Sunday, May 30, 2010

Batman: Death and the Maidens

After reading The Long Halloween, I decided to give Batman: Death and the Maidens a try (I have one more Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale book left, and kind of wanted to save it. Plus this is shorter than Dark Victory).
Reading the introduction to Death and the Maidens, I became quite excited. This was, according to the editor Matt Idelson, Greg Rucka's best work. Having no experience with Greg Rucka's work, I was prepared to be amazed. Unfortunately, I was not amazed.
As you can tell from the cover, Death and the Maidens deals with Ra's Al-Ghul. I don't know a lot of the history of him, but he is a bit more supernatural than I like my Batman villians to be (with the Lazarus Pits and him being centuries old and all). So when we are immediately introduced to a hitherto unknown daughter of his, Nyssa, and her back story gets spliced into the action of the main story, I had a bit of a hard time. The problem was both little knowledge on Ra's and company, but also I didn't really care what was going on.
The main idea is that Nyssa is completely against her father, wanting him dead. And Ra's is dying, having been deprived of his Lazarus Pits by Batman (I think). So Ra's visits Batman with a desperate deal: he will trade Batman a drink that will allow him to communicate with his dead parents in exchange for a working Lazarus Pit. Meanwhile Nyssa is busy kidnapping her sister Talia and plotting the murders of both her father and Superman. (As a side note, Superman has an awesome and completely unexpected moment in this story).
One of the main problems with this story was one pointed out by Craig Johnson on Comics Bulletin: Batman is like a side character in this story. Even the whole plot with his parents seems completely unnecessary.
So overall, I wasn't really fond of this graphic novel. The story was just okay, nothing special. I'd pass this up in favour of something like The Long Halloween or Knightfall pt 1.

Batman: The Long Halloween

I've had Batman: The Long Halloween for a long time; I bought it in Toronto at the same time as Batman: Haunted Knight. I've really wanted to read it, but I've had a hard time justifying it because it is much longer than most of my graphic novels. But after reading The Incident Report, I wanted something that I knew would be excellent. And since I am heading back to Toronto in a few days, I wanted to read a few of my graphic novels in preparation of buying some more. My plan for today was to hang out and read, making it the perfect time to read The Long Halloween.
The Long Halloween is a lot of things. It is the story of the downfall of the crime family led by "the Roman." It is the story of a serial killer, named "Holiday" because he kills members of the crime family on holidays, leaving little holiday mementos to mark the occasion. And it is the story of how Harvey Dent became Two-Face. The Long Halloween will keep you guessing right to the end - just who is Holiday?
Batman: The Long Halloween was an excellent story, and well worth reading if you like Batman. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did a fantastic job, and like the Dark Templar Saga, I wish I had read it sooner!

Interlude: The Incident Report

A friend of mine lent me Martha Baillie's The Incident Report after hearing that I work at the public library. It is a book about Miriam Gordon, a "Public Service Assistant" who works at one of the Toronto Public Libraries. The entire book is comprised of incident reports that Miriam writes. I started the book on break while at work today (a fitting place to read it) and just finished it a few minutes ago.
When I first started reading the book, I liked it. The Incident Report starts out with a couple of incidents that I could really relate to, having worked in a public library for several years now. But then I hit a couple of "incidents" which weren't really incidents. They mostly involved Miriam's memories of her father, but later in the book moved onto her relationship with Janko. The memories of her father didn't seem to really fit, and so I became a bit more unsure of what I thought.
Overall though, the story kept me reading (as I said, I finished it in a day). Miriam starts to discover little notes left in the Children's Department referring to her. A patron has written about Miriam using references to the Opera Rigoletto, referencing her as his (with the patron as Rigoletto) daughter (Gilda). The notes seem to get increasingly threatening, saying that they will never be parted (quite unlike the opera). As these notes kept appearing, I really wanted to find out what would happen.
Miriam's relationship with Janko was also interesting to read. Written in incident reports as well, you only get little glimpses of what is happening; I thought this was rather well done.
Unfortunately, as the book drew to a close, I felt unsatisfied. There seemed to be too many questions left unanswered. So while this was a quick little read, I'm not really sure I'd recommend it to anyone. If you work or have worked in a library, you'll definitely be able to relate to The Incident Report. Otherwise, you might not really enjoy this. Of course, I am fully aware that this isn't really the type of book that I normally enjoy reading, so if you'd like a second opinion before making up your mind, check out the Globe and Mail review or check out the reviews and news on Baillie's own website (it is on the Giller Prize longlist).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Dark Templar Saga: Twilight

Today I started and finished the final book in Christie Golden's The Dark Templar Saga. And what a book it was! Like Shadow Hunters before it, Twilight ends right where the story left off. Zamara and R.M. Dahl managed to get the warp gate on Aiur functional, and everyone who could tried to run through to Shakuras. Unfortunately, R.M. and the other refugees discover the Protoss on Shakuras realized the Aiur gate was open; in an attempt to stop the Zerg from following the refugees through, they redirected the gate to an unknown destination - and Jake and Zamara are the ones who got redirected.
To make matters worse, Zamara being in Jake's mind and sharing memories with him is killing him. And so they were on their way to Shakuras for help from the Dark Templar. Closed off from the very help they needed, they go in search of Zeratul, hoping the Prelate can aid them. But the Protoss they find is very different from the one Zamara remembers.
As usual, Christie Golden did a fantastic job bringing this story to life. I enjoyed every minute of reading it (especially when Zeratul was brought in; I have always liked his character). But more than that, The Dark Templar Saga will provide an excellent bridge between the two games. Fans of the first one are given more information dealing with certain "cliffhangers" brought up in Brood War. This whole series was an excellent read and I'm really glad I didn't wait for it a second longer!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Dark Templar Saga: Shadow Hunters

