Friday, August 30, 2013

The Dark Crystal Creation Myths Volume 2

A couple of days ago I read The Dark Crystal Creation Myths, Volume 2, which I recently got through inter library loans (illo).  Creation Myths, Vol 1 kind of ended on a (mild) cliffhanger, stating that Raunip was going to cause some trouble.  I was eager to see exactly what sort of trouble he would cause.  Luckily Creation Myths, Vol 2 picks up pretty much where Vol 1 ends off.   

Vol 2 still has the same framing narrative as Vol 1: a mysterious hooded figure is continuing to share stories.  But this time the figure tells you that he or she is dying.  S/he implores you to listen because s/he still has much to impart that should not be lost.

Where Vol 1 told a number of shorter tales, Vol 2 is telling only two: the framing narrative and the story of how the crystal cracked.  What's more, Gyr from Chapter 4 of Vol 1 returns (his tale seemed out of place in the rest of Vol 1).  After finding the song of the lone Urskek, Gyr has lost the will to make music.  But Raunip and Kel, the daughter of one of the great gelfling clan mothers, have come to his village to seek him out. They are journeying to the Castle of the Crystal to witness the next Great Conjunction and require a song-teller to witness the historic moment.  Although Gyr wishes no part of their adventure, Kel convinces him to journey with them, if only to the next village, at which point he can decide whether or not to continue on.  On their journey, the two gelflings fall for one another, which is why Gyr inevitably stays.

Joined by the son of one of the Pod People's clan mothers, the group makes their way to the Castle in time to witness the Great Conjunction.  There they find Aughra, who has been working on a way to get the Urskeks home.  It is before the Great Conjunction that one of the Urskeks seeks Gyr out and implores the song-teller to play the Urskek song he heard on his journey.  Though reluctant, Gyr does.  Unfortunately the song corrupts the Urskek, which has a disastrous consequence during the Great Conjunction.

I really enjoyed reading Creation Myths, Volume 2.  It was quite different from Vol 1, but that was okay.  This was an excellent story which I recommend to all fans of The Dark Crystal.  Unfortunately Volume 3, which should be the conclusion of the story, is due out sometime next year.  That's a longer wait than I would like, but based off the first two volumes, I am sure the wait will be worth it.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Legends of the Dark Crystal: the Garthim Wars

So I'm continuing my Dark Crystal reading with Legends of the Dark Crystal: the Garthim Wars, the only graphic novel the library actually had.  This one is a manga-style book; I generally don't like reading the traditional ones (I've gotten confused while reading a few that didn't lay their panels out in a logical way), but this one is more like a traditional North American book so it was okay.

The Garthim Wars tells the story of Lahr and Neffi.  Both Gelflings are the sole survivors from a Garthim attack on their respective villages; after finding each other, they go to warn the next village.  Lahr is the only Gelfling who has managed to kill a Garthim, making him a hero among the other Gelflings (who all believed they couldn't be killed).  The Gelflings are a peaceful race, but both Lahr and Neffi urge the village to change their ways: the Gelflings need to stand and fight, or else they'll be hunted into extinction.

I enjoyed reading The Garthim Wars, but I have to admit that it wasn't at all what I was expecting.  I didn't actually read the synopsis, so I was expecting a story centered more around the creation of the Garthim.  I didn't get that, but I got a pretty decent look at Gelfling life along with a good story.  Lahr and Neffi's story continues in Legends of the Dark Crystal: Trial by Fire.  I'm interested to see where it goes!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Dark Crystal Creation Myths Volume 1

A friend of mine told me about The Dark Crystal Author Quest, a contest the Jim Henson Company is putting on to look for an author to write a new book set in the world of The Dark Crystal.  I have always loved the movie, but I've had trouble thinking of the world as anything other than that movie.  So I went to the library looking for The Dark Crystal graphic novels; they only had one, but have ordered the other three I wanted to read through their inter library loan (illo) service.  The first one, The Dark Crystal Creation Myths, Volume 1, came in for me almost immediately.  I had to put off reading it until after I got back from San Francisco.

The Dark Crystal Creation Myths, Volume 1 is made up of several different tales, all within a framing narrative.  The framing narrative starts out in Chapter 1: A Tale Well Told, which shows a mysterious hooded figure who has a companion that is the same species as Fizzgig.  The figure has agreed to share stories as payment.  And so once darkness falls, he or she begins.

