BooksOfTheMoon

Battle Angel Alita Deluxe Edition 2

By Yukito Kishiro

Rating: 3 stars

After losing her first love Yugo, Alita abandons her old life and throws herself into the sport of motorball, rising up the ranks pretty quickly. She challenges the reigning champion, Jasugun, to a match, and in the course of that, she learns more about her past.

I didn’t find Alita hugely likeable in this volume. After the fairly bubbly personality from volume one, she goes full emo here, as she abandons Ido (even ignoring him when he comes looking for her), wanting to forget her loss. Ido finds new family with the trusting young woman Shumira and her brother, who he helps when he has seizures.

I’ve mostly never felt that the characters in this series are sexualised. Even when Alita isn’t wearing clothes, she’s very clearly more machine than person, and the images (to me) don’t feel sexual. Which is why a full-frontal nude scene of Shumira in the shower felt so out of place. As well as feeling unnecessary, it felt entirely gratuitous and not required for the plot at all.

Some of the action scenes are still difficult to follow, and I thought it got confusing towards the end. I’m still not entirely sure how the fight between Alita and Jasugun played out. But there was some tantalising back-story in there, and the art does remain pretty, quite distinctive and very evocative.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632365996
Publisher: Kodansha America, Inc

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

By Max Brooks

Rating: 4 stars

I’m not normally a fan of either zombies or post-apocalypse stories, but this was recommended by a friend whose judgement I trust, and I’m glad she did, because I really rather enjoyed it. Told as an oral history after the end, it tells the story of the Zombie War using interviews with those who were involved with it and who were just caught up in it, from the early days of the first breakouts right to the end, after the war was won. It’s a good approach, which allows for subtle world-building, both in terms of each section, which starts with a heading of the location (“United Federation of China”, “Holy Russian Empire” etc) and the content of the interviews, which let out a lot about what’s happening or happened, without spelling it out.

So great world-building and a clever framing device. Also, the fact that it’s happening after the war means that humanity survived and thrived to the point where an historian could do this, and that makes it less grim than others of its genre and, for me, makes for a decent read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780715637036
Publisher: Duckworth
Year of publication: 2006

Extinction Game

By Gary Gibson

Rating: 3 stars

Jerry Beche is, he believes, the last person left alive, after a doomsday cult engineered a virus which wiped out humanity. So he’s, to say the least, surprised, when a groups appears out of nowhere and plucks him away to an island paradise where he joins other end of the world survivors in the hunt for more people and technology. The snag: they’re not people from his world, but other last (or almost last) survivors of their own parallel worlds, all brought together by the mysterious Authority for an equally mysterious purpose.

Although Jerry seems like your out and out survivalist type to start with, we also see his fragility and the (failing) coping mechanisms that he used to keep going in a world where he believed he was utterly alone. His fellow “pathfinders” don’t get as much in-depth treatment, but are still fleshed out fairly well. I wasn’t entirely convinced by Chloe, I’m not convinced that having been in love with one version of Jerry, she would fall so quickly into the embrace of the second, but that’s a reasonably minor gripe.

The mystery of the Authority, and the trustworthiness of the other pathfinders is intriguing and kept me going through the book, and Jerry is a likeable first person narrator with just enough unreliability to keep things interesting, without being frustrating. The ending was self-contained so you don’t need to run away and read the second book in the series, and, to be honest, I’m happy with the way it ended, so I probably won’t.

Book details

ISBN: 9781447242727
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Year of publication: 2014

A Canticle for Leibowitz

By Walter M. Miller Jr.

Rating: 3 stars

Structured in three distinct parts, this book tackles the slow reconstruction of society after the “flame deluge”, when nuclear warheads fall across the world like rain. Knowledge and science are blamed for the deluge, and those burning the books and bearers of knowledge proudly proclaiming themselves “simpletons”. In amongst this, an engineer by the name of Leibowitz starts an underground network for the preservation of books and knowledge. Six hundred years later, America has retreated to a new dark age, and the Church once again finds itself with the responsibility for preserving the knowledge of the past, specifically through the Blessed Order of Leibowitz. Another six hundred years after that, an Enlightenment is happening, with secular scholars rediscovering the knowledge that had been lost, and the Order of St Leibowitz gaze upon the first electric light for over a thousand years. But with the coming of the Enlightenment, once again there comes strife between the ancient Church and the emerging state. And finally another six hundred years pass and the heavens are once again opened to mankind, as colonies spread amongst the stars. But back on earth, global tensions are high and rumours are rife of construction of forbidden nuclear weapons…

This is a difficult book to discuss. Miller was a convert to Catholicism and the Catholic church is portrayed very sympathetically, as the preservers of knowledge that the secular world would otherwise have completely burned. For the first section of the book, you’re unequivocally on their side. The second section reintroduces the tensions between emerging nation states and the Church, and the age old question of whether knowledge should just be preserved for the sake of it or whether it should be brought into the light and used. The final section is more difficult, as the abbot of the abbey of St Leibowitz of that time takes a very hard line stance on euthanasia even in the face of the immense suffering through radiation poisoning that he sees around him: crystallised in one woman and her child who are dying anyway and want to go to the state-sponsored clinics.

