San Diego Comic-Con 2007 - Part 2 · 2 August 2007
During my hurried trip through the bookish section of the floor, I managed to snab a few previews. Unfortunately, the publishers were spread out, and wedged into small booths in multiple crowded aisles. By the time I was seeking them out, I was so footsore, I’m sure I missed quite a few. Signs of my delirium at the time can be supported by the fact that I passed up a perfectly fine, free, Star Wars book, just because I’ve never read one. The next day I would be plagued by the realization that I’m sure I could have found someone who would have wanted it. Oh well, c'est la vie. I’ll have a better plan of attack next year.
Despite delirium, I happened upon some goodies, the first of which was a sampler of works from Ace and Roc. The sampler was a generous 107 pages and included a handful of chapters from four books: The Hidden Worlds by Kristin Landon (available now), Plague Year by Jeff Carlson (Available in August), The Sunrise Lands by S.M. Stirling (available in September), and Halting State by Charles Stross (available in October). This was my first sampler, and I have to say, they’re quite deadly. I’ll probably end up getting at least one of these books.
The only one that didn’t capture my attention was Halting State, which was a bit of a surprise, since I’ve heard good things about Stross. However, the book is narrated in second person, and I found that annoying, so I couldn’t really get past the irritability factor to give the story a chance.
The Hidden Worlds sounds like a political-mystery-thriller-romance. It starts as our first protagonist, Linnea, is ripped from her home, contracted out to a far more wealthy and powerful world to be the servant for one of the influential Pilot Masters. Our second protagonist, Iain sen Paolo, is introduced at the moment of his political defeat, a ceremony in which he was to have been granted the right to bear heirs for the line but wasn’t. When Linnea is delivered to Ian sen Paolo as his servant, he thinks it is part of an elaborate hoax to dishonor him, further proof that he has failed in his duty to the family. In these first few chapters Landon sets up a bevy of conflicts and the seed of the mystery. Why did someone arrange for Linnea to be sent to Iain? Why was Iain’s cousin honored above him? What are the rules that govern the mysterious ruling Pilot Masters and why do they treat women as chattel?
Linnea looks to be a spunky character that will spit in the eye of convention and force a change on the tradition bound Pilot Masters. Iain has the promise of depth. If nothing else, I think this book should shape up as an enjoyable drama.
Plague Year by Jeff Carlson is a post-apocalyptic, techno-heavy story. A nano-machine-virus has been designed that kills humans and leaves other life untouched. No cure has been found, but the machine self-destructs at 70% of the standard atmosphere, so survivors have fled to the mountains, living above the safe line. The outlook is bleak.
They ate Jorgensen first. He’d twisted his leg bad – his long white leg. The man hadn’t been much more than a stranger, but Cam remembered five hundred things about him.
This looks to be another thriller, a technological race against time to find a cure to the machine that threatens to render humanity extinct. Ruth Goldman, a nanotechnology specialist had the fortune to be launched into space when the virus hit (isn’t it wonderful when fortunate coincidences like that happen?) and now she’s the relay point between all the remaining science stations fervently working on the problem.
Aside from the obvious turns this story will likely take, the one that I find potentially the most interesting is Ruth’s reaction to the crisis, and her cathartic reaction to it. She’s the best chance that the world has for survival and she’s portrayed as beaten, indifferent, almost resigned to extinction. A paragraph later she’s brilliant, working the problem from another angle. Then she looks out the window of the space station and sees the sunrise, and dips into resignation again.
There is significant foreshadowing that the small group of survivors camped out in the desolate northern-California mountains will be required to make sacrifices on behalf of the human race. I wonder what Ruth will have to sacrifice, or if Carlson will take a different angle that doesn’t balance the sacrifice of the people on the ground.
The Sunrise Lands is another post-apocalyptic story but reads like a quasi-fantasy. Unlike Plague Year, this apocalypse was precipitated by The Change, which simply rendered technology inoperable. Humanity has survived, even flourished in places, but has been reduced to a pre-Industrial-Revolution style of living.
The story starts with a wanderer, a man from the East Coast of the United States who wanders into an Oregon town. Ingolf Vogeler has been running, and he’s glad of the warm welcome he received from the Mackenzies of Oregon.
This story reminded me of nothing so much as a cross between the Postman by David Brin and Outlander by Diana Galbadon. Stirling captures the nature of a Scottish clan perfectly by having a chatty barmaid overwhelm Ingolf with complex family relationships and genealogy. “That’s Rudy, so-and-so’s third son from her second marriage to Auld Joe.” The Mackenzies are portrayed as warm, welcoming, practical, and fierce. They’ve carved out a place for themselves, and are content to keep it.
Interestingly, they’re also portrayed as pagan, and as Ingolf arrives on Samhain, he sees part of their celebrations in action. The conflict of the book is barely introduced, but seems to revolve around religious differences held by a hyper-intolerant group to the east. When Ingolf is visited in the night first by a series of prophetic dreams, and then by a band of assassins, Stirling throws the reader a huge hint that he’s somehow wrapped up in this conflict.
This could play out in interesting ways, but it seems like it may be a bit derivative. I may end up reading it because I have a fondness for Scottish lore, but I probably won’t get it in hardcover.
The next preview I picked up was for Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon courtesy of Del Rey Books. Reading this, I renewed my resolve to read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by the same author, and to pick up Gentlemen of the Road when it comes out.
This is a series of stories of adventure, which I understand will be tied together with an overarching plot. In the first two chapters, Chabon introduces two intriguing roguish characters, Amran and Zelikman, who end up dueling after a ritualistic exchange of insults.
The description in these chapters is wonderful. Chabon brings to life the dusty way station of the caravan roads, the excitement, indifference, and agony of survival. He imbues the scene with an air of mystique and introduces his characters to misfortune with a sense of playfulness.
For those fans of Chabon’s work that can’t wait until the sale date of October 30, 2007, these stories were previously printed (in part) in The New York Times Magazine earlier this year. The bound book will have extra material, and illustrations by Gary Gianni of Prince Valiant fame.
Next up was another great find, a preview of Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden (say that five times fast). Not only was this preview beautifully illustrated (the photographs sprinkled throughout the post are from the preview book), it, more than any of the others left me wanting to know more.
What I do know is beautifully dark and symbolic, a tie-in between Hans Christian Anderson’s story The Steadfast Tin Soldier and vampire bats. The story appears to be set in Europe, in an era reminiscent of both WWI and the Dark Ages. It starts, as do all great changes in lives, with a battle. There are guns, and barbed-wire traps, and trenches, and Captain Henry Baltimore is afraid.
Baltimore knows that he stands at the very edge of the world. How else to explain the dread that slithers in the hollow of his chest and wraps itself around his soul? He must be on the threshold of Hell, for he can conceive of no patch of ground that could be father from home and family and comfort. Yet this is the nature of war. To become a soldier, to spill blood and evict human souls in the name of faith or country, means traveling so far from home that home becomes as distant and cherished a memory as innocence.
There is a mystery in this story that is launched as we leave Baltimore bleeding on the battlefield and thickens as a trio of acquaintances travels to a war-decimated city at his bequest. This is a moody book, a surreal book, that reminds me quite a bit of the Gunslinger by Stephen King in that there are the people who are still real and people who have given up on living. This likeness is heightened by the illustrations by Mike Mignola, which are similar in mood to those by Michael Whelan in my version of the Gunslinger.
It’s been a while since I read a vampire book, even with the recent proliferation of them. I’ll be picking this one up for sure.
The final footnote to my previews is the above image from The Umbrella Academy. Ever since Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings piqued my interest on this comic, I’ve been hoping to see more of it. All I could find was this one image, which doesn’t do justice to the beautiful cover art, or show off Gerard Way’s writing. Hopefully the first issue will be a bit more satisfying.
Whew. Almost 200 pages of preview material later, perhaps it’s a good thing that I wasn’t able to find all the publishers. Between these teasers and the 200 pages of textbook material that I’ve had to read this week, there hasn’t been time for much else.
I did recently finish Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell and I’ve started The All-True Travels and Adventures of Liddie Newton by Jane Smiley, so expect commentary and reviews of those in the upcoming posts. Until then, I’m off to annotate my wish lists and find a way to fit another bookcase into my already crammed living space ;)
Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire , Christopher Golden, Comic-Con, Fantasy, Gentlemen of the Road, Illustrated Novel, Jeff Carlson, Kristin Landon, Lisa Snellings-Clark, Michael Chabon, Mike Mignola, Pagan, Plague Year, Poppet, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, S.M. Stirling, Science Fiction, The Hidden Worlds, The Sunrise Lands, The Umbrella Academy, Thriller, Vampires
This post is mostly just a pointer to the review section, where you can read my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (hidden off the front page in order to avoid spoiling it for those still finishing up).
As often happens though, a few things of note have crept up that may be of interest to readers and don’t really fit into my regular posting format.
First - My sister has informed me that a second Taschen bookstore has opened in Los Angeles (the first is in Beverly Hills). I’d never heard of Taschen before she sent me the link, but as it had the word “bookstore” in the title, I could hardly resist looking them up. It turns out they’re a publisher of art books, and after reading about them, I’m quite excited to go to the store. But. . .
Second – For the first time in ages, I’m going to be in San Diego for 2 straight weekends. I’m house sitting for 2 people, with charge of a total of 4 cats (one of them my own). I’m quite glad to have a break from the weekend commuting (and of course Comic Con is this weekend, so I’d be in San Diego anyway) but Taschen will have to wait.
Fourth – I had a horrible dream the other night, a nightmare really. I’m not sure what prompted it, but two days later the image is still with me. Those easily grossed out may want to skip the next paragraph (oh, how I wish I had that option).
I dreamt I was brushing my teeth, and all of a sudden my tongue was covered with embedded black pods. It was like my taste buds had turned into foreign objects, jet black, shiny, sinister foreign objects. I started brushing my tongue, and the toothbrush was able to dislodge some of the pods, but then I looked at the toothpaste tube and saw with horror that the tube was full of more pods. Somehow I realized that this meant for every pod I was brushing out, I was brushing more pods in. Even through this realization, I couldn’t stop brushing, and eventually a small waterfall of the grotesque pods was cascading out of my mouth. *Shudder* (I may blame Jackson for planting the seed of this idea with his allusion to the guy who had a bug lay a colony of eggs in his forehead).
My heart rate has literally increased while I’ve been writing this. For the life of me I can’t figure out why it would affect me so much. Perhaps it’s because I had such a strong visual image of something horrible happening to me? But, it’s been two days now, and every time I find myself with a quiet moment, this image pops into my head.
Is there some symbolic meaning that I recognize on a subconscious level and I’m not able to pin down? Perhaps it’s just a manifestation of me knowing that I’m overdue for a dental checkup. Whatever the case is, I’m hoping that writing about it will help exorcise it. I may resort to drastic measures and create a short story based around the image if it doesn’t stop haunting me. I’m frankly sick of having the image creep up on me unawares and making my stomach roil during the day.
You’ll notice that the pictures here are of Kiwi kitten (provided by my sister) . Happy, cutesy, Kiwi. That’s what I’m thinking of, kittens. I am the master of my own brain; really I am.
June Gloom · 22 June 2007
The longest day has ended and from now on the year is slowly dying, each day a bit shorter than the last until we come to the other end of the pendulum and embrace the longest night.
I usually see the summer solstice as the mark of the beginning of summer, but this year it seems to mark the end of things. Perhaps I’m just a bit blue because the Once Upon a Time Challenge has ended, or maybe it’s because summer school has started. I’m even willing to accept that mercury in retrograde is dragging at me. In any case, I felt the coming of the season differently than I normally do and it’s slowing me down, making me feel like I should be preparing to burrow in my warm little den rather than out enjoying the bounty of the season.
I decided the cure for my summer blues was twofold: firstly, a good night’s sleep (which I’ve been sorely lacking and will be adjourning to immediately upon posting) and secondly, another reading challenge.
The premise: Read 12 award winning books in 12 months. At only one book per month, it's an easy-paced challenge that will provide a bit of focus for my reading and hopefully introduce me to some more great books. I spent last night browsing the award lists and I’ve got my first three choices selected.
- The 1984 Nebula winner - Neuromancer by William Gibson (I may have to turn in my geek card after admitting I haven’t read this one yet).
- The 2001 Pulitzer winner The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (My sister will be glad to have this returned to her; it’s been almost a year since I borrowed it).
- And finally, the 1995 Pulitzer winner The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields.
Why these books? For the simple reason that I already own them (or have them in my hot little hands) and a book challenge provides some motivation to read them.
I’ve got a list of 29 other potential books for the remaining 9 slots. Some of these are books that I’ve been meaning to read (the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson) and some are just books with interesting titles that caught my eye (Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan). I’ll be scoping out used bookstores, paperbackswap and bookmooch to see which I can add to my collection before posting my final selections.
Despite my lethargy, I’ve got a ton of fun things planned for the blog next week. Can you imagine what blue jell-o, orange noodles, tapioca pearls, and squash have in common? Stay tuned and the answer shall be revealed! I know, you’re on the edge of your seat ;)