Written by Neil Gaiman
Published by W W Norton and Company
From the comics pages of Sandman to the upcoming television production of “American Gods,” Norse mythology suffuses Neil Gaiman’s writing. Which makes a collection of tales written in his signature easy-to-read prose a perfect fit.
In a book that feels neither scholarly nor bowdlerized, Gaiman brings new life to the fragmentary records of Norse mythology that still remain. His choices take us from the beginning of the world to Ragnarok, the end of the cycle, and beyond. Gaiman’s excitement to share these tales is palpable in the writing. The gods and giants that populate the book aren’t figures of superstition or sociological interest. They aren’t big-screen superheroes and villains. The author captures what makes the Aesir living, breathing people. He captures a lost age of monsters and magic, but also beings with incredible power and equally human flaws. From Odin, infinitely wise but also petty and occasionally grasping, to Loki, whose mischief gets the gods out of almost much trouble as it causes.
In an early myth, Loki shaves the goddess Sif’s head. When Thor, in his anger, asks him why, he is honest. He was drunk, and he thought it would be funny. These gods will be familiar to Gaiman’s fans, but newcomers will perhaps see something they hadn’t before in these ancient legends.
In Norse Mythology Gaiman has poured a mighty horn full of the Mead of Poetry. Take a seat on the bench, and have a drink.
March 24, 2017
February 26, 2017
Join Hugh, Opopinax, Rich the T T and Jurd as we watch a non-Toho Kaiju movie whose title is a complete lie.
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February 20, 2017
Idle Ingredients (Sin du Jour Book 4)
Written by Matt Wallace
Published by Tor
Matt Wallace is back again with the fourth course of his ‘Sin du Jour’ novellas. Each bite-sized course of these epicurean Urban Fantasy series is an utter delight, and I’ve been looking forward to this one. As usual, Wallace doesn’t disappoint.
Still reeling from their last big job in Los Angeles, Sin du Jour line chef Lena Tarr goes on the lamb. Bronko and Nikki bring her back to the kitchen on the very reasonable assumption that the armies of Hell that are after them will kill her without the protection Sin du Jour provides. But there’s a new face at the catering company, ‘Government liaison’ Luciana Monrovio and Lena is immediately suspicious of the hold she seems to suddenly have over all of them, particularly the guys.
This novella is a bit more serious than the last three, but that’s not surprising after the major throw down at the end of “Pride’s Spell.” The thing I did like about this one is that it packs in a lot of character growth for characters we haven’t seen too much of before. Darren gets some nice page time, and really starts to come into his own, even as Lena is shown as more vulnerable than we’ve seen her in the past, and planning assistant Jett gets a cool arc too. Wallace’s strength is in keeping all of his plates spinning so flawlessly. Sin du Jour, as in his previous novella series, Slingers, has a huge cast of characters. Matt manages to breathe life into all of them, and progress their individual stories, in a breathtakingly short amount of pages. Each bite-sized book contains more character growth and personality than your average doorstop fantasy epic.
Sin du Jour book four, Idle Ingredients, is out now from Tor. You can purchase it from Amazon or wherever you get books.
January 30, 2017
Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution
Written by Michael R. Underwood
Published by Tor
Writing metafiction is a difficult needle to thread. Fiction about fiction can easily become maze-like and incomprehensible, and it makes the reader very aware of the author. By its very nature, it doesn’t suspend disbelief. Metafiction done well can be cathartic and clever. Done poorly, it just feels like a writer bragging about their MFA in literature. So I was a little leery approaching Michael Underwood’s “Genrenauts” novellas, but after finishing the first one, he’s managed to pull off something extraordinary.
Leah Tang is a standup comedian struggling to make her big break while holding down a boring day job she hates. When a strange man offers her a dream job, she is skeptical at first, but jumps at the chance.
She joins the Genrenauts. An elite, highly secret team that travels to parallel worlds and fixes problems before they bleed over into our world. Leah’s first mission is to help a desert town in Western World. But the Genrenauts don’t save the day. They put stories back on track, which is a much more difficult proposition.
Underwood’s concept of genres as alternate realities is fun and has a lot of possibilities to it. He gets to show off his own savviness with tropes and conventions, but giving these discussions to the characters rather than the narrator softens the rough edges. It makes for a quick novella read that gives old tropes new tricks. Making genres living, breathing worlds might not have worked in a longer book, but it sets the stage quickly and lets the reader get right to the plot without too much fuss here.
