Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Descender Volume 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire - Book Review

From the publisher: Young Robot boy TIM-21 and his companions struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. Written by award-winning creator, Jeff Lemire, Descender is a rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey. Lemire pits humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling epic. Collecting issues #1-6 of Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Trillium) and Dustin Nguyen's (Little Gotham) critically acclaimed, bestselling new science fiction series! 

I found Jeff Lemire's new series Descender an enjoyable read. It harkens back to classic sci-fi, in my opinion, and reminded me a little of the movie A.I. and the stories that inspired it, Supertoys Last All Summer Long, Supertoys When Winter Comes, and Supertoys in Other Seasons by Brian Aldiss. Whatever your take on these, I enjoyed them, and I've enjoyed Descender thus far as well.

The first volume of this book, Tin Stars, introduces the android Tim-21, his robot dog, the robot Driller, android creator Dr. Quon, government agent Telsa, and others. It also sets the scene for the immediate volume, as well as the long-term story.  Tim-21 is awakened after a ten year "sleep" to find his human family, as well as the rest of the mining colony, dead. He also discovers that androids have been outlawed, due to an attack on humanity by the gigantic android Harvesters just after he began his "sleep".  Into this mix come bounty hunters, an alien race set on destroying all androids, Dr. Quon (who may be able to unlock the reason for the Harvesters' attack), and more.

I really like the "human" aspect of Tim-21, who finds himself alone and being hunted. He becomes very resourceful, and soon begins to discover aspects of himself that tie in to the longer story of who or what the Harvesters are.

The last part of this book (issue six of the series) jumps back in time and completely turns the story on its head. There are some great reveals and the reader is forced to re-examine everything they currently know about Tim-21, Dr. Quon, and the Harvesters. It portends great things to come as the series continues.

Lemire's Descender is a great, fun read. Fans of sci-fi will really enjoy this. I've also read that the rights have been optioned for a movie. Read it now, before it hits the big screen.

I received a review copy of this book from Image Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Convergence by Jeff King - Book Review

From the publisher: Once, there were Infinite Earths. Untold timelines. Innumerable Elseworlds. Then there came a Crisis…a Zero Hour…a Flashpoint. Worlds lived. Worlds died. Now they all must fight for their future! The evil alien intelligence known as Brainiac has stolen 50 doomed cities from throughout time and space and brought them to a place beyond the Multiverse—a sentient planet of his own design, a world with the power of a god. As heroes and villains from dozens of worlds battle each other for their very existence, it’s up to a ragtag band of warriors from a slain Earth to put an end to this threat that bends the Multiverse to its will. Reality itself hangs in the balance… This is it! The entire DC Universe from the dawn of time through the New 52 stars in CONVERGENCE — an unprecedented event that brings together your favorite characters from every era and series. Whether familiar or forgotten, none of them will ever be the same! Existence comes to end and a beginning with writers JEFF KING (USA’s White Collar), SCOTT LOBDELL (SUPERMAN: DOOMED), and DAN JURGENS (BATMAN BEYOND), and artists CARLO PAGULAYAN (Incredible Hulk), STEPHEN SEGOVIA (GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS), ANDY KUBERT (DAMIAN: SON OF BATMAN), and ETHAN VAN SCIVER (GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH). Collects CONVERGENCE #0-8.

I generally enjoy the big comic event stories every year, so I was looking forward to reading Convergence by Jeff King. The description of including various characters from all of DC's history in one story sounded pretty cool. It also sounded like an opportunity to get away from the New 52 continuity and return many of the characters to their more classic iterations.  I mean, DC started this whole thing with the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, and I was hoping for something along those lines.

However, I found Convergence kind of a mess.  To start with, the main characters were a few leftover heroes from the New 52 Earth 2, including Green Lantern, Batman (Thomas Wayne), Dick Grayson, Superman (Val-Zod), the Flash, and Yolanda. Other than a nice meeting between two different Batmen (both Thomas and Bruce), there was not really any emotional investment in what happened to these characters.  Secondly, the story itself was hard to follow. First they were fighting Brainiac. Then Telos. Then Deimos. Then Brainiac again.  Very little in the way of motivation was given for any of the villains.  Thirdly, there were major gaps in the story.  I'm not sure, but it seemed that there were multiple tie-in stories to Convergence that filled a bunch of plot holes.  Because I didn't read these, I found myself being jumped around a lot without much explanation as to what was happening, or what happened elsewhere. Finally, I'm not really sure what the end result of this "multiverse changing event" was. Are we back to the old continuity? Is the New 52 still going on? Is there something all together new happening? It's really not clear.

All told, I was disappointed with Convergence. An event comic needs to have a self-contained story. The tie-ins should support the story, but not be essential. To this end, the Convergence comics should probably be collected into a book with the tie-ins included, and not on their own.  Because of all this, I can't really recommend Convergence. I suppose die-hard DC Comics readers may enjoy it, but I sure didn't.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir - Book Review

The Martian by Andy WeirFrom the publisher: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Andy Weir’s novel The Martian is the best book I’ve read in a long time.
When I initially read the synopsis, I was interested.  Astronaut Mark Watney, a mechanical engineer and botanist, is stranded on Mars through a freak accident.  What follows is how he attempts to survive, while hoping to be rescued.  With comparisons to Apollo 13, Castaway, and Robinson Crusoe on Mars, I was hooked.  Then I read some reader reviews, and became hesitant.  Many mentioned the detailed science, and how the plot didn’t move quickly enough.  Finally, however, I decided to give it a chance.
While the first person narrative of a man stranded on Mars risked being repetitive and boring, Weir pulled it off with flying colors.  Mark Watney was an extremely well-drawn character, a sort of everyman astronaut. His humor in the face of adversity and his ingenuity when confronted with multiple problems made him almost seem real.  The science never got in the way of what was happening; indeed, it added to the suspense and depth of the story.  Weir also knows just exactly how to keep building suspense, never letting the reader or Watney become too comfortable.
I highly recommend The Martian.  In fact, I recommended it to quite a few people while still in the middle of reading.  It moves along at a tremendous pace, and could have been read in one sitting if only I’d had the time available.  Do yourself a favor, and pick it up. 
I received a review copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Run to the Championship

Lexi did not end up having another match, due to members of the opponent going to choir rather than the meet. She had a blast playing tennis, and improved in skill and self-confidence over the season. Saturday, the middle school athletes also participated in a day of service, doing various projects at the school. She also cheered this week, and has one final football game this week.

Griffin's team went on an exciting run to the championship game. They won their first game soundly, and Griffin was able to get in, mixing it up in the middle at linebacker. The semi-final game saw the team upset the undefeated and top-seeded team, 8-0. Our kids showed class and sportsmanship as the other team began playing dirty when they saw their season slipping away. All our kids hit and tackled extremely well, including Griffin. Thursday night, the team played under the lights at Greenfield High School, against another team that had beaten them pretty good earlier in the season. With our players going down left and right, the team held off a last minute drive to finish regulation in a tie. The game went to triple overtime, with our team coming up a foot short of tying it again. Griffin did a solid job, and played a snap at wide receiver as well as his typical linebacker spot. I was extremely proud of Griffin and the whole team. They played over their heads and as a team, and showed tremendous sportsmanship in the midst of a heartbreaking loss.

Trisha and I finished the week by playing duck-pin bowling with the staff and spouses from her counseling office.

With the fall season ending, we have a couple of weeks before we head into basketball. Whew!