A few minutes ago, I finished book 2 of Christie Golden's The Dark Templar Saga. Shadow Hunters picks up where Firstborn left off, but this time pretty much everyone has found out about Jacob Ramsey and the Protoss in his head. Kerrigan sends her forces, who mistakenly capture the wrong guy. The Heir to the Terran Dominion continues to pursue, sending his personal ghost into the fray. And Ulrezaj, an archon made up of seven dark templar is also after Zamara. Jacob and R.M. Dahl are hard pressed to stay ahead of everyone.
Following Zamara's directions, the pair makes their way to Aiur, where they discover the few remaining Protoss have been split into two opposing camps. While they are able to befriend the Shel'na Kryhas (Those Who Endure), the Tal'darim (the Forged) are bitterly opposed to the Shel'na Kryhas. And unfortunately, the Tal'darim are right where Zamara, Jacob and R.M. need to go.
Shadow Hunters was just as good as Firstborn. Like the first book, I didn't want to put it down. Unfortunately that wasn't possible, so it took me a bit longer than planned to read. But that doesn't matter. I can't wait to see how everything plays out in Twilight, and I can't wait to see what Zamara's been hiding.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Dark Templar Saga: Firstborn

Firstborn came out a few years ago. As the first book of a trilogy, I wanted to wait until the final book came out before getting it. Unfortunately, the third book ended up delayed for a few years and by the time it came out the first two weren't readily available. I then decided to wait until all of the trilogy was published in an anthology like The Starcraft Archive, which collected the first three published novels as well as one story which was only released as an e-book. All of that changed when I went to Duluth and found them in Barnes and Nobel. I ended up buying both Firstborn and Shadow Hunters (Book 2) there, and I came home and picked up a copy of Twilight (Book 3) here (the only copy of Twilight that they had was in really rough shape).
Firstborn begins the story of the archeologist Jake Ramsey. He is given the chance of a lifetime when he is hired to excavate an abandoned temple. Inside he discovers the body of a Protoss and becomes bound to her spirit, a Preserver who brings with her the memories from the entire Protoss race. Jake is left trying to sort through these memories while hanging onto his own Terran identity. On top of all of this, the benefactor who hired him wants the extraordinary contents of Jake's modified brain and is hunting him down. Jake's only hope lies with both Zamara, the Protoss he has merged with, and R.M. Dahl, the very woman who betrayed him after he merged with Zamara and was then betrayed herself.
When I first saw that the entire trilogy was by Christie Golden, I was incredibly excited. Several years ago I read her Ravenloft book Vampire of the Mists and loved it. And even though I waited a long time to get my hands on the Dark Templar Saga, the wait was worth it! I love Christie Golden's characters, especially Jake Ramsey and Zamara. The story is great so far, with action and betrayal everywhere you turn. And Christie Golden even managed to make the events from Shadow of the Xel'Naga, a book I hated because it felt like it was written by people who had no idea of how the Brood War worked, seem more plausible. I can honestly say I devoured Firstborn (I read about 300 of its approximately 350 pages today) and loved every minute of it. I can't wait to see what happens in Shadow Hunters tomorrow!!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mortal Coils

I was standing around in Chapters, talking to a couple of friends when Mortal Coils caught my eye. It is written by Eric Nylund, who also writes some of the Halo novels (which I have not yet read). It sounded intriguing, so I decided to buy it.
Mortal Coils tells the story of the twins Fiona and Eliot Post. They live with their Grandmother and Great-Grandmother in a house full of rules. Nothing exciting has ever happened to them, until they turn 15. It is then that they begin to discover the truth about themselves. As the children of a Goddess and Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, they are tasked with three heroic trials by their mother's family to determine whether they belong with the Immortals or the Infernals (their father's family). Discovering the twins' existence, the Infernals also devise their own tests in the form of three temptations. The twins need to survive these tests by ultimately discovering their own powers and strengths. But much more is at stake than just their lives, for Fiona and Eliot may be the key to starting a war between the Immortals and the Infernals.
I was excited when I found Mortal Coils in Chapters, but while I was poking around on Eric Nylund's website, I discovered that it is not a stand-alone book, like I expected. The next book is due out this summer. Normally I would wait to read a book in a series, having learned several years back that I do not remember everything that happened in previous books (this was from reading Terry Brooks' High Druid of Shannara series. I thought I remembered everything that happened, but when I opened the second book, Tanequil, a year after reading Jarka Ruus I was completely lost as to who the characters in the first chapter were!). Unfortunately I discovered All That Lives Must Die as I was in the middle of Mortal Coils so I chose to keep going.
Mortal Coils was also a bit hard to read at first. The main problem was that it had footnotes all over the place; the footnotes reminded me of a school book, even though they provided mostly fictional information. This made Mortal Coils a poor choice for my first non-school book of the summer. Luckily it was still an excellent read, especially at the end, as Fiona and Eliot really began to assert their own authority. Overall, Mortal Coils was great, filled with wonderful ideas and characters. I can't wait for the next book!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

List Update

It's been quite a long time since I last wrote a List update, but after taking a look at the actualy physical List, I thought it was time. I just got back from Duluth, where I bought a few books. Two of those books were part of a trilogy, so when I got home I of course ran out to buy the third one here. But before this book spree, I've also bought a few novels here and there, which has brought the books on the List up to 139! Yes, I currently have 139 books to read in my room right now! I think I'm going to have to avoid bookstores for awhile, at least until I get through some of these books! Luckily I am about two thirds through one, and really excited to get started on that trilogy I mentioned.