Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Down and Out In Purgatory by Tim Powers - Book Review

From the publisher: What do you do if the man you’ve vowed to kill dies before you can kill him?
In college, Tom Holbrook worshipped Shasta DiMaio from afar, but she married the arrogant John Atwater—and Atwater eventually murdered her.

All that’s left for Tom is revenge. He has devoted the rest of his life to finding Atwater and killing him—but when he finally finds him, Atwater is in a bag in the Los Angeles County morgue.

How do you kill a man who has already died?

Down and Out in Purgatory, by Tim Powers, is a quick read of a novella that details the Tom Holbrook's quest for revenge on the man who killed the woman he loved. Unfortunately, Tom discovers that John Atwater is already dead. He is left with two options: give up his obsession with revenge, or follow Atwater to the afterlife and try for revenge there. He chooses the latter, and what follows is trip around purgatory and a brief examination of what is really important in life.

Tim Powers typically takes the everyday and peels back the layers, mixing in magic and/or the supernatural to add an unexpected depth. In the case of Down and Out, he looks at what is important after a person dies. There are quite a few interesting ideas presented in this story, including the structure of the afterlife and over-easy ghosts. Powers also touches on themes of loss, obsession, the value of life, and others. Because the book is so short, these don't get the examination they might otherwise have in a full-length novel. However, the length helps in that reading a Powers novel often requires a lot of persistence due to the denseness of ideas he generally packs into his stories.

Overall, I would recommend Down and Out in Purgatory. Fans of Tim Powers will enjoy another chance to visit his creations, while new fans will find this a great introduction to his style.

I received a preview copy of this book from Subterranean Press in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

James Bond: VARGR by Warren Ellis - Book Review

From the publisher: After a mission of vengeance in Helsinki, James Bond returns to London and assumes the workload of a fallen 00 Section agent. His new mission takes him to Berlin, presumably to break up an agile drug-trafficking operation. But Bond has no idea of the forces ranged in secret against him, the full range of an operation that's much scarier and more lethal than he could possibly imagine. Berlin is about to catch fire... and James Bond is trapped inside. Dynamite Entertainment proudly presents VARGR, the debut storyline in the all-new James Bond comic book series, as crafted by masterful writer Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, The Authority) and artist Jason Masters (Batman Incorporated, Guardians of the Galaxy). 

Vargr, the new James Bond comic by Warren Ellis for Dynamite Entertainment, is awesome. It is basically a James Bond movie in comic form, minus the theme song. There is a femme fatale, a crazy villain, a strange henchman, and an action-filled opening.

After 008 is killed, James Bond is assigned one of his open cases. This leads him to Germany, where he is to meet a CIA asset to discuss a drug issue. It's potentially a quick case; he doesn't even get armed with any of Q's fun gadgets. However, things don't go as planned, and the mission quickly goes sideways. Soon, its up to Bond to connect a former Nazi with the mysterious drug that is devouring junkies from the inside out.

Ellis perfectly captures the pace and dialogue of the newer Bond movies. With appearances by Q, M, and Miss Moneypenny, the whole cast of familiar characters is here. Ellis has created just enough backstory for the various villains to make them believable. He has kept the witty dialogue (no "shaken, not stirred" though), particularly between Bond and Moneypenny. The action is balanced with slower pieces, and the plot pulls together nicely.

The only disappointment is the lack of character development for Bond himself. However, as this is a planned ongoing series, I'll give Ellis the benefit of the doubt and hope that future story arcs will further flesh out James Bond.

James Bond: VARGR by Warren Ellis is a fun, exciting read. I look forward to seeing where this series takes 007. I highly recommend it, particularly to James Bond fans.

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Brandon Sanderson's White Sand by Brandon Sanderson - Book Review

From the publisher: A brand new saga of magic and adventure by #1 New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson.

On the planet of Taldain, the legendary Sand Masters harness arcane powers to manipulate sand in spectacular ways. But when they are slaughtered in a sinister conspiracy, the weakest of their number, Kenton, believes himself to be the only survivor. With enemies closing in on all sides, Kenton forges an unlikely partnership with Khriss -- a mysterious Darksider who hides secrets of her own.

White Sand brings to life a crucial, unpublished part of Brandon Sanderson’s sprawling Cosmere universe. The story has been adapted by Rik Hoskin (Mercy Thompson), with art by Julius Gopez and colors by Ross Campbell. Employing powerful imagery and Sanderson’s celebrated approach to magical systems, White Sand is a spectacular new saga for lovers of fantasy and adventure.

I'm a fan of Brandon Sanderson and am willing to read anything he writes, but I particularly enjoy the giant story he is telling with his Cosmere stories. This saga consists of multiple series, stand-alone novels, short stories, and novellas all telling their own tales, but together slowly weaving a greater saga. White Sand is one such story. However, unlike like his other writing, White Sand is told in graphic novel form (anyone interested in the long history of this story can check it out at Sanderson's website).

White Sand, which was adapted by Rik Hoskin and penciled by Julius Gopez, is just the opening volume in the story of the Sand Masters and the planet Taldain. As such, it is mostly concerned with introducing various point-of-view characters, setting up the premise, and revealing the magic system (unique magic systems are a hallmark of Sanderson's stories). Chief among the characters is Kenton, who has spent years studying to be a Sand Master with little success, much to consternation of his father, chief of the Sand Masters. Following a graduation ceremony, nearly all the Sand Masters are killed, with Kenton as one of the few survivors. This starts what appears to be the main story line, and it looks to be another interesting take on fantasy by Sanderson.

The other group of characters come from a different part of the planet, Darkside (as opposed to Kenton's Dayside). They include a Duchess named Khrissala, who is looking to find out what happened to her fiance, Prince Gevin. As Khrissala's story progresses, the reader discovers more about Dayside, and the mystery of the Sand Masters' destruction.

The art in White Sand is well done, conveying a terrific sense of place and providing a nice visual of the characters. I look forward to seeing how it continues to grow throughout the series.

White Sand is a promising new story from prolific author Brandon Sanderson which contains all the things his fans have come to expect and enjoy: magic, engaging characters, and a sense of greater things going on that what appear on the surface. This volume is a fine opening chapter in what is shaping up to be another fun Sanderson epic, and yet another piece of the Cosmere universe. I give it a high recommendation.

I received a preview copy of this book from Dynamite Entertainment and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.