Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

The second of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series is just as readable as the first. This time Detective Constable (and apprentice wizard) Peter Grant has to track down an unknown force killing jazz musicians, something that’s all too personal as his father is a (failed) jazz legend. This book also begins to sketch in more detail of the world of magic that Peter has been drawn into, with his mentor’s school being discussed and even visited and more magical practitioners being introduced – as well as someone who it looks is being set up as a Long Term Antagonist. I’m enjoying this drip feed of background information which helps flesh out the world. As well as this, the marvellous descriptions of London keep coming, with locations being lovingly described and a real love of the city emerging from every page.

The book’s plot is engaging and intriguing, with two different cases on the go which slowly start to intermingle. We have new characters introduced (my favourite being Somali Ninja Girl) and cameos by characters from the last one. I certainly enjoyed this book and I look forward to the continued adventures of DC Peter Grant, although I do hope that the series is leading up to an endpoint and won’t continue indefinitely.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575097605
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2011

The Fuller Memorandum (Laundry Files, #3)

By Charles Stross

Rating: 4 stars

Bob Howard’s not having a good time of it. A routine exorcism goes wrong; cultists are running around London, attacking him and his wife; his boss has disappeared; and he’s been seconded on to yet another committee. But at least he’s got a decent manager at the moment (following the demise of his last one).

The third Laundry novel is much darker than its predecessors, with CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN starting to come to the fore, and much nastier scenes, including cannibalism and child sacrifice. It’s all relevant and you never get the impression that Stross is throwing stuff in purely to shock, but still, it does come as a bit of a shock to the system after the somewhat lighter hijinx of the previous novels.

The plot seemed a bit looser as well; I was able to guess the two big plot twists before they happened (which is unusual for me, I never see them coming), but this didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book. Bob is still a great wise-cracking, Emacs-loving geek protagonist, and the supporting cast are all present and correct. Mo gets slightly scarier in each book, we get revelations about Angleton and a cameo from Pinky and Brains.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and sit in a corner and try not thinking too hard to do my bit to help prevent CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841497709
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 2010

Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery

By Grant Morrison

Rating: 3 stars

I’m not sure where to even start with this incredibly meta-fictional tale. Flex Mentallo was, as far as I know, first introduced in Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol, where he was revealed to be a fictional creation of a small boy, brought to life by psychic powers. In this collection of a four issue mini-series, he finds the calling card of his old friend (and fellow crime-fighter and fictional creation, who wasn’t brought to life) The Fact. This should be impossible, but as the story progresses, it appears that nothing is impossible in this world. Interleaved with this story is that of a rock star on the phone to the Samaritans who may, or may not, have taken an overdose and be dying, while rambling about comic books.

As I said, the whole book is a musing on meta-fiction as well as superheroes and cynicism, wrapped up in a Morrison-esque bundle. Short, weird but enjoyable (as long as you know what to expect). And for those who want to think in more depth, there’s the Annotated Flex Mentallo.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401232214
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 2002

General Practice (Sector General, #7-8)

By James White

Rating: 5 stars

There’s something utterly satisfying about finishing a Sector General novel, especially when you’re as far along as this and are familiar with everyone’s favourite space hospital. I love the way that intriguing situations are created without any conflict or violence, or at least, that the conflict that does arise tends to be the result of misunderstandings or arguments about the best treatment.

For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the concept, Sector Twelve General Hospital is a giant multi-species hospital somewhere near the rim of the galaxy with the facilities to treat any species known to the Galactic Federation, from the more usual warm-blooded oxygen-breathers right up to the wild and wacky creatures that exist through the direct absorption of radiation.

At the end of the previous book in the series, Star Healer, the protagonist of the series up to that point, the Human doctor Conway was promoted to the top tier of physicians, the Diagnosticians. With this promotion, it became clear that he could no longer continue to be the reader’s point of view into the mighty world of Sector General, so with Code Blue – Emergency, the first volume in this omnibus, White makes a leap of faith and makes a non-Human the protagonist, something that continues with The Genocidal Healer. And White’s aliens are no Star Trek-style Humans with lumpy foreheads, but are truly weird, both physically and cognitively. The two books in this volume also begin to make the shift from purely physical medical problems to psychological ones, both in Code Blue – Emergency and The Genocidal Healer, although weird aliens with weird ailments are definitely still embedded in the genetics of the series.

In the introduction, John Clute speculates that White’s gentle space opera emerged from his background in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. As a child of the Province myself, I lived to see the Peace that White so clearly dreamt of and portrayed so achingly in his novels and I wish that he had lived long enough to see the same.

Book details

ISBN: 9780765306630
Publisher: Orb Books
Year of publication: 2003

Doom Patrol, Vol. 6: Planet Love

By Grant Morrison

Rating: 4 stars

I wondered at the end of the last volume just how Grant Morrison was going to get himself out of this one and at the end of his final volume, I’m full of admiration for the man as he not only did extract himself cleanly from the cliffhanger at the end of the previous volume, but continued to create a marvellous finale to the story and end it in a satisfyingly Morrison-esque manner.

Restored from backup disk by Willoughby Kipling, Cliff, Dorothy and Kipling race to try and destroy the Candlemaker before he destroys the world, reuniting with Jane and Rebis in the process.

It’s the end of the main storyline that packs the most punch, with Cliff having to go back into the data matrix to disable the nanobots that threaten the world. We are never entirely sure what happens after that. Do the team emerge intact? Is Danny the Street still with them? Or are they all just manifestations of Cliff trapped in the matrix? I know which I’d prefer to believe, but Morrison deliberately leaves it open.

A great end to Morrison’s run on the World’s Strangest Heroes.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401216245
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 1992

Doom Patrol, Vol. 5: Magic Bus

By Grant Morrison

Rating: 4 stars

This is very much a book of two halves. The first half continues with the strange, almost whimsical, feel that has characterised Doom Patrol up until now. The first story finishes the story of the reformed Brotherhood of Dada and the Doom Patrol’s attempts to stop them, while dealing with internal strife. The second is a hilarious Stan Lee/Jack Kirby-style re-imagining of the Doom Patrol, complete with imaginary references to previous issues. The third story is a very odd one that follows Rebis as ze follows through zir reproductive cycle on the moon.

The second half of the book takes a more sinister and darker turn as the chief finally unveils what he’s been working on, shattering Cliff’s world in the process, and a monster from Dorothy’s psyche is unleashed. By the end of the book you’ve been put through the wrangler and it looks like the Doom Patrol is done for.

Both halves of the book work well independently, but when you put them together, they do jar a little, and I especially feel the second half to be somewhat out of tone with the rest of the series. I’ll be interested to see how the final volume can salvage anything from the wreckage.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401212025
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 2007

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