Monthly Archives: May 2014

Review: “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Title: All You Need Is Kill (AKA Edge Of Tomorrow, to tie in with the film)
Author: Hiroshi Sakurazaka (Translated from Japanese by Alexander O. Smith)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Haikasoru, 2011

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that my first contact with this book was the trailer for the film starring Tom Cruise. Think Groundhog Day, but with an alien invasion. The trailer was amazing, I thought, and I still intend to see the movie, but I somehow missed the memo where they mentioned that this was a book. Obviously I found a copy, and it was incredible. I’ll be the first to admit that my reading has not been all that geographically varied, if only because there are so many books I still need to read that were published right here at home, but this was incredible. I heartily recommend it.

The novel opens as Keiji Kiriya goes into battle for the first time. Keiji is a “Jacket Jockey,” operating a mechanized battle suit (think Iron Man’s armor, minus the repulsors and integrated weaponry) in the war against the alien Mimics. Keiji survives the first few minutes of combat while friends fall all around him, and he even manages to kill a couple Mimics before he is mortally wounded. The world fades to black…and he wakes up in his bunk, with the attack set for tomorrow afternoon. Initially, he thinks this has all been a really weird dream, but when everyone persists in following the script in his head he figures out that something far stranger is going on. No matter what he does, Keiji cannot seem to survive the battle….but every death is a lesson learned, and Keiji is a good student. Throw the Full Metal Bitch into the mix, and Keiji might finally have a shot at ending the loop.

Everything about this novel was well done, if not always original. After all, the time-loop plot isn’t exactly new ground, but Sakurazaka definitely throws a new spin on things and gives us a very fun sci-fi romp. That’s what we signed on for, isn’t it? Keiji and Rita “Full Metal Bitch” Vrataski are both incredibly well-rounded characters, and while certain actions may take you by surprise at the time, everything they do makes sense in the long run. Some of the bit players are a bit two-dimensional or stock characters, but this is mostly because they are never given the time to develop–keep in mind, the whole thing happens over a 48-hour period so far as anyone but Keiji is concerned. You can’t expect a side character to develop between loops when they don’t know they’re looping. The Mimics were a well-conceived enemy, rooted in our fears that if aliens do exist, they will be very much like us in their behavior. The alien inhabitants of an overpopulated planet have targeted our world for colonization, and the Mimics are their scouts and terraforming apparatus. In fact, I got a bit of a Lovecraftian vibe from them. Maybe that was just me though. There were certain elements where the Japanese heritage of the story came through–the robotic power suits, for one thing–but on the whole I thought it translated very well. Two thumbs up!

CONTENT: R-rated language, but I didn’t find it gratuitous. Instead it was used naturally, either to drive home a point or as characters face their death in combat. I can’t honestly say my language wouldn’t get salty in this situation either…. Brutal violence, sometimes graphically described, and sometimes with a heavy emotional impact. Some sexual content, not too explicit.

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Review: “Generation V” by M.L. Brennan

Title: Generation V
Author: M.L. Brennan
Series: Generation V #1
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: ROC, 2013

Once again I have the good folks at ARCycling to thank for a very fun book! I wish I would remember to note down the specific donator before I sign off….thank you to whoever donated this one! It was appreciated!

To date, my sole contact with the genre of “Urban Fantasy” has been The Dresden Files. Well, that and arguably Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel, but that doesn’t really count for these purposes. Plus, Libriomancer. I suppose a few stories from the Book Of Apex Volume IV might also fit the bill too….anyway, all that to say that I’ve not been thoroughly inducted into the myriad worlds the genre can contain. I should read some more, because I’ve been a huge fan of the little I’ve read.

