The Fall of Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #2)

By Dan Simmons

Rating: 4 stars

The Fall of Hyperion picks up pretty much from where Hyperion left off. We open with a young man going under the name of Joseph Severn being invited to a major party on the governing world of Tau Ceti Centre, to celebrate the departure of the fleet that will take back the world of Hyperion from the Ousters. We see much of the novel through Severn’s eyes, and through them, we also find out what happened to the pilgrims of the original novel.

The scope of this book is absolutely huge. It spans time and space, it covers the rise and potential fall of gods and still has time to deal with the minutiae of human life, and this makes it extremely an compelling read. For me, it really put the ‘opera’ into ‘space opera’. It has the huge scope and wide brush strokes that I associate with classical opera, and also, to be honest, has that thing where the plot doesn’t entirely makes sense but you get so swept up in it that you hardly notice. It also has a mixture of a huge sense of loss combined with a great change that changes everything. Whether for better or worse, is left in the air.

So a compelling book, with satisfying conclusions to the stories of most of the pilgrims, especially Sol Weintraub and his daughter, Rachel and one that expands the scope of the story in a satisfying way.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575099487
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1990

Gunnerkrigg Court Vol. 6: Dissolve

By Thomas Siddell

Rating: 5 stars

Volume six of Gunnerkrigg Court collects chapters 50 to 59 of the eponymous webcomic. This starts with Coyote showing Annie more of what she needs to do as the forest medium, taking the soul of one of the animals into the Court to be decanted into a new body. After that, we get into something more serious, as Annie’s dad returns to the Court. When I read this first time round, in the comic, it made me really angry, the way that Tony behaved and the control he exerted over his daughter. That anger returned as I re-read it, but having it condensed, especially with the following few chapters, as Tony unburdens himself to Donny Donlan, makes it flow better and it’s easier to follow the story. This arc is followed by more with Robot as he gains his first biological component, and he continues to gather a cult of Kat around himself (although his burgeoning romance with Shadow is oh so adorable) and then we have more between Annie and Reynard and the guilt that Annie still feels over letting him go without putting up a fight. The relationship between Reynard and Annie is one of the most interesting and complex in the whole story (and that’s saying something). They obviously care about each other very much but there is still tension between them, despite Reynard’s forgiveness of Annie. We end the book with Annie and the gang finally starting on the plan to free Jeanne and what feels like the conclusion of something that’s been with us from the earliest days of the story.

I don’t think that I’ve got a lot to add to this other than I still adore this series and love the way that both the art and the storytelling have developed over the years. It’s the comic I look forward to most in my RSS feeds every week and it’s the one that I most consistently buy the hardcopy volumes as they’re released.

This is a another great step in Annie’s story and that of Gunnerkrigg Court itself and I look forward to much more of it!

Book details

ISBN: 9781608868308
Publisher: Archaia
Year of publication: 2016

The World Set Free

By H.G. Wells

Rating: 2 stars

This may be a prophetic book, but I didn’t hugely enjoy reading it. Wells foresees atomic energy and the horrors of atomic bombs, although in very different shapes to reality, as well as the use of aircraft in warfare. I must confess that I nearly gave up after the prologue, which just felt didactic and leaden, but the first proper chapter (after a dull introduction to radioactivity, as understood at the dawn of the 20th century) was interesting, as it sketched the problems of humanity and nations in that era. However, it didn’t really last. Wells’ “war to end all wars” didn’t happen until the 1950s (bear in mind this book was written in 1913, before the First World War) and his war really did end all war, by creating a new world government that set about creating a utopia in fairly short order.

With the advantage of hindsight, we see what would really happen after a globe-spanning war with the use of nuclear weapons – what always happens: politicians squabble and jostle for advantage. What unity there is never lasts, which makes the speed and ease by which the world government is set up difficult to suspend disbelief for.

The last chapter is somewhat odd as well, as it focuses on an individual in the new order, as he is dying. Said person holds forth on the nature of humanity, and that knowledge, not love, is the driving force behind it. This is puzzling, because it doesn’t really fit well with what came before, and seems sort of pointless. It’s not like Wells needs a mouthpiece for his views – the whole book has been nothing but, and the narrator has quite happily fulfilled that role previously.