The other real strength is the Genrenauts team, whom the reader only gets introduced to here. Leah is the newbie on the team, and there are a lot of first impressions, but the characters seem to all have a lot of hidden depths. Putting them up against genres that often rely on stock, pulpy characters is an interesting dynamic.
Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution is a quick, delightful introduction to a novella series that is built on a great premise. I can’t wait to see what adventures the Genrenauts have ahead of them, and what other adventures they’ll have to fix. Genrenauts is available in ebook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, MichaelRUnderwood.com.
January 13, 2017
Heartless: The Parasol Protectorate, Book Four
Written by Gail Carriger
Narrated by Emily Gray
Although I am not big on Romance, I’ve had a soft spot for Gail Carriger’s “Parasol Protectorate” series for a long time. It might have to do with her delightful sense of humor, or the richly detailed world of her supernatural Victorian London. Whatever the case, I’ve been savoring the series, and I recently devoured the fourth entry, for the first time in audio.
Alexia Maccon, Soulless, Lady of Woolsey, and Mujah to Queen Victoria, is never one to let little details interfere when she sets on a course of action. So when a ghost gives her a cryptic warning of a plot against the Queen, she isn’t going to let a little thing like being eight months pregnant stand in her way. Scheming scientists, maladjusted werewolves, and zombie porcupines aren’t going to have much of a chance, either.
Carriger does it again with her fast paced comic misadventures in Victorian supernatural society. Her grasp of character and timing is once again on display as she navigates Alexia through mystery, society expectations and steampunk hi-jinx.
Emily Gray’s performance is spot on, and deftly juggles the wide-ranging accents and character foibles of the large cast. Her narration is a perfect balance of high society wit and action-comedy timing.
While this isn’t the best place to jump on to the Parasol Protectorate series, Heartless is a worthy entry. I heartily recommend readers pick up this one, or work their way up to it. You can find it on Audible, in a variety of formats on Amazon, or of course at your local bookstore.
January 12, 2017
Join the full Chrononauts crew as well look at 1934’s “Maniac!”
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This podcast was originally posted at Skinner.FM on January 11, 2017.
January 9, 2017
The Unstoppable Wasp #1
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Drawn by Elsa Charretier
Colored by Megan Wilson
Published by Marvel Comics
I have never been a fan of The Wasp. Originally created by Lee and Kirby as a sidekick/love interest for Ant-Man in the ’60’s, I always thought of her as emblematic of the problems that plagued female characters in that era. She was a hanger on, a love-struck fool always in need of rescue, whose powers were weaker and less awesome than her male peers. As time when on, Marvel addressed these tropes and even turned fellow Marvel damsels Jean Grey and Sue Storm into powerful badasses in their own right. But Wasp always seemed trapped in her roots. Even when her role was expanded and she led the Avengers, she was still ‘the girl.’ A fashion designer and socialite, she never really escaped the gender expectations placed on her by male writers.
Which is exactly why The Unstoppable Wasp #1 is such a breath of fresh air. The book stars Nadia Pym, teenage genius, escapee from a Russian super-soldier program, and long-lost daughter of original Ant-Man Hank Pym, because comics. Having studied her father’s work, she has come to America to live the life she never could before. But the thing about Nadia, even more than her intelligence, is her joyfulness. This is the exact antithesis of a grim and gritty superhero punch-up. The Wasp sparkles with light and energy. Nadia, despite her terrible upbringing, isn’t a brooder. She wants to make friends with everyone she meets. She wants to have adventures. She wants to dance with giant robots. This comic is fun, and beautiful and smart. It fits in right along with titles like Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel. (Who guest stars in this issue.)
Written by “Princeless” creator Jeremy Whitley, The Unstoppable Wasp is a delight. It carries over the positive messaging from his creator-owned work and sets its sights on a very important goal: encouraging girls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. There is even an interview with paleontologist Rachel Silverstein and and PhD Chemistry student Marina Chanidou in the back in lieu of a letters column. The script never gets bogged down in its message, and remains fun and engaging throughout.
Elsa Charretier’s drawing is similarly great, with kinetic, detailed panels and clever layouts. One of the things I love in particular is how she draws Nadia. She’s always moving, practically bouncing from frame to frame, and she’s always, always smiling. She is assisted by Megan Wilson’s bright, sunny palette, which contrasts The Wasp’s black and red suit with light, vibrant colors. This is not a world of shadows, and the coloring does a lot of legwork establishing tone.
The Unstoppable Wasp #1 is a great start to another fun, engaging, and smart Marvel book. If you love comics, pick it up. And be sure to share it with any budding young lady adventure scientists in your life.
The Unstoppable Wasp #1 is available from Comixology or at your local comics shop.