Category Archives: Review

Flight – Book Review

One of my favorite genres is the graphic novel. I love picking one up and enjoying not just the story but the art. The Watchmen, Blankets, The Sandman – all have been great reads. Today, though, is about one of my absolute favorites: Flight.

Flight is actually a series of graphic novels based around the theme of, you guessed it, flight. Each book is a collection of short form graphic stories from various artists and authors. The art is consistently beautiful and wonderfully varied, letting you get a glimpse into the style of multiple artists.

Perhaps my favorite of the stories is by Vera Brosgol. It is the story of a young woman who wakes up one day with wings growing on her back. She and her friend explore the implications and possibilities. Brosgol’s art is fantastic and I recommend checking out all of her works. Her early work, Return to Sender, was one of my favorite web comics and I have always been sad that she left it unfinished. However, she has followed it up with a wonderful career including Anya’s Ghost and work for the movie studio Laika, makers of Coraline and The Boxtrolls. Check out her blog at www.verabee.com.

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Karen Lord – The Best of All Possible Worlds – Review

Karen lord has about as diverse a history as a person can. She has been everything from a soldier to a diplomat, settling now on writing and research consultation in Barbados. Redemption in Indigo, her debut novel, won the 2008 Frank Collymore Literary Award, the 2011 William L. Crawford Award, and the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy award for Adult Literature. It was also nominated for Best Novel in the World Fantasy Award.

Her 2013 novel, The Best of All Possible Worlds, was an engaging and beautiful read. Her prose and ideas are on par with Ursula K. LeGuin, and although it is not a sequel it is a worthy follow up to Lord’s first novel. Science fiction of the thoughtful, rather than action-adventure variety, a nice change from what we see on the big screen these days as the Star Trek franchise becomes a series of action flicks and Marvel superheroes dominate the box office.

Much like Asimov’s Foundation series, The Best of All Possible Worlds takes place in a galaxy populated largely, if not entirely by humans. However, each branch of humanity has unique traits that distinguish it from the others. There are the Sadiri, mentalists focused on building and perfecting the power of the mind, telepathic, with great mental discipline and emotional control; the Ntshune, a branch with great understanding and control of emotions; the Zhinuvians, masters of the body, both human and artificial, and the Terrans, our own world, a blend of the four fond of debate and action. Our story, however, excludes the Terrans, placed under quarantine until their society matures, with the exception of small groups spirited away by the mysterious Caretakers. The novel opens with the complete destruction of Sadira and the scattering of the remaining Sadiri throughout the galaxy.

Although the background is sweeping, and Lord has obviously put a great deal of thought into the larger universe of this tale, the story focuses on two individuals on one planet, Cygnus Beta. Dllenach, a Sadiri, and Grace Delarua, a woman of mixed descent who identifies merely as Cygnian, are partnered to oversee the development of Sadiri homesteads on Cygnus Beta. Soon a plan is developed to form a team to travel the planet looking for taSadiri, humans of Sadiri background with some remnants of Sadiri culture, with the hope of finding women who would be appropriate and willing to marry Sadiri homesteaders. The majority of the book takes place during this expedition.

The expedition, although moving the story forward, merely provides a framework for the true focus of the story – the characters and their relationships to one another. The growth of the friendships, the love among the characters, and the depth to which these people grow together is where Lord’s storytelling truly shines.

Although some of the outcomes in the book are apparent from the beginning, that did not detract from the joy I found in seeing things develop. I recommend this story to anyone, not just science fiction lovers, who wants a break from pulp fiction and action adventure, and instead wants to dive deeply into human relationships and emotions.

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The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm – Review

I’ve spent a lot of time this month on books for adults, so this week I’m going to take a turn into a younger category. With a small child at home I spend a lot of time reading children’s books, perhaps more than I spend reading adult books! So this week I’ll talk about the latest edition to my child’s library.

Last year I was excited to see a Kickstarter to do a Reading Rainbow reboot to take it online and bring it to schools around the country. I very happily backed this as Reading Rainbow was one of my favorite shows as a kid and I’m a big fan of LeVar Burton, both from that show and from Star Trek. One of the great rewards I received was an autographed copy of his new children’s book: The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm. So not only do I get to give my child a beautifully illustrated book, but a signed one no less! Maybe this will set her down the road I’ve been on, collecting signed firsts.

But enough of the back story. The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm is a lovely story about friendship, sorrow, anger, and how we deal with them. It begins in a very meta way with a little mouse feeling afraid of the storm raging outside her home. Her family had been made homeless the year before by just such a storm. Papa Mouse, seeing his daughter’s distress, pulls out our book and begins to read.

Just like baby mouse, Rhino loses his home to a tremendous storm. In his fear and anger he yells up at the storm and swallows it whole, ending the torrential downpour, but metaphorically bottling all his fear and anger inside. The story is his journey to release that anger with the help of his friends.

Although the writing is a little rough at times the story is sweet and a good lesson for a young child in how to deal with anger and fear before it gets bottled up inside and causes problems. The illustrations are gorgeous and engaging and I think any young child will enjoy The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm. But, to quote LeVar Burton, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

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The True History of the Kelly Gang – Review

In The True History of the Kelly Gang (Booker Prize winner 2001) award winning Peter Carey brings to us the story of Ned Kelly, Australian bushranger and outlaw. In prose both illiterate and beautiful Kelly tells us of his life of crime in Victoria, Australia through the eyes of a man about to hang leaving his legacy to a daughter he barely knows. “I lost my own father at 12 yr. of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false,” writes Kelly.

In this book Carey rivals American author Cormac McCarthy (a personal favorite of mine who will most certainly make an appearance here) in the beauty of his prose and the wonder of the outlaw wilds of an untamed land. While both authors may be difficult to approach at first due to their unique writing style I guarantee that if you give The True History time you will be engrossed. When I read this in 2006 I finished it in a matter of days and immediately posted my recommendation on the shelf, featuring it in a display of award winning books of the previous 10 years.

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The Revolution in Seattle – Review

“Strike Call all unions to go out” reads the newspaper clipping that composes part of the cover of “Revolution in Seattle” by Harvey O’Connor. From the early utopian settlements in the area to the general strike of 1919 and the Everett Massacre the Revolution in Seattle presents an engaging picture of the movement from the turn of the 20th century through the early 1920’s.

Using a mixture of narratives from local labor leaders and newspaper clippings from the era, O’Connor takes you through an engaging and sometimes shocking ride through the struggles of labor in early Seattle. Although O’Connor was himself an activist and is perhaps slightly biased in his retelling the stories he presents still give great historical background of what it took to earn the 40 hour work week, the minimum wage, and the right to organize.

As a former labor activist myself (I was a bargaining unit rep to the ILWU and an active member of Jobs With Justice) I can’t help but relate to O’Connor’s tales. The struggles today are perhaps not as violent as days past but are present nonetheless. Seattle is making good progress with a large increase in the minimum wage and work towards paid maternity leave for city workers, but other areas of the country are seeing massive hits to workers’ rights and ability to organize. Perhaps “The Revolution in Seattle” will inspire new movements across the country to reclaim the middle class and rejuvenate the American dream.

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