Disjointed, didactic, stuffy and generally not a captivating book. Has historical merit, and is of interest for its prophetic power, but not as a novel.

Book details

Publisher: Collins Clear-Type Press

Saga, Vol. 8

By Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Rating: 5 stars

After the constant grimdark of volume 7, I was very pleased to see that this eighth volume of the Saga story lightens things up a little. It’s still messed up as all hell, but in a great way. And damn, but Vaughan knows how to tug at your heartstrings, the song that Hazel sings to her sort-of-imaginary baby brother that she learned from Izabel is just wonderful. We also get to see some of The Will’s past, quite literally, as things he’s done catch up with him, incidentally storing up trouble for our family in future volumes.

Petrichor and Sir Robot are both still around, and some of the interplay between Petrichor and Hazel are hilarious, as the older woman tries to deal with this child. Sir Robot is still rather a broken character, but sympathetic and interesting.

So a lot to enjoy, some mad twists but a much needed counterpoint to the previous volume. Roll on the next one!

Book details

Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2017

Raising Steam (Discworld, #40)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 3 stars

The railway has come to the Discworld, and Lord Vetinari is determined to make it work for Ankh-Morpork, so he puts Moist von Lipwig in charge, and you don’t want to upset the Patrician, do you? One important thing to note is that this book has major callbacks to both Thud! and Snuff; which is a problem for me because it’s been many years since I read the former, and I’ve not read the latter at all. Still, with the help of the Internet I was able to paper over the cracks and make a decent stab at this.

Also, the politics are hardly subtle, really. Pratchett really gets out the mallet to hammer home the idea that no matter our size, shape and colour, we’re all just people, and those who think otherwise are deluding themselves. The message is a good one, but I feel it could have been delivered better. The plot thread with the deep dwarves also only felt tangentially related to the one about the trains, with the railway to Uberwald having to be completed in time to get the Low King home. Beyond that, the two strands were pretty separate.

The idea of the railway coming to the Disc also felt underused and almost crowbarred in. It didn’t feel as natural as the Post Office, or even the Royal Mint (although I did like the callback to Reaper Man, which is one of my favourite Discworld books). Moist was mostly around to deal with problems that the railway faced, without really being able to do much of his famous fast talking and double dealing. And I felt that Adora Belle Dearheart was criminally underused. Dick Simnel, the engineer with the Great Idea, is quite two-dimensional. We don’t get into his head much and his greatest attribute seems to be being from t’Yorkshire.

I was somewhat confused by the scene between Archchancellor Ridcully and Lu Tze. It seemed to be there, just to get in a couple of well-liked characters. I don’t feel that the scene added anything to the story that we didn’t also get elsewhere in the book.

I started reading Discworld in the early to mid period, when there were sparkling ideas on every page, and belly laughs as often. I don’t think this book made me laugh (well, snort) out loud until after page 100. I know that the style of the books changed as Pratchett got older (not to mention, the embuggerance) but humour has always been a hallmark of the Discworld, and these later books have done little for me because of its lack.

So a Worthy book with a good heart, but muddled and a bit preachy.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552170468
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 2013

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Fairyland, #3)

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 3 stars

The third volume of September’s adventures sees her return to Fairyland, this time with the help, for want of a better word, of the Blue wind. She travels to the moon, finds her friends, A-Through-L and Saturday and has to try and save the moon from the terrible yeti, Ciderskin.

Although still enjoyable, I didn’t find this book as compelling as The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind, but I didn’t really find September’s adventures that interesting, and her feelings towards Saturday are starting to turn into quite dull teenage romantic angst. The new characters that we meet along the way didn’t seem as interesting as others that we’ve met before, although Abecedaria, the periwig librarian was fun.

I’m sure there are Metaphors here, about growing up, things that need to be cast aside or held on to, but neither they, nor the story, really grabbed me. I didn’t dislike them, I just wasn’t completely absorbed by them. I’ll still look out for the next couple of books though.

Book details

ISBN: 9781250050618
Publisher: Square Fish
Year of publication: 2013

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