Fortitude Scott is a lot like quite a few people in my generation. He graduated college with a film studies degree that does little but serve as wallpaper, and now he’s scraping by working a job he hates at a coffee shop. His girlfriend has all but dumped him, insisting on an “open relationship.” His family is bewildered by his desire for independence which borders on rudeness–he never calls unless his big brother Chivalry personally pays him a visit to ask him to come home. It’s understandable though, since his mother had his adoptive parents ripped to pieces in front of him when he was just a boy….Oh, did I mention that everyone in his family is a vampire? Fort himself is still mostly human, having not yet matured into his vampiric powers, but he’s in no hurry. Whereas his siblings were raised at home and are (to his way of thinking) frankly monstrous, Fort was allowed to be raised by a human family. You know, at least until he let slip one too many secrets about his monthly visits to his blood family, and his older sister was sent to kill them. You can see why he avoids them whenever possible. But now there’s a new player on the gameboard–a European vampire who makes Fort’s family seem like saints. Little girls are going missing, and Fort is the only one who seems to care. But even if he can convince Suzume, the kitsune bodyguard hired by his mother, to help him, Fort is going to be seriously outmatched…..

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is at all interested in the urban fantasy or vampire fiction genres. A solid plot is populated by a cast of incredibly interesting characters, and Suzume Hollis absolutely steals the show. Sexy and flirtatious, Suzume is the kitsune hired by Fort’s mother to protect him while the foreign vampire is in town. The kitsune are Japanese foxes that can shapeshift to look human, and have a reputation for being mischievous. Suzume is mischievous enough to unnerve even her family. Chivalry is also interesting, a callous vampire viewing most humans as simply food but with a soft spot for Fort that would undoubtedly make him lend a hand, if their mother hadn’t forbade his involvement. He’s completely devoted to his human wife, until death do them part….which it does with clockwork regularity every ten years or so, forcing him to find someone new. The human system isn’t designed for regular vampiric feeding, apparently. Fort is an interesting character in his own right, but his relative weakness leaves him somewhat of a passive operator for most of the book. He sets things in motion, and tries to help, but a lot of the heavy lifting falls to Suzume. That, combined with a very fascinating supporting cast, leaves the protagonist overshadowed. This has bugged a number of reviewers, and I can see their point, but I was fine with it. This was mostly setup for what is to come….and I can’t wait!

CONTENT: R-rated profanity, though not gratuitous. Strong violence, vampiric and otherwise. There’s a lot of flirting and suggestive teasing, mostly from Suzume just to get a reaction from Fort. The (most) villainous vampire is a pedophile who kidnaps little girls for obviously nefarious purposes. There’s no explicit depiction of his activities, but it’s disturbing nevertheless.

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Review: “The Door Into Summer” by Robert A. Heinlein

Title: The Door Into Summer
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Doubleday, 1957

Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer will always hold a special place in my memory. It was one of the first real SF books I ever read, along with Ender’s Game and a couple others that were much less memorable. For a number of reasons, I recently decided to give a reread and refresh my memory–was it as awesome as I remember, or was I just in love with my first look at the genre? I’m pleased to announce that it is at least almost as awesome as I remember it being. I’m also incredibly thankful that my first Heinlein was this one, mostly lacking in his trademark creepy sexuality. I say mostly, and will explain that below, but at least my younger self didn’t pick up on the creepiness. Ah, for a more innocent age….anyway, moving on.

Daniel Boone Davis had it all, at least until he was double-crossed. He and his partner had a small engineering company, beholden to know man and free to tinker to his heart’s content. He built the stuff, and Miles sold it. Belle was just the secretary, until she became Dan’s fiancee. His next project was going to revolutionize everything–an automaton that could be taught to do nearly anything. Then it all came crashing down. Miles and Belle double-crossed him, forcing him out of the company and stealing the prototype for Flexible Frank. When Dan put up a fight, he found himself drugged and placed into cryosleep, awakening penniless thirty years later in the year 2000. Tough breaks, but he’d survive. What is driving him nuts is how many of his ideas he never got around to actually building seem to be everywhere….with patents registered to D.B. Davis….

