Quick Review: TRANSMETROPOLITAN by Warren Ellis et al (Vertigo)

Transmetropolitan-CollectedEditions

I’ve had a very strange experience/reaction to Transmetropolitan, Warren Ellis’s series that satirizes politics and the media. In fact, I have so many thoughts about the series, that I’m going to keep this review rather short — in an attempt to prevent myself from going overboard. One thing that bears stating at the start: this series has only become more relevant; and, while it can be a bit of an uncomfortable read at times, it is brilliant. Continue reading

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Upcoming: KILL THE FARM BOY by Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne (Del Rey)

Dawson&Hearne-KillTheFarmBoySo, this novel may have my favourite fantasy title ever. I can’t actually think of one that amused me as much before — although, Magic Kingdom For Sale, Sold and many Pratchett titles have been favourites for a long while. I hadn’t heard about Kill the Farm Boy until a few moments ago, when B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Tweeted about it. Written by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, here’s the synopsis:

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born… and so begins every fairy tale ever told.

This is not that fairy tale.

There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.

And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.

There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord who wishes for the boy’s untimely death… and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.

Kill the Farm Boy is due to be published by Del Rey in North America, in July 2018. (At the time of writing this, I couldn’t find any information about a UK release.)

Also on CR: Interview with Lila Bowen (2016); Interview with Kevin Hearne (2011); Reviews of Kevin Hearne’s Hounded and Hexed

Follow the Author, Dawson: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Follow the Author, Hearne: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Guest Review: GUARDS! GUARDS! by Terry Pratchett (Corgi)

PratchettT-GuardsGuardsUKReviewed by Ryan Frye

“Vimes ran a practised eye over the assortment before him. It was the usual Ankh-Morpork mob in times of crisis; half of them were here to complain, a quarter of them were here to watch the other half, and the remainder were here to rob, importune or sell hotdogs to the rest.”

Insurrection is in the air in Ankh-Morpork. The Haves and Have-Nots are about to fall out all over again. Captain Sam Vimes of the city’s ramshackle Night Watch is used to this. It’s enough to drive a man to drink. Well, to drink more. But this time, something is different – the Have-Nots have found the key to a dormant, lethal weapon that even they don’t fully understand, and they’re about to unleash a campaign of terror on the city. Time for Captain Vimes to sober up.

Many years ago I read my first Terry Pratchett book. I started where I normally start with any author that I’m new to, the beginning. Sad to say, The Color of Magic and I did not find sweet harmony together. Why? Honestly, it was too long ago to remember what exactly it was I didn’t like about that first read, but I stayed away from Pratchett for a number of years, only to return again a few years later for another shot at this vaunted author. My reread of The Color of Magic went much like the first, and I left feeling sort of ambivalent towards the whole Discworld thing.

Through the passage of years, and my involvement in blogging, online forums, twitter, and the like, I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that the lack of Pratchett-penned novels has left a gaping hole in my fantasy reading resume. With Pratchett’s recent passing I was inspired by the vast outpouring of love towards this man to give his work a third and final shot. If things didn’t work out on the third try…well, sorry Sir, three strikes and you’re out.

Going in, I knew I needed to take a different approach. I sure as hell wasn’t gonna read The Color of Magic again. I needed to move on to different pastures…

The Light Fantastic was out, since that is the sequel to The Color of Magic. Not going there. I kept moving chronologically, reading synopses until I read the blurb for Guards! Guards!, and I knew I had my next Terry Pratchett read. Continue reading

Quick Review: HEAD OF STATE by Andrew Marr (Fourth Estate/Overlook)

MarrA-HeadOfStateUKA British political satire

It’s September 2017, and the United Kingdom is on the verge of a crucial referendum that will determine, once and for all, if the country remains a member of the European Union, or goes its own way. The stakes could not possibly be higher, and the outcome is delicately balanced.

But, unsuspected by the electorate, and unknown to all but a handful of members of the Prime Minister’s innermost circle, there is a shocking secret at the very heart of government that, were it to become known, would change everything in an instant. A group of ruthlessly determined individuals will stop at nothing – including murder – to prevent that from happening.

