Angus Watson, Clash of Iron (2015)

I’ve reviewed volume one here, now I’m back with a few words on the second one.

22875122More of the same… good, bad and mediocre alike. I’m unimpressed and I won’t stay around for the final one. Maybe the author is better suited for s/f? Or contemporary military thrillers? The plot is not dumb, jokes would be ok if they suited the epoch, but  my immersion was broken every couple of minutes (I listened to the book on Audible), because there is nothing authentically ancient here. Actually, this was a final straw – after thinking about it for some time, I’ve suspended my Audible subscription, instead of going for the third Iron novel. I still have a supply of unread books there, including Bernard Cornwell’s, author as (ok, more) readable as Watson, and historically accurate.

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Bill Willingham, Peter & Max (2009)

I’ve already mentioned that I love Fables, a comic book series by Bill Willingham.

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Fables are real. And, exiled from their worlds by (initially) unknown Adversary, they live in our world. Mainly New York, as usual ;), but not only. Centuries ago a huge army started to conquer one world after another (in a kind of multiverse where every legend has its place, and Earth acts as an Amber of sorts, the core reality where mundane people live, creating and remembering stories*). Many Fables were killed, most subjugated, some serve the new regime, but some escaped to Earth – and dream of regaining what they lost. They formed a government of sorts, with HQ in NY, and they live among us. At least those of them, who can maintain human-like form, the rest live on animal farm in the wilderness of New York State countryside.

*Willingham uses popular system, where the strength of belief in something influences its power. Popular Fables are really powerful, forgotten – decline in time.

Yes, so the comics are great, and I also recommended most of the spin-offs. The novel occupied its place on my shelves for a few years, but I’ve only read it recently. Not that I was worried it would be bad – there just always was something else. Now I’ve read it and I’m quite happy about it, but convinced Willingham should stick to comics.

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Kazuo Ishiguro with Nobel prize in literature

This is yesterday’s news, but I just wanted to say I’m very happy about it. Japanese-born British author is not really a genre writer, but his latest novel, The Buried Giant, gave me the pretext to devote one review to him. Book Ola liked even more than I did, a rare occurrence 😉

It is a very literary fnobel-ishiguroantasy novel, and he also published dystopian kind-of s/f Never Let Me Go. In the genre world he is, nevertheless, an outsider, possibly a newcomer, albeit a very friendly one. I heartily recommend an excellent interview conducted by David Barr Kirtley on Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, after a very interesting talk Ishiguro asks Kirtley for genre recommendations. So, you know, if the Swedish Academy is too dumb to give the prize to Le Guin, Ishiguro is also a very good choice 🙂 A writer, who

in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world

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TV Star Trek returns – first episodes of Star Trek: Discovery

To boldly go where no man has gone before

Ola: Star Trek, along the Star Wars universe, is considered one of the most influential and popular ideas of humanity in space. It is especially dear to me because of the unguarded optimism and idealism of Gene Roddenberry vision – the idea that we can eventually communicate and understand every other species in the galaxy. I was much too young to watch the original series – I was a kid when The Next Generation was aired in Poland, and enjoyed every bit of it. Only recently I gave the original series a try, and liked it despite its visibly aged appearance. The mood of the series, its unabashed and unrepentant optimism, was a welcome turn of events in our rather pessimistic times.

Piotrek: I’ve always been a Babylon 5 fan. I’ve seen the whole series… three times, I believe. It was darker, faster, concentrated on geopolitics and war. And it still is my all-time favourite s/f show. The biggest such franchise ever is Star Trek though, and I understand why. I appreciate it more and more, its optimism – so hard to find in genre of today, its support for important progressive causes, captain Picard, Spock, friendly nerds laughed at by bullies in movies from the 70-ties and 80-ties… and yet, the show itself was not as watchable for me. My favourite version was TNG, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen all the episodes.

And now, 12 years after ST: Enterprise, show I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen a single episode of, we got ST: Discovery. A prologue only, so far, but it’s enough for a cautious first impression. Will it be good, modern TV, and at the same time faithful to the message of Gene Roddenberry? Is it, in other words, the Star Trek show for our times?

I am, cautiously, optimistic.

Ola: I am, unfortunately, not.

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Angus Watson, Age of Iron (2014)

Age of Iron, book one in Angus Watson’s Iron Age trilogy. These books have been on my radar for some time and finally, when I found myself in possession of some spare Audible credits, I bought an audiobook version.

These books were quite visible, at least here in Poland, cool covers everywhere in local bookshops, translated same year original editions were published. I expected light reading, with lots of gore and not-too-sophisticated humour. Something in the vein of Conan maybe. Somehow, I missed that they were supposed to take place in historical pre-Roman Britain, only with a dash of magic added.

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And lots of forging 😉 Although, personally, I would start with glory, and then, thanks to  fire-forged leadership, finish with legends, but maybe the order doesn’t matter…,

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A comic book for the little ones.

Raising small geeks is a lot of fun. For me – definitely, but my nieces also look quite happy about it. I do not always get it right, and showing Coraline to a three year old… hopefully won’t come out in therapy later in life a source of some major issues 😉 And Brave, after which she was afraid her mother would turn into a bear, was not actually my idea (and Madzia enjoyed both, it’s just that there were some after-effects)

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Anyway, there are better and worse ideas. I keep them supplied with Ghibli movies and Marvel plushies and make sure there are plenty of books, carefully screened for artistic value and gender equality issues.  I read them age-appropriate manga, we play games and tell each other stories. There even is a very special book she can read me!

It’s a chance for me to revisit some of the childhood’s favourites and find some new and exciting books. And in this area I’m not handicapped by living in Poland. Our fantasy is mostly mediocre (with notable exceptions, but still…), our s/f tends to be politically too far to the right for my liking, but kiddie books – we have plenty of the highest quality stuff. There are even some internationally recognised names, take a look.

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Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo (1984-?)

Popular culture gives us many great samurai figures. There are probably almost as many live action samurai movies as westerns, and The Magnificent Seven Samurai duo of wonderful classics show us how close these genres could be.

But I want to introduce one of my favourite comic books, so no more about cinematic depictions (hmm, who would have won if guys on the left fired on the guys on the right :D?).

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In a world of countless great mangas, my favourite graphic novel Japanese warrior is an anthropomorphic rabbit by Stan Sakai, who, though born in Kyoto, is undoubtedly an American artist. I’m not going to argue it’s the most accurate vision of the medieval Japan, from the stuff I’m familiar with the honour goes to Vagabond, probably, and Rurouni Kenshiin has some great moments – usually just before going for silliness and fanservice. And then there is Samurai Jack, a hero whose story recently concluded, after years of waiting.

But Miyamoto Usagi from Usagi Yojimbo, he is my favourite!

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