Weekly Roundup

I’ll try to blog more in between these posts.

Here’s what I’ve been reading since last week.

Books

Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts. Set in Cold War Russia, this is the story of science fiction writer Konstantin Skvorecky, recruited by Stalin, along with other writers, to come up with a convincing alien invasion story for the Soviet Union to use – and then told to forget all about it. Forty years later, some strange encounters begin to suggest that their story may be coming true.

With an ironic narrator and a fair share of humour, this is a pretty entertaining book. Early on I wasn’t quite drawn into it, and I was thinking that – after this and Splinter – Adam Roberts, while good, wasn’t quite for me. But then the book started going in some interesting places, and there are a couple of brilliant scenes in the second half, including one particularly fun scene with Skvorecky alone in a hospital room with an assassin. The ending is another good part, segueing easily from threat to farce to fantastically science fictional. The SF conceit behind the novel is quite a clever one.

Worth note is the rare inclusion of a positive portrayal of a heavily overweight woman, in the person of Skvorecky’s love interest, Dora Norman. This may be a humourous novel, but there are no cheap laughs about her weight to be found here – she’s treated with affection and respect. The same goes for her Scientologist faith – not a word of easy mockery. It’s something of a breath of fresh air.

Comics

1. Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon, written by Matt Fraction, art by Dave Aja and Javier Pulido. This was my first taste of Hawkeye, and in fact my first Marvel comic, picked up because of the postive word of mouth. And it deserves every bit of praise it’s been getting. Hawkeye is clever, very funny, and Aja’s art in particular is brilliant. Read this comic.

2. Dial H: Into You, written by China Miéville, art by Mateus Santolouco. How could I not pick up a comic written by China Miéville? This series is one of the weirdest you’ll read, the protagonist Nelson turning into some incredibly surreal heroes whever he dials H-E-R-O on a particular phone. I have no idea how Miéville comes up with thing like the Iron Snail, but what I do know is that whatever he comes up with, he knows how to make it work. This is a funny and well-written series, with some meta-commentary on the genre of comic superheroes on top. Read this comic too.

3. The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and others. This sixth volume of the series almost looks like it’s building to an ending, but it seems there’s still more to tell. Alternating the ongoing story of Tom Taylor’s struggle against the Cabal with stories of that cabal’s history and origins, this volume keeps up the high quality of storytelling from the series so far. Looking back now I’m not sure why I was so ambivalent about The Unwritten after the first volume. I hope they can keep this quality going through to the end (however far off that is). And I also hope they give us some more Pauly Bruckner – he’s only had two issues so far in the whole series, but he’s easily one of the most entertaining parts.

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