I have been familiar with Andrew Marr’s non-fiction work for years — his radio show has been a staple in my household for a long time. Therefore, when I learned that Marr had written a tongue-in-cheek political novel, I was very interested to read it. Head of State is an interesting, short novel; well-written and packed with insider knowledge. It was also, sadly, a little uneven. Continue reading

Upcoming: CROOKED by Austin Grossman (Mulholland)

GrossmanA-CrookedI only recently read (and loved) Austin Grossman‘s You, but ever since I have been keeping my eyes open for news on his next novel. As it happens, today SF Signal shared the cover and synopsis for CROOKED, which is due out in July 2015. (Gargh! That’s so far way!) Here’s the synopsis:

This is the story of Richard Nixon, America’s last defense against a supernatural Cold War.

Richard Nixon’s life is a compellingly human story: historically epic, richly strange. His career spans World War II, the Cold War intrigue, the Mad Men sixties, and the turbulent seventies. He went from political phenomenon to master schemer to a joke, sobbing in the Oval Office.

But what if Nixon was actually a man who had stumbled on a terrible supernatural secret? A leader who did what he had to do to protect humanity, at the cost of disgracing the entire nation?

What if our worst president was really a pivotal figure in the secret history of the twentieth century, caught in a desperate struggle between ordinary life and horrors from another reality?

He’s not a crook. He’s a hero. So cut Nixon some slack. He saw the devil walk.

I still need to read Soon I Will Be Invincible. I’m sure I’ll manage that before Crooked hits shelves.

Theodore Roosevelt Responds to a Lampooning Review. Or, “This Probably Couldn’t Happen Today, on the Internet”

GoodwinDK-BullyPulpitUKAnyone who knows me, or perhaps anyone who reads my other blog, Politics Reader (yeah, I know, there’s a theme to the blog names), will undoubtedly have come across my interest in Theodore Roosevelt, his presidency and time. I am fascinated by the period of American history between (approx.) 1880 and the start of World War I. Given this interest, I devour pretty much any book I can get my hands on that focuses on that time and the people who shaped American history and politics then. At the moment, I’m reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent, exhaustively-researched The Bully Pulpit. The book is about Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the media. Today, I came across an amusing passage, which I thought I would share, here.

First, some context. Theodore Roosevelt was US president from 1901-08, first ascending to the Presidency after the assassination of William McKinley. Alongside his storied career in public service, he was a prolific author – between 1882-1919, he had 45 books and collections (of essays and letters) published. Finley Peter Dunne was a writer and humourist from Chicago, who wrote the nationally syndicated “Mr. Dooley” satires and lampoons.

In the fall of 1899, a copy of The Rough Riders, Roosevelt’s wartime memoir, came across Dunne’s desk. “Mr. Dooley’s” book review in Harper’s Weekly mocked Roosevelt’s propensity for placing himself at the center of all action: “Tis Th’ Biography iv a Hero by Wan who Knows. Tis Th’ Darin’ Exploits iv a Brave Man be an Actual Eye Witness,” Mr. Dooley observed. “If I was him, I’d call th’ book, ‘Alone in Cubia.’” Three days after this satirical assessment amused readers across the country, Roosevelt wrote to Dunne: “I regret to state that my family and intimate friends are delighted with your review of my book. Now I think you owe me one; and I shall exact that when you next come east to pay me a visit. I have long wanted the chance of making your acquaintance.” (pp.257-8)

GoodwinDK-BullyPulpitUSThe full review is the first in Mr. Dooley’s Philosophy (which is available as a PDF online – pp.13-18). collected Dunne was clearly touched by Roosevelt’s letter, and in his reply to Roosevelt, accepting the invitation, he also said:

“… the way you took Mr. Dooley is a little discouraging. The number of persons who are worthwhile firing at is so small that as a matter of business I must regret the loss of one of them. Still if in losing a target I have, perhaps, gained a friend I am in after all.” (p.258)

Dunne never had to regret the loss of TR as a target, however. The reviewer continued to poke fun at TR (“the nation’s premiere target” as Goodwin calls him) for years to come, and the two remained friends throughout.

Today, when an author responds to a negative or critical review – especially on the internet – it never seems to go well for the author (see, for example, who-knows-how-many self-published authors lashing out at bloggers; or even the more recent, bizarre-and-quite-pathetic reaction to Ben Aaronovitch’s polite pointing out of a review’s factual misunderstanding). The above response and exchange between Dunne and Roosevelt… It could never happen today. Which is a real shame.

[I am currently reading The Bully Pulpit for review on Politics Reader. The book was provided by Goodwin’s UK publisher, Viking/Penguin. In the US, the book is published by Simon & Schuster.]