Month: June 2015

Review: Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett

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* I received a copy of Mother of Eden for free in exchange for an honest review via Blogging for Books

Mother of Eden is the sequel to Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden (You can read my review of Dark Eden here). It takes place hundreds of years after the end of Dark Eden. Though it can arguably be read on its own, Mother of Eden makes the most sense in the context of a sequel.

The descendents of John Redlantern and his companions have spread over the planet of Eden. The population has become large and fractioned by their beliefs about what the original humans who crash landed on the planet had intended for the race. In particular, the whole planet is fixated on Mother Gela’s ring, long lost, or so they’ve been told.

Starlight Brooking is from Knee Tree. Her family is isolated. They live rustically, but are protected from the politics that has taken over much of Eden. But, Starlight wants more. She’s got a wicked case of wanderlust. On her one big adventure outside of her home, she gets caught up in a whirlwind romance. She leaves for a new area of the planet with new people, technology, and — could it be?– Gela’s ring. When she arrives at New Earth, Starlight finds that politics is a much more complicated beast than she could ever have imagined.

Mother of Eden has a lot going for it. It’s a thought piece on what may happen in a world where some groups of people are highly isolated, when gender stratified societies take hold and collide, and the relationships between mother, children, and power.

Some of the characters are interesting. The contrast between Starlight and her more content sister, Glitterfish, is interesting, and there were a number of complex side characters. The setup of the novel incorporates a wide variety of points of view. Beckett uses this to develop some of the characters very well.

The story uses a very particular linguistic style. This was used pretty successfully in the first novel. It was odd in this installation, however, that the language hadn’t developed in the years that were supposed to have passed. Additionally, it became increasingly difficult for the characters to have distinct voices. Their phrasing and colloquialisms are the same regardless of age, gender, or background. That was odd and made the story a bit muddled. What could have been strong character voices were weakened overall, with the few notable exceptions.

The story was interesting in a thought-provoking way, but the plot seemed secondary as opposed to complementary. The idea of a young woman from an equal, largely agrarian society being thrust into power in a world in which the women have been subjugated and the political structure oppresses the average citizen is interesting. The route she takes afterwards is similarly interesting. However, I found the story to be pretty straightforward overall. I had wanted a more complicated world and interactions that simply wasn’t there.

I enjoyed it, but there was room for improvement.


Spotlight on Graphic Novels: The New Suicide Squad vol. 1

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* I received a copy of The New Suicide Squad, vol 1, Pure Insanity for free in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley.

Honesty moment, while I love DC Comics, and am a big fan of their imprints like Vertigo, I’m not always up to date on all of the newest superhero plot lines. They often times just don’t do it for me and the thought of delving into the superhero universes that are already long-established, like Marvel or DC, is overwhelming to say the least.

I wanted to read The New Suicide Squad, vol 1, Pure Insanity for a couple of reasons. (1) It seemed like a reasonable jumping-on point for the storyline; (2) The concept of the Suicide Squad is intriguing; and (3) There’s a new movie coming out for the Suicide Squad and I wanted to know a bit more about the story before jumping into the theater (a typical thing for me).

The Suicide Squad is one of the more inadvisable ideas to ever plague Gotham’s leadership. After arresting or otherwise detaining a number of Gotham’s big bad villains, chips are implanted into the villains’ necks which will explode if the villains do not comply with commands given them. Under the supervision of Agent Waller and the U.S. government, the villains are forced to team up and take on existential threats to the U.S.

The chaos and misadventures of the Suicide Squad is pretty expected. In the New Suicide Squad, vol. 1, there are a number of notable villains, including Deadshot, Manta, Harley Quinn, and The Joker’s Daughter. The trade paperback includes two plot arcs, one involving Russia, the other China.

I had a mixed reaction to the bind up.

The story is fun. It’s action-packed with some fast-paced battles and interesting conflicts. The entire concept is interesting.

The art is a dramatic stylized style with odd angles and proportions. The pallet is dark, understandably so. Everything seems swathed in shadow. Granted, there were a lot of panels where a punch seems to land on someone’s crotch, even though it seems more likely that the target was the stomach. I don’t know, maybe crotch punching is all the rage.

I was, however, left a bit underwhelmed by the character dynamics, which seemed forced, and by the lack of cohesion in the plots. While Manta serves as a kind of binding agent, consistent throughout the story, the other characters are overly-volatile, inconsistent, and oddly positioned. There isn’t a lot of backstory built into the book. This is not the volume to pick up if you want to know how and why the Suicide Squad exists.

It was a fine comic, just not quite smooth enough storytelling for my tastes.

Review: Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

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*I received a copy of Falling in Love with Hominids through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

That first noise must have come from the powerful kick. It crashed like the sound of cannon shot. A second bang followed, painfully, stupefyingly loud; then a concussion of air from the direction of the front door as it collapsed inward. Jenny didn’t even have time to react. She sat up straight on her couch, that was all. The elephant was in the living  room almost immediately. Jenny went wordlessly still in fright and disbelief. She lived on the fifteenth floor.

Nalo Hopkinsons’ Falling in Love with Hominids has some fantastic gems. The book collects short stories from throughout her career. Each story has a brief introduction about what led to the story’s creation. The topics are wide ranging and include viral-infection induced apocalypses, fire breathing chickens, and Shakespearean retellings.

I’ve been on a bit of a Nalo Hopkinson kick over the last few months. Generally speaking, I like Nalo Hopkinson. I think her stuff is interesting and creative. Granted, not everything always hits home, but overall, I find her writing enjoyable. So, of course, I was so excited to find out there was a new Nalo Hopkinson.

The stories in this collection are great. There’s a very dynamic feel to them and the characters are well-developed given the page lengths. I was (pleasantly) surprised to see that there was a good deal of variation in length. While many of the stories are about what I’d consider average length for a short story (around the 15-20 pg mark), there were some short but sweet additions to the collection as well.

One of the best parts for me was the introductory paragraphs. At the stories’ starts, there’s a brief introduction in Nalo’s words about the inspiration or prompting for the stories. Some of these are funny and others more serious, but I enjoyed the contextualizing of the tales. It added value to my experience.

The only thing I wish were in the collection was a date or year that the story was originally written. This would have given a sense of chronology and connection. The stories aren’t necessarily themed, and they don’t build off one another necessarily. The connectivity there would have been nice, but that’s much more of a perk than a needed addition to the collection.

Overall, it was a fantastic collection with a lot of variety and satisfying stories.

You can find Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love with Hominids on Amazon:

or on Goodreads: