Friday, March 5, 2021

Starcraft: Survivors

 The reason I (re)read Starcraft earlier today was I mistakenly thought it was volume 1 to a newer graphic novel that I saw at the library, Starcraft Survivors.  But no, these two are totally different storylines!

Unfortunately the library doesn't have volumes 1 and 2 in this series, so I had to just jump into volume 3 and hope I could figure it out.

Starcraft: Survivors starts directly after a Dark Templar woman has killed all but one member of a Terran ship.  She spares Caleb's life as long as he is useful in her search for great power.  One of his crewmates' thoughts provides a clue: an Umojan Lab; this leads the two of them to a planet under the Umojan Protectorate.  Caleb is sent to fit in with the locals and find this power.  But he's hindered by the impatience of the unnamed Dark Templar. She kills someone as a warning to Caleb to hurry up, and threatens to kill more within five days if he cannot find the lab.

While it took a bit to get into the story (again, volume 3 in the series), Starcraft Survivors was really good.  The ticking clock from the murderous Dark Templar set the stakes high as Caleb is trying to blend in and keep his head down, all while the other workers in his factory try to befriend him (and he gets drawn into their friendship despite attempts not to).  Gabriel Guzman's art is the perfect compliment to Houser's text.  And just look at that cover image by Guzman - it's creepy, and perfectly encompasses the story!

I really liked the characters (and would love to know more, especially about the mysterious Dark Templar woman - what was she trying to do?  Why did she need great power, and who was she trying to get revenge against? Unfortunately this story didn't shed light on it (I was hoping for some sort of afterword, but no such luck!)

I did spend a bit of time Googling Dark Templar though, because part way through this story I noticed the unnamed Dark Templar's face - and it looked like she had a hydralisk-style jaw!  That did not seem right to me, and I originally figured she might be some weird kind of Protoss-Zerg hybrid (which might also explain her wanting revenge...), but a Google search turned up other images of some Dark Templar with that style jaw bone.  So that's neat, I had no idea that was a thing! 

I also want to note, I love that they're doing these kinds of stories with Starcraft now!  None of these characters are part of the games, or interact with major characters from the games, which I liked because this story helps to expand the world of Starcraft, showing that it really is a universe with all kinds of people in it.  I hope they continue making these kinds of stories - while I do love many of the main characters, it's nice to see new ones added, too. :)

Starcraft (Reread)

Lol!!!  So apparently I read Simon Furman's Starcraft graphic novel years ago, but didn't remember it at all!  The only reason I discovered it was a reread is because I marked it off on Goodreads!

This story follows a band of mercenaries who were sent to do the Terran Dominion's dirty work.  They're betrayed and scatter.  But two years later, they're given the chance to clear their names if they do one more job: kill the mercenary leader Jim Raynor.

The beginning of the comic is really hard to follow, especially when you're trying to figure out who all the characters are (I got hung up for a long time on trying to figure out if someone was left for dead but survived and came back, or if it was another character coming after them). I also had no real connection to any of the characters and didn't really care what was happening.  But by about halfway through, I started to put the pieces together a bit better and found myself caring about what happened to them.

Of course, the story was greatly boosted by Jim Raynor appearing.  He's such a great character and really added the touch that was missing, particularly for Cole Hickson's backstory (that they knew each other from before, and that Hickson helped Raynor get through an ordeal at a POW camp they were both in).

Unfortunately the series was cancelled before the second arc was finished, so I don't get to read more about these characters. :(

Saturday, January 30, 2021

A Few Graphic Novels

I got the second Jane Foster: Valkyrie graphic novel, At the End of All Things, and the third Aquaman graphic novel, Manta Vs. Machine, from the library the other day.  I don't really have much to say about them, but I did like them better than the previous graphic novels in both series.  

At the End of All Things felt a lot more like the type of story I wanted from the Jane Foster: Valkyrie series. First there was a story where Death herself was sick.  So Jane and Stephen Strange assemble a team of doctors to go and try to cure death.  After that, shadow demons start popping up and attacking Midgard, so Jane rushes to the rescue, along with a few other Avengers.  While most of them agree to stay on Midgard and hold the demons back, Jane and Thor go to find the source of the trouble.  Unfortunately that was all part of the plan - Tyr wanted to lure Jane there in order to get Undrjarn, the All-Weapon, from her because it is the only thing that can (somewhat) control RØkkva, an ancient evil that has been sealed away for millennia, which Tyr plans on using to take control of Asgard and assume his place as All-Father.

This was fun, and if the series keeps giving stories like this, I'm definitely up for reading more!

Manta Vs. Machine
was a bit all over the place.  Using the mech Lex Luthor gave him (which is programed to have the personality of his father), Black Manta assaults Amnesty Bay, wanting to get revenge against Arthur (as always).  But he attacked an Atlantean peace garden, which brought a pregnant Queen Mera into the fight.  They defeat Manta but she overtaxed herself too much and has now slipped into a coma.  I thought she was going to lose the baby, but that story ends with the princess being born albeit 4 months premature.  There are also a few other stories shoved in here, including a random one where Arthur and Mera announced their engagement (and talk about having kids or not), and another one where Arthur tries to raise the spirits of Amnesty Bay (while also getting stressed out himself? I don't know, this story was the most all over the place).

After reading this one, I'm kind of on the fence about wanting to read more in the Aquaman series right now.  I'm interested to see what happens with Mera (although with her in a coma she's going to be sidelined now, which sucks) and the new Princess, but the stuff going on in Amnesty Bay really isn't holding my attention (also, I'm sad that Tula has very much been relegated to a background role in Amnesty Bay).  The random sea gods and goddesses that Arthur brought with him to Amnesty Bay are also just kind of there right now, and I'm not really connecting with them (although the incident where the one goddess went to the supermarket and flipped out because people weren't respecting her was pretty funny).  I guess I'll see how I feel once the fourth volume comes out.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Architects of Memory

I've been waiting to read Karen Osborne's Architects of Memory, the first book in the Memory War duology, for quite some time now.  I was excited to finally get my hands on it.  I started it over the weekend and would have finished it sooner but I had to put it aside for a few days while I was doing some training for work.  Once that was finished though, I immediately picked it back up and finished it. :)

Architects of Memory follows Ashlan Jackson, a salvage pilot who is terminally ill.  She lives in a world where you sell yourself to a company in order to eventually earn citizenship with that company; unfortunately some are much worse than others, charging you for every little thing (and extending indefinitely the terms of your indenture).  For someone with a terminal illness, it's much worse because if the company finds out about it, they can cancel your contract and leave you to die.  So Ash does everything in her power to hide her illness to buy her time to finish her contract and hopefully pay for treatments.

Her salvage crew is sent to clean up the wreckage of another ship from an inter-company war; while going through her routine salvage operations, Ash discovers that there was an alien weapon on board, one powerful enough to destabilize the tenuous peace among the companies.  And for some reason, she is able to handle it...

Overall I really enjoyed Architects of Memory.  Michael R. Underwood's endorsement on the back of the book said it was for fans of Firefly and I really got that.  This was a quirky crew that overall I really enjoyed hanging out with (although I admit I would have liked to have read a bit more of them just hanging out doing their things; they get separated from each other pretty quickly). 

The world of Architects of Memory was interesting, and unfortunately could very much become reality if corporations control the means of getting into space, I could see people basically going into slavery to them to get themselves into space as well. While Ash's crew didn't seem to have hard boundaries between the indentures and citizens, it was really interesting to see how that played out on some of the other ships.  I should also mention that I liked Osborne's aliens, the Vai, as well (although I admit to some confusion on how they could have come to be...)

I do think my biggest complaint was the ending though.  It didn't really feel satisfying; I honestly thought Ash would make more of an attempt to get out to the White Line, possibly dying in the process (I also admit to not really understanding what the White Line was exactly, beyond being the border the Vai retreated to).  But as I said, overall I did enjoy the book; it's a fast paced read and I would definitely like to read the second part when I get the chance! :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Alice Network

After reading both The Huntress by Kate Quinn and D-Day Girls by Sarah Rose, I decided I wanted to read The Alice Network (also by Quinn).  I didn't know much about it except that it involved female spies in the World Wars, so I figured it would be an interesting read after the non-fiction D-Day Girls (plus my dad, who has read both books, kept comparing D-Day Girls to this book).  And I really enjoyed The Huntress, and was just looking forward to an all-around good read.

The Alice Network is the story of two women: Eve Gardiner, who, as a young woman, was recruited to spy on the Germans in France during WWI, and Charlotte "Charlie" St. Clare, a young pregnant American who wants to find her French cousin after WWII.  The only clue Charlie has is the name Evelyn Gardiner.  Hence the two women's worlds collide as they come to realize they may be searching for the same thing.

The Alice Network was an interesting read.  I loved the story that took place in post-WWII Europe (mostly France).  Eve and Charlie were great foils for each other (and I loved the addition of Eve's Scottish driver Finn Kilgore).  The trio are unlikely allies who slowly discover they are more alike than they thought.  I also really enjoyed Charlie coming into her own and figuring out both what she wants and how to work the system as an unmarried pregnant woman during that time (and the difficulties she encountered were eye-opening: she wasn't able to access her OWN savings without the say-so of her father, even though the money was her's).

But I had a much harder time reading Eve Gardiner's spy adventures during WWI.  The slow back and forth between her and Rene Bordelon as she attempted to keep her cover while Bordelon kept drawing her in closer never really held my interest.  And then the scene where Gardiner's hands were destroyed, while I knew that would be coming at some point, was super graphic; I had a really hard time with that.  I was much happier when Eve's story kind of caught up with Charlie's narrative in 1947.

Like in The Huntress, Quinn's characters were interesting.  I also liked how she blended fact with fiction (and I appreciated the extras included at the end of the book, like the letter from Louise de Bettignies).

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I thought The Huntress was better.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Ukrainian Folk Stories

After reading (and getting depressed from) D-Day Girls, I decided I wanted something totally different. So I decided to give Ukrainian Folk Stories a try.  These stories were written by Marko Vovchuk in the mid 1800's, and translated into English by N. Pedan-Popil in 1983. Unfortunately, Pedan-Popil decided not to translate Vovchuk's stories for children and fables; what's left are the stories on serfdom and family live, which are overwhelmingly depressing!

Most of the stories are relatively short (the longest one, "Instytutka," was about 30 pages).  Many are about the hard life of Ukrainian serfs in the 1800's.  If they were lucky, they had a good master who rarely beat them; unfortunately the majority of these serfs had terrible masters, who beat them and verbally abused them.  There were a few stories about serfs who got their freedom, but even these often had terrible endings (I'm thinking of "The Slacker," where two women of Kozak lineage who shouldn't have been serfs get their freedom, but the daughter, who obtained their freedom, became a drunk in the process and passed away not long after becoming free; "Redemption" talked of the greed involved with masters, but thankfully has a happy ending, with a serf getting his freedom and being able to marry the Kozak woman he loved). Many of the other stories dealt with love, but often in terrible ways.  Take "Mismatched," where a woman's husband falls out of love with her, or "The Spell" (the only supernatural tale of the collection), where a woman who loves someone who does not love her back changes his betrothed into a bird so she can marry him instead (this story, which is pictured on the cover, in ways reminded me of Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors, at least in terms of how the man marries someone he doesn't love because his true love is gone).

While depressing, these stories give an interesting look at life in 19th century Ukraine. I just wish the fables and children's stories had been translated, too (especially if they weren't as depressing as these tales were)!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Beyond the Grid


I bought Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Beyond the Grid along with Shattered Grid.  I didn't know anything at all about this story (except that people who bought Shattered Grid often bought this as well). 

Beyond the Grid tells the story of various Rangers (both with and without their Morphin powers) getting pulled into another universe while aboard the Promethea ship. This universe has no access to the Morphin Grid, and so shouldn't exist.  At first they believe the dying universe is empty of life. But then they intercept a distress call.  Sending the last of those who can still Morph to investigate, the Rangers walk into a trap set by a mysterious Purple Ranger living in the Universe, who steals the power from them and their ship.  Who is this mysterious Ranger and how will our Rangers survive (and get home)?

Beyond the Grid is a tough read, particularly in the beginning.  The way the story is laid out, I had a really hard time figuring out what exactly was happening, particularly in the first few chapters (eventually I got the hang of reading it and was able to follow along a bit better).   By the end though, I found myself enjoying the story and quite invested in what was happening; everything came together really well (and pretty much everything that happened eventually made sense, which was another plus). I did have a hard time connecting with the characters though because there were so many of them (and it doesn't help that I didn't follow Power Rangers beyond the initial series on TV years ago, so I couldn't call on prior knowledge of most of the characters to help me here).

All in all, this is a very different story that followed Shattered Grid.  I didn't like it as much, but by the end I found that I did enjoy reading it.