Month: September 2014

Review: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

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City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett releases Sept. 30th.

Stop what you’re doing. Just stop. Open up this link ( and use the Amazon one-click. You’ll thank me later.

City of Stairs takes place in a world where a slave and servant class uprising that turns into a war that literally destroys the Gods. Generations later, the city of Bulikov, once the meeting place of the gods, is in shambles and inter-generational, systemic poverty actively enforced by the ruling government has made the area rife with conflict. What’s worse, the former ruling class (now the impoverished and oppressed) are denied any knowledge of their history and acknowledgement of their gods is illegal.

A cultural ambassador meant to bridge the differences between the cultures is violently murdered. Shara Thavani, an operative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is sent in to investigate the murder, only to uncover that the gods are not as dead as the world believes.

Bennett’s novel has a great sense of timing. Though the plot is not very action driven, the action existing in it is well timed and impactful. Shara and her “Northman” bodyguard named Sigrud have some fantastic battles against the gods and the gods’ pets.

The real shining star of the novel, though, is the character building. Bennett’s characters are fully-fleshed and are very different from one another. Even the supporting characters are well written and feel like real people. Bennett’s female characters are awesome. One of my biggest issues with women in SFF is the way authors often sacrifice emotion or depth of emotional response in female characters in exchange for clever or physically capable characters. Bennett’s story was full of women who had varied roles, positions, and personalities. Each one is emotionally developed and intriguing. They’re also all capable. Shara is a great example, but my favorite character in this regard (as much as I loved Shara) was the Bulikov governor. The governor, who is also a military officer, is determined and capable, but also is given a great depth of character with independent motivations.

Just an outstanding job. Easily a favorite for the year.

I received a copy of City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett for free in exchange for an honest review from And boy am I glad I did.


Spotlight on Graphic Novels: The Fuse

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The Fuse vol 1: The Russia Shift

You can get a copy of The Fuse here.

Deitrich is a German police officer who requests a transfer to the Fuse, a space station with its own vastly different culture and circumstances. There, he’s assigned to homicide and “the Russia shift.” He’s not on the Fuse for a full day when cabelers (an isolated homeless population who lives in the maintenance areas in the walls of the Fuse) show up shot to death. Because guns are highly restricted on the station, the murders peak Deitrich’s interest. He and his abrasive partner, Klem, are about to uncover a horrible secret.

The artwork in the graphic novel is interesting. It reminded me of the artwork in the Jackie Chan Adventures. It’s lots of angles and rough-hewn shapes. It’s interesting. Klem’s gender is a bit ambiguous, but that plays into the way that Klem is as a character.

The story is interesting. It’s fast-paced and interesting. The plot itself is a little rough at times. There’s a lot of convenient plot points that are a bit too easy to come by.

The dialogue is a bit stinted at times. Dietrich never uses contractions which was off-putting. I think this is supposed to make him feel like a non-native English speaker, but it was more awkward than beneficial to his character. His actions make him feel far more real than his dialogue does.

The overall story has a lot of interesting subtext. The Cabelers are a great point with a lot of potential for development. We’ve been told that there’s a lot of complex ideas and reasons that the Cabelers exist and their interactions with the mainstream citizens is going to be great when more fully explored. I’m quite excited for it.

Klem is going to be a very interesting person to see develop. She’s cold and a bit sterile, but we know there’s more to her. The relationship we see with her and her son, as well as the way she approaches Dietrich hint at some very complex relationships.

I received this comic as an e-ARC from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review.

Spotlight on Graphic Novels: The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks, Illustrated by Caanan White

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I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not very familiar with the Hellfighters. They were mostly a footnote in the European history class I took in high school. To my credit, at least I knew they existed. When I saw that The Harlem Hellfighters was (1) a graphic novel, (2) written by Max Brooks, and (3) available for review, I jumped.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book. The story was very well researched. You could tell that Brooks wanted to do justice to the story and that he knew accuracy was the way to do it. It is a fictionalized version of the Hellfighters’ history. It was, however, very well done. Even though you knew that the characters were fictionalized, they were realistic and relate-able.

The artwork is fantastic. It’s largely linework with a spectacular sense of light and dark and negative space. It feels a lot like a woodblock print or a woodcarving, with very bold lines. It does become a bit chaotic when some of the panels are similar, but overall is very striking.

The only thing I really wish we saw more of was the individual characters’ reactions to the events in the story. We’re introduced to about four or five very interesting characters at the start, but the focus doesn’t stay on them. There was a lot of history to cover, so this is understandable, but it does take away from the possibility of very interesting character developments and examinations.

Overall, though, I was very impressed. The story originated as a screenplay that Brooks wrote, but was adapted very well. Hopefully that movie gets made one day. 3.5/5