Chapter 2: The Birth of Aughra, is the story of the beginning of the world, known as Thra.  Aughra was born to give voice to the voiceless and sight to the sightless, providing a link between the world itself and all the creatures that inhabit it.  She watched over the world and its inhabitants, most especially the gentle Gelflings.

Chapter 3: Strange and Distant Stars tells of a later time, when Aughra has turned her attention to the stars.  This is the story of the first great conjunction and the coming of the Urskeks.  This was also where Raunip, Aughra's son, was first introduced. 

Chapter 4: A Song of Tides, was an interesting sort of interlude from the main story, which involves Aughra and her son, Raunip.  A Song of Tides is the story of Gyr, a traveller who collected songs.  He dreamed of an older song that had become lost and forgotten, and so sets out on the sea to find it.

Chapter 5: The Secret Behind the Stars, has Raunip, who has always been distrustful of the Urskeks, try to incite the Gelflings to rise up against them.  He has seen a darkness within the interlopers that others, including his mother, have been blind to.  He also learns that the Urskeks who have arrived on Thra are not ambassadors, but were banished from their home world. 

At the end of three of the chapters, there's a short story as well.  The three are "The Covenants of Thra," which is an excerpt from an epic poem by Fellen the Elder, "How the Gelfling Maid Got Her Wings," which tells one version of how Gelfling women first got their wings, and "Jarra-Jen and the Horn of Thunder," which tells how Jarra-Jen freed the Gelfling slaves from Creghel's tyranny.  All of these were fun little excerpts.

The final story in the book is the special 8 page Dark Crystal story written for free comic book day.  It pretty much gives an overview of the main story within Creation Myths, Vol 1, while also hinting at what is yet to come.  I liked that it was included at the end of the book; I don't think I would have wanted to read it before the book came out.

All in all I really enjoyed The Dark Crystal Creation Myths, Volume 1.  The art is beautiful, as befitting something set in the world of Thra.  But what's more, Creation Myths really got me thinking of Thra as more of a living land.  There's much more potential for stories there than I was previously able to imagine.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon

"Okay.  This looks bad."  Those are the words that started off every story in Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon.  I got this book out from the library a long time ago.  I renewed it several times.  Brought it back, then took it back out again.  I finally got around to reading it today, almost two months later. And I really wish I had gotten to it sooner - it was a lot of fun!

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon collects Hawkeye #1-5 (and Young Avengers #6, where Kate Bishop first meets Clint Barton).  Clint and Kate get into all sorts of trouble, from dealing with a gang of thieves stealing from villains, to trying to get a tape with some incredibly incriminating evidence for Clint, the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. back after a mole within S.H.I.E.L.D. releases it. 

I have to say, I was a super big fan of both Clint and Kate.  In a way they're both what I like about Batman: neither one of them have superpowers.  They're everyday people (ok, maybe really well trained everyday people) taking out the bad guys.  But besides the trick arrows Hawkeye has up his (or her) sleeve, they have to rely on their training, their wits, and a healthy dose of luck to see them through.  I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for more Hawkeye books, particularly any more from Matt Fraction.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

After finishing Matt Forbeck's Brave New World trilogy, I was heading out to camp and thought that Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane was the perfect book to take with me.  It isn't particularly long (181 pages), and I've heard really good things about it.  And there hasn't been a new Neil Gaiman book in quite sometime, so I was pretty excited to sit down and read it.

"This book is childhood."  That's how Emily May starts her review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  And that description is particularly apt.  This book, written for adults by an adult, is childhood.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane starts off in a relatively mundane way.  The narrator (I believe his name is George, but it only comes up near the end) is back in his home village to attend a funeral.  He has a couple of hours to kill, so he wanders back to his old neighbourhood and finds himself at the house of his old friend, Lettie Hempstock.  Sitting down by the pond which Lettie had convinced him years earlier was an ocean, he finds himself flooded in memories from the summer when he was seven years old.

The summer in question is definitely not mundane.  A man living in the narrator's house committed suicide, which woke up a being who should have stayed asleep.  Lettie takes the narrator to help her put the being back to sleep, but everything goes wrong.  The narrator's home life becomes a nightmare as that being follows him home.  The narrator knows that only Lettie and her family can save him and his family, but he has to get to her first. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is well written, in an almost whimsical manner, at odds with the darkness of the tale; coupled together, this book has a rather dream-like quality that suits it.  This is the story of the worst that can happen in childhood: the monsters are real and they really are after you. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Matt Forbeck's Brave New World: Resolution

I started reading Matt Forbeck's Brave New World: Resolution a few days ago, but wasn't able to finish it until just now. 