The abbot espouses the age-old doctrines of the church, but in the face of immense suffering, I saw it as nothing more than the ancient fact of a bully trying to hold power over the powerless. But then you’ve got the final few chapters which may be just the ravings of a dying man, or may be something else entirely.

The themes of the book seem to be about the inevitability of the cycle of history; about how man will raise himself up to be like a god, but can never sustain himself and lose his feet of clay. It’s quite a depressing message: after the first two sections in which (despite the inevitable death and destruction at the human level) civilisation is on an upwards trajectory, the final one seems to suggest that we’ll never be able to overcome our animal natures, and may even spread the cycle to other worlds.

There is a seam of mysticism that runs throughout the book that I’m not entirely sure what to make of, with Rachel in the last section, and the old hermit (or something like him) showing up in all three. Miller does seem to be clearly hinting towards a conclusion that God definitely exists and is an interventionist God.

Finally, for those, like me, whose Latin is restricted to the odd phrase here and there, the wonderful Wikipedia has a handy translation of each Latin phrase in the novel.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552094740
Publisher: Corgi Books
Year of publication: 1959

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 3: One Small Step (Y: The Last Man, #3)

By Brian K. Vaughan

Rating: 3 stars

I recently got the first four volumes of this series which are short enough to read in quick succession, so I’ll use the same review for all four of them.

The Big Event that drives the story here is that one day every male mammal on Earth dies, except Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey. Yorrick isn’t particularly unique or even interesting. He doesn’t have a job and makes a bit of money as an amateur escape artist. But he eventually finds his (congresswoman) mother and begins a quest across America to try and find someone who can use his genetic material to try and either figure out what happened or help repopulate the species, all the time trying to ward off advances as he tries to stay loyal to his fiancée, not to mention the nutter man-haters and international forces who quickly hear about him and try and kill or capture him.

After four volumes, I’m quite enjoying this, but it’s definitely nowhere near as good as Vaughan’s subsequent project, Saga. Yorrick is an annoying mix of smug, self-satisfied and self-loathing that doesn’t endear him to me, although he does improve over time, as the body count racks up around him.

There’s interesting hints about what caused this “plague”, with a possible magical origin hinted at. Then there’s a secret society and his bodyguard, known only as ‘agent 355’. The sexual and gender politics doesn’t ring that true to me, and the whole ‘Daughters of Amazon’ man-haters seem very odd and hardly something that would come to the fore in the portrayed situation.

Still, there’s lots of interest here and I probably will finish the series. But even if you don’t like this, don’t let it put you off the much better Saga which, in my opinion, handles family, sexuality and politics much better than this.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401202019
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 2004

Y: The Last Man Vol. 2: Cycles

By Brian K. Vaughan

Rating: 3 stars

I recently got the first four volumes of this series which are short enough to read in quick succession, so I’ll use the same review for all four of them.

The Big Event that drives the story here is that one day every male mammal on Earth dies, except Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey. Yorrick isn’t particularly unique or even interesting. He doesn’t have a job and makes a bit of money as an amateur escape artist. But he eventually finds his (congresswoman) mother and begins a quest across America to try and find someone who can use his genetic material to try and either figure out what happened or help repopulate the species, all the time trying to ward off advances as he tries to stay loyal to his fiancée, not to mention the nutter man-haters and international forces who quickly hear about him and try and kill or capture him.

After four volumes, I’m quite enjoying this, but it’s definitely nowhere near as good as Vaughan’s subsequent project, Saga. Yorrick is an annoying mix of smug, self-satisfied and self-loathing that doesn’t endear him to me, although he does improve over time, as the body count racks up around him.

There’s interesting hints about what caused this “plague”, with a possible magical origin hinted at. Then there’s a secret society and his bodyguard, known only as ‘agent 355’. The sexual and gender politics doesn’t ring that true to me, and the whole ‘Daughters of Amazon’ man-haters seem very odd and hardly something that would come to the fore in the portrayed situation.

Still, there’s lots of interest here and I probably will finish the series. But even if you don’t like this, don’t let it put you off the much better Saga which, in my opinion, handles family, sexuality and politics much better than this.

Book details

ISBN: 9781840237283
Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
Year of publication: 2003

Y: The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned

By Brian K. Vaughan

Rating: 3 stars

I recently got the first four volumes of this series which are short enough to read in quick succession, so I’ll use the same review for all four of them.

The Big Event that drives the story here is that one day every male mammal on Earth dies, except Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey. Yorrick isn’t particularly unique or even interesting. He doesn’t have a job and makes a bit of money as an amateur escape artist. But he eventually finds his (congresswoman) mother and begins a quest across America to try and find someone who can use his genetic material to try and either figure out what happened or help repopulate the species, all the time trying to ward off advances as he tries to stay loyal to his fiancée, not to mention the nutter man-haters and international forces who quickly hear about him and try and kill or capture him.

After four volumes, I’m quite enjoying this, but it’s definitely nowhere near as good as Vaughan’s subsequent project, Saga. Yorrick is an annoying mix of smug, self-satisfied and self-loathing that doesn’t endear him to me, although he does improve over time, as the body count racks up around him.

