Guest Post: “Influences & Inspirations” by Stephanie Saulter

SaulterS-AuthorPicI had, by any definition, an unusual childhood – I grew up in what was then a fairly remote corner of rural Jamaica, beautiful but quite isolated, in a resolutely free-thinking, non-conformist family. I have seven siblings so I wasn’t exactly lonely; but being the eldest, a voracious reader and not particularly gregarious, I never really felt I fitted in to the neighbourhood. Books were my escape hatch, my window into different times and places and worlds. They were how I worked out who I was, what I was interested in, what lay beyond the horizon.

The power of story to capture your imagination and alter your thinking and take you somewhere else had a profound effect on who I grew up to be, long before I became a writer of stories myself. And because so many stories celebrate the outsider, the loner, the person who is always second to the right of everyone else, I think they helped to reassure me that being a bit odd and a bit different was okay. You can be the hero of your own life, and it doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s life. I learned that early, and I learned it from books. Continue reading

Uncanny X-Men, Vol.1 – “Revolution” (Marvel NOW)

UncannyXMen-Vol.01A so-so ‘start’ to a new Uncanny X-Men series…

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Chris Bachalo (1-4), Frazier Irving (#5) | Inks: Jaime Mendoza, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Victor Olazaba & Frazier Irving | Colours: Chris Bachalo & Frazier Irving

The true flagship X-Men series returns… NOW! In the wake of the Phoenix event, the world has changed and is torn on exactly what Cyclops and his team of outlaw X-Men are – visionary revolutionaries or dangerous terrorists? Whatever the truth, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto, and Magik are out in the world gathering new mutants and redefining the name Uncanny X-Men. But the challenges that they must overcome are fierce: once again, robotic Sentinels hunt the team and the mutants they protect… but when you find out who’s doing the hunting, your jaw will drop! And if that’s not enough, there’s a mole on Cyclops’s team – but who is it?

Collects: Uncanny X-Men #1-5

This is not a bad start to one of the Marvel NOW re-launch titles. Nevertheless, I had some issues with it, but they are more related to the overall direction of the Marvel NOW titles than this series per se. So: some good, some middling.

UncannyXMen-Vol.01-Interior3

Sentinels!

Yes, Uncanny X-Men is quite fun, and this book has a cheeky and gentle wit and humour running throughout – Bachalo’s artwork is a wonderful medium to realise this on the page, too. I’ve really grown to like it from Wolverine & the X-Men, despite initially not being too sure if I did. Speaking of W&tXM, the humour in Uncanny X-Men is very reminiscent of that, so I wonder if it is a conscious effort or just something Bachalo brings to the books he’s working on? Either way, I enjoyed it.

That being said… I understand that Cyclops, Emma Frost and Magick are struggling with their powers – they’re misfiring, malfunctioning, or out of control. They all were infused by the Phoenix Force in Avengers vs. X-Men, after all – and, if I remember correctly, there was a mention of at least Scott’s difficulties coming to terms with his reduced control and powers in AvX: Consequences (or possible in volume one of All-New X-Men?). But… Why is Magneto having difficulty with his powers? He wasn’t taken over by the Phoenix Force. I don’t remember that coming up before, nor any reason being given for it.

UncannyXMen-Vol.01-Interior1

The new mutants Cyclops & Co. have added to their numbers – new young recruits, people manifesting new powers since the arrival and dispersal of the Phoenix Force, are fun. It does mean, though, that we’re seeing another series that is probably trying to attract younger readers, something more in common with Wolverine & the X-Men (another similarity, perhaps only brought to mind lazily by Bachalo’s involvement). This despite fertile ground to explore a number of deeper issues. For example, who is culpable for the whole AvX mess (as they point out, it was Iron Man’s mistake that split the Phoenix Force into five hosts in the first place…). There is plenty they could explore with this series, but instead it looks like they’re going to wander off into other areas (the final chapter of the book turns the focus on to Magick and her misfiring powers). Revolution felt sadly unfulfilling and thin.

UncannyXMen-Vol.01-Interior2

Love this bit. “Did he actually call a time-out?”

I don’t know, ultimately, what I think about this book. Some of it I really liked (the art and humour), but some of it irked me because I think the whole franchise may have made some real problems for itself with these endless mass Events, crossovers, etc. I’ll probably still check out book two, but I’m in no hurry to do so. So this is recommended, but perhaps for real Marvel fans only, and not for just-casual readers.

UncannyXMen-01B-SkottieYoung

Skottie Young’s Variant Cover for #1
[Because I can’t pass up an opportunity to share Young’s work…]

Review: GEMSIGNS by Stephanie Saulter (Jo Fletcher Books)

SaulterS-GemsignsAn intriguing techno-socio-political science fiction debut

For years the human race was under attack from a deadly Syndrome, but when a cure was found – in the form of genetically engineered human beings, Gems – the line between survival and ethics was radically altered.

Now the Gems are fighting for their freedom, from the oppression of the companies that created them, and against the Norms who see them as slaves. And a conference at which Dr Eli Walker has been commissioned to present his findings on the Gems is the key to that freedom.

But with the Gemtech companies fighting to keep the Gems enslaved, and the horrifying godgangs determined to rid the earth of these ‘unholy’ creations, the Gems are up against forces that may just be too powerful to oppose.

I didn’t actually know anything about this novel, before I started it. Nevertheless, during a moment of book-funk, I browsed my TBR shelf, selected three books and Gemsigns had by far the best opening page. And the best second, third, and onwards. I soon found I was a few chapters in, and I couldn’t stop reading. I really enjoyed this novel. Continue reading