo Bacigalupi, The Water Knife (2015)

The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi debut novel from 2009 was popular, smart and powerful, but didn’t excite me. I found it a bit grotesque and too full of political anger. And I did not like the ending (that I’m not going to spoil here).

Novel about a world of the future, plagued by environmental collapse, food scarcity and energy shortage, with disastrous consequences for societies, reaching even greater levels of corruption, racism and violence. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But I couldn’t really care about – or identify with – any of the characters, I  was not wholly convinced by the worldbuilding, and aforementioned ending… still, it was a powerful image, and I respected author’s passion, so I awarded it three stars on Goodreads 😉

 

The Water Knife has the same passion, but better characters, more thought-through plot, and after the recent leftward shift in my political views – is very emotionally satisfying. Reading about the collapse of America, and with the red states hit the most, due to global warming, just after Trump decided to withdraw from Paris Agreement – priceless.

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A quick look at Wonder Woman (2016)

I believe this is a great year for superhero movies. Each of the great studio delivered. We got best X-Men movie ever in Logan, we got near-perfect Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and now there is the first good DC movie since Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

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I’ve never been a fan of comic book Wonder Woman, but it wasn’t a strong dislike, I just couldn’t bring myself to treat someone in such a silly outfit seriously… and this simplified approach to Greek mythology was somehow more difficult to stomach than Marvel’s Asgard.

In the disastrous Batman vs Superman, Gal Gadot’s character was one of few good things. Seeing all the stellar reviews I decided to give it a chance. I was not disappointed.

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David Drake, Republic of Cinnabar Navy – a decent Space Opera

Tor.com has its Space Opera Week now, and it’s going to add quite a few items to my To-Be-Read pile, especially since Space Operas tend to be multi-volume endeavours. It renewed my interest in the Vorkosigan Saga by  Lois McMaster Bujold, one of THE great genre series that are still waiting for me, and put The Uplift by David Brin on my radar, and also reminded me that I have first two omnibuses of Saga waiting on my shelves (I wanted to wait till it’s all finished, but it’s very tempting to start right now…).

My decision to start David Drake’s Republic of Cinnabar Navy series had nothing to do with it, volume one was what I got for my monthly Audible credit this April, volume two I listen to right now, and I believe it to be an excellent example of this particular subgenre, with all its vices and virtues.

Also, a rare example of American covers being superior, the oldschool ones are original Baen, the shitty ones – relatively recent Titan version. Luckily, Audible.co.uk chose Baen for audiobooks.

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The Witcher – Netflix series

It’s all over the internet already, and deservedly, but with all the attention we paid Andrzej Sapkowski’s universe lately… here’s Tor.com version with all the details, and here the statement of Platige Image, one of three forces behind the planned series.

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1) Netflix is great. Its series – less consistently good than HBO’s, but there are hits aplenty. Same amount of care and effort they dedicated towards Daredevil or Stranger Things should give Game of Thrones a worthy competitor, at least from a genre lover’s point of view.

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2) Platige Image means Tomasz Baginski. Big name in animation, not only in Poland. Oscar nominee (for this), and, that is important, author of cinematic trailers to Witcher games. Great credentials for someone like me, a huge franchise fan, but will Grandpa Sapkowski be happy? He apparently is, despite his lack of enthusiasm towards games. Well, he’ll get more money out of this, while having more influence, as creative consultant. Good to have author involved, although it did not help Shannara.

“I’m thrilled that Netflix will be doing an adaptation of my stories, staying true to the source material and the themes that I have spent over thirty years writing,”

said Sapkowski, jabbing at the games yet again…

3) Producers? Guys behind The Expanse, and that is more good news. Expanse is a great genre show, with very good special effects done on budget, so chances of Witcher being a success are significant.

It’s already said to be a multi-season enterprise (“Bagiński will also direct at least one episode of each season”).

Sweet. If you’ve read the books, or even just our reviews, it’s clear there is a lot a lot potential. Short stories provide excellent basis for an introductory season or two, and then the novels… complex, sophisticated stories with likeable characters.

I’ve never be so excited about stuff like that, not even when GoT started, Witcher is more important for me personally.

If Netflix screws that up, I’m cancelling my subscription.

Tad Williams, The Heart of What Was Lost (2017)

Tad Williams is a writer I’ve mentioned here a few times, and I reviewed his breakthrough trilogy, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. It got three posts altogether, so it’s clear I liked it. Having been published between 1988 and 1993, it’s one of the links between earlier post-tolkienian fantasy represented by authors like Brooks and modern, grimmer epics from Martin to Abercrombie. George R.R. claimed Williams had been an influence on The Song of Ice and Fire and it is quite possible, because despite Memory… predates Game of Thrones by eight years. So, the blurb you’ll see in a moment on the cover is not as annoying as many other of dozens upon dozens of GRRM’s stamps of approval.

It’s not the most sophisticated of fantasy series and lacks some of the shades of grey so important to books fashionable today, I admit, but it’s a well written story happening in a rich world. I particularly liked the important role given (closely based on Earthly examples) religion, something astonishingly rare in a genre where miracles actually do happen… and the elves, unusually alien and complicated. And the protagonist were likeable, and actually good people… does not happen that often now.

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Henry H. Neff, The Tapestry (2007-2014)

A few months ago I was looking, quite consciously, for good Harry Potter clones, or school-of-magic series in general. I’m brave enough to admit I loved The Magicians by Grossman (season two of the tv series is still good, by the way!), dubbed Potter for adults, but this time I’m back to children-oriented books. Or… middle grim-grade? I once showed Coraline to my then-three-year-old niece (sort-of by accident, long story, sorry Madzia, the most important thing is there was no lasting psychological damage 😉 ), but I won’t be reading her this one any time soon.

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Max McDaniels lives a quiet life in the suburbs of Chicago, until the day he stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry. Many strange people are interested in Max and his tapestry. His discovery leads him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await him.

Does not sound very original? And it isn’t, at first. Then it gets less derivative, and quite good. The five book long saga gives us likeable protagonists and develops their stories coherently up to a very satisfying ending. Seriously, there are many imperfections, and sometimes it felt rather dull, it definitely could be a book shorter in my opinion, but the ending itself made it worth my time. Melancholic, happy, but hard-earned. Even a bit tolkienesque, toutes proportions gardées.

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