There’s interesting hints about what caused this “plague”, with a possible magical origin hinted at. Then there’s a secret society and his bodyguard, known only as ‘agent 355’. The sexual and gender politics doesn’t ring that true to me, and the whole ‘Daughters of Amazon’ man-haters seem very odd and hardly something that would come to the fore in the portrayed situation.

Still, there’s lots of interest here and I probably will finish the series. But even if you don’t like this, don’t let it put you off the much better Saga which, in my opinion, handles family, sexuality and politics much better than this.

Book details

ISBN: 9781840237085
Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
Year of publication: 2003

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 4: Safeword

By Brian K. Vaughan

Rating: 3 stars

I recently got the first four volumes of this series which are short enough to read in quick succession, so I’ll use the same review for all four of them.

The Big Event that drives the story here is that one day every male mammal on Earth dies, except Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey. Yorrick isn’t particularly unique or even interesting. He doesn’t have a job and makes a bit of money as an amateur escape artist. But he eventually finds his (congresswoman) mother and begins a quest across America to try and find someone who can use his genetic material to try and either figure out what happened or help repopulate the species, all the time trying to ward off advances as he tries to stay loyal to his fiancée, not to mention the nutter man-haters and international forces who quickly hear about him and try and kill or capture him.

After four volumes, I’m quite enjoying this, but it’s definitely nowhere near as good as Vaughan’s subsequent project, Saga. Yorrick is an annoying mix of smug, self-satisfied and self-loathing that doesn’t endear him to me, although he does improve over time, as the body count racks up around him.

There’s interesting hints about what caused this “plague”, with a possible magical origin hinted at. Then there’s a secret society and his bodyguard, known only as ‘agent 355’. The sexual and gender politics doesn’t ring that true to me, and the whole ‘Daughters of Amazon’ man-haters seem very odd and hardly something that would come to the fore in the portrayed situation.

Still, there’s lots of interest here and I probably will finish the series. But even if you don’t like this, don’t let it put you off the much better Saga which, in my opinion, handles family, sexuality and politics much better than this.

Book details

ISBN: 9781840239218
Publisher: Titan Publishing Company
Year of publication: 2004

The Kraken Wakes

By John Wyndham

Rating: 4 stars

It starts with meteors falling from space into the ocean. Soon ships that try to explore the regions where they fell are sinking, and not long afterwards, no ships that ply the deep oceans are safe. But that’s not all, sea-tanks start raiding coasts, and then the sea level itself starts to rise, slowly but inexorably.

This book is a slow burn, but goodness is it tense. It’s like boiling a frog, it comes on so slowly that you don’t realise just how tense you’ve got.

In some ways, the book is very much of its time, but in others, it’s uncomfortably prescient and very much relevant to the modern world. One thing I liked was the foresight of commercial television, which didn’t make an appearance until several years after the book was published. And, of course, the image of politicians who stick their heads in the sand while the water levels rise is one that climate change has made us very aware of today.

In other ways, the book is very much of its time. The society, the deference to the established order and the ways of thinking feel very different to our own, but that by no means diminishes it as a very powerful story. Wyndham is often accused (or acclaimed, delete as appropriate) of being the master of the cosy catastrophe. I don’t think there’s very much cosy about eighty percent or more of the British population being wiped out. He also doesn’t stint on some of the nastiness that might happen when refugees from the lower areas try to flee to higher ground.

But for all that, Wyndham leaves us with hope. That’s something that some books seem to forget, but most of Wyndham’s novels offer some olive branch of hope that things will improve. There may be some way of fighting back, or the menace has been contained (even if only ‘for now’). This is what makes his novels so much more bearable than most dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels that I’ve read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780141032993
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Year of publication: 1953

Maddigan’s Fantasia

By Margaret Mahy

Rating: 2 stars

Garland Maddigan is part of the travelling circus known as Maddigan’s Fantasia. Travelling through a post-apocalyptic world that is slowly remaking itself after the Destruction and Chaos, this trip they’re on a mission to find a Macguffin and bring it back to their home city of Solis. When two young boys appear in front of Garland out of nowhere, claiming sanctuary in the Fantasia, the trip suddenly becomes even more fraught with adventure and danger.

This was quite a frustrating book. There’s a good story in there but it’s let down by niggling inconsistencies, duex ex machina and inconsistent characters. Protagonist Garland’s mood swings with the chapters, as does her apparent intelligence, although this can be somewhat excused as grief for her lost father, Ferdy, the Fantasia’s ringmaster (not a spoiler, it happens right at the start of the book and the first chapter is entitled ‘Losing Ferdy’), but I felt that Garland and her mother’s grief were clumsily handled.

The villains following the runaway boys start off as menacing, but their threat is reduced as they are soundly beaten by the Fantasia in every encounter whereas the ‘Big Bad’ pulling the strings in the background, the Nennog, always feels somewhat abstract, even when he appears “on screen”.

The book could have done with one fewer set piece to provide more time for the conclusion which was rushed and confused. In particular, the actions of the Duke of Solis came completely from nowhere and there were no reasons given for him behaving as he did, leaving