Like I said, I really enjoyed this both times I read it. In some ways it’s incredibly dated, and I’m pretty sure the limited nuclear war that supposedly happened in the sixties would still have wiped out humanity, but it’s the rare time-travel novel (for what is a thirty-year sleep but a one-way time-travel) that manages to explore two separate futures–the 1970 that was still far in the future for Heinlein writing in 1957, and the still further 2000. Some of the inventions Davis comes up with are positively prescient, including a self-directing little robot vacuum. That’s right, Heinlein created the Roomba way back in 1957. Unlike most of Heinlein’s stuff I’ve read, there wasn’t a lot of waxing philosophical or preaching this time around, just a fun story.

Now, about that creepy sexuality I mentioned. I’ll get to that, but to explain it–and why I think it’s less creepy in practice than it sounds at first glance–I’ll have to disregard my hatred of spoilers. Read on at your own peril! So, the central romance here, as things unfold, is between Dan Davis and the young Frederica “Ricky” Heinicke. In 1970, Dan is in his thirties while Ricky is eleven. So yeah, there’s that. And I agree, this whole thing does earn a raised eyebrow, but I would argue that it is not quite as objectionable as it first seems. The attraction between the two is nothing sexual–Ricky has a schoolgirl’s crush on Dan, and has been coolly informing him that they will one day be married since she was six. While he always assumed this was a private joke between the two of them, once he awakens in the year 2000 he realizes that she’s literally the only friend he has ever had that never screwed him over and starts looking for her as time and resources allow. By this time she would be older than him, subjectively, and he gets a bit obsessed with finding her. When he does, she’s taken a cryosleep herself and is now twenty-one to his thirty-odd. So…still a bit creepy, but no pedophilia here.

CONTENT: Brief language. I think the word “bitch” is used once or twice, possibly several milder profanities, but this was written in the age where the pulps wouldn’t allow that kind of thing. There’s even an occasion of something having the adjective “censorable” applied to it. Mild violence, including the attempted murder of a cat. Some creepy sexual themes, as described above, but not a whole lot of outright innuendo.

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Review: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Dust Waltz” by Dan Brereton & Hector Gomez

Title: The Dust Waltz
Writer: Dan Brereton
Artist: Hector Gomez
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Standalone Graphic Novel)
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 1998

More of the Buffy binge! This particular installment is a standalone graphic novel, ostensibly set during Season 2. This is actually the first Buffy comic ever produced, and that shows to some degree. There are a couple rough patches overall, which I’ll of course discuss below, but I did enjoy it.

Here’s the plot: two of the oldest vampires on the planet–possibly the oldest, depending on who you ask–arrive in Sunnydale for an ancient contest: The Dust Waltz. As with most things vampires get up to in Sunnydale, it will be better for the world if they don’t succeed. Of course, this is also exactly when Giles’ niece decides to visit on her vacation from Oxford. Plot-wise, that’s basically all there is to say.

Across the board, the writing was pretty great here. Characters definitely sounded exactly like themselves. The only real issue I have with the writing is that Mr. Brereton seems to not know exactly when in the second season he wants this to be set. In the first chapter, Xander seems repulsed by Cordelia. In the second chapter, they seem to have started dating, and it’s not a part of that phase where they secretly can’t keep their hands off of each other but won’t admit it to their friends. I eventually placed it right before S02E13: Surprise if anybody’s interested. There are also a couple parts where the book really seems rushed, as in I went back to make sure I didn’t miss a page or two. Artistically, the only big issue is that it’s hard to tell Cordelia and Willow apart. On a slightly less frustrating note, the villains look less like Buffy characters and more like refugees from Witchblade. Not completely unexpected, since this is the first Buffy comic they ever produced, but annoying nevertheless.

CONTENT: Brief language. Vampire violence, consistent with the show. No overt sexual material, but Lamia’s costumes are somewhat skimpy. Occult-wise, these are Buffyverse vampires.

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