In order to talk about Resolution, I'm going to be giving some spoilers.  So if you haven't read the book, or the previous one, you might want to stop reading this now.

I have to admit, the beginning of the book wasn't really working for felt a little too removed from what had gone on before.  And I guess it was rather removed from the events of Revelation; Resolution opens with everyone safely on Isla Delta, having to explain how they got there. And then the action starts.  Delta Prime invades the island, and everyone except for Patriot (and Terri, the delta who is flying him around) get captured. 

I'm not going to lie, but it was at the end of all this (about halfway through the book) that I stopped reading.  Yes, I was busy.  But the way things played out, I wasn't really in a hurry to get back to the book.  But when I finally did start reading again (earlier today), I was once again blown away by how great of a storyteller Forbeck is. 

So anyway, everyone is captured, and Patriot needs to rescue them in a hurry, because Delta Prime is forcing Street and another gadgeteer named the Supplier to build a bigger bomb than the one that removed Chicago from the Earth.  But the two of them have found a way to send someone to Chicago.  And so Lisa goes, taking with her the plans to build a similar device there to bring everyone back home.

Of course, nothing goes smoothly.  As a diversion, Patriot and another delta manage to reveal the identity of the President.  And unfortunately he isn't who they thought he was...

The end of Resolution was fantastic.  There's no two ways about it.  It's a fast-paced ending with a lot of unexpected things happening.  This was a fitting end for the trilogy, and I'm really glad Forbeck was able to write this series, thanks to the funding he got on Kickstarter.  I'm looking forward to reading more of his books!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Matt Forbeck's Brave New World: Revelation

So I finished Matt Forbeck's Brave New World: Revelation last night.  I was really tired, but so near the end that I wanted to finish it before I slept.  And the ending was definitely worth the loss of sleep!

Revelation takes place a few weeks after the events of Revolution.  Patriot, Lisa and company are sent to Colorado to answer a family's distress call; it seems they were attacked by a super-powered man.  A man who may have just fallen out of the sky after the detonation near the end of the first book.  Their world is rocked when they discover the identity of the man: it's Superior, the world's greatest alpha-powered delta.  Superior disappeared along with Chicago 23 years ago.

Of course, they're not the only ones after Superior and the family of deltas he attacked.  Delta Prime is hot on their heels, bringing down their jet-van into a Catholic Church.  Patriot needs to find a way to get all of them out alive, which becomes less likely by the minute as they're surrounded by Delta Prime.

I have to say, for most of this book, I thought it was okay.  It wasn't as good as Revelation (which may in part have been because there were a lot of new characters who took center stage along with Lisa and Patriot).  But then the end happened.  I'm talking about the very end of the book, after the climax.  I wasn't at all prepared for it, even though in some ways I felt like I should have seen it coming.  After being blown away by that, I really can't wait to see how all of this ends in the final book!

Matt Forbeck's Brave New World: Revolution

When I first heard about Matt Forbeck's 12 for 12 Kickstarter drive, I thought it was a great idea. If successfully funded, Forbeck gets to write twelve novels during the year, and everyone who supported him gets some hopefully awesome books. No, I had never read any of his books before, but I loved the idea and really wanted him to succeed.

It's now been over a year since the first 12 for 12 drive ended and I received my copies of the first trilogy, set in a roleplaying setting Forbeck created years ago (Matt Forbeck's Brave New World). As I was flying home from California yesterday, I thought it was definitely time to actually read them! And so I read the first book, Matt Forbeck's Brave New World: Revolution, as I was flying home.

Revolution takes place in Crescent City, the city that grew on the edge of the crater where Chicago once stood. Super powered people, called Deltas, are required by law to register and join the American government/army (the Delta division, called Delta Prime). And while many do, there are just as many people who don't want to; they value their freedom and so run from the law. Many of them find their way into the rebellion called the Defiance.

Lisa believes she is an ordinary girl. But suddenly her life is turned upside down when both Delta Prime and the Defiance, led by Patriot, an ex-Delta Prime member, come looking for her. Patriot is captured while saving Lisa from Delta Prime. And so she finds herself teaming up with other members of Defiance to rescue a man she doesn't know, all the while trying to figure out why everyone wants her so badly.

I have to say that I really liked Revolution. So much so that I'm almost finished the second book, Revelation. I like the setting and I really like both Lisa and the Patriot (along with all the others!)  I do apologize for the future posts on this trilogy though: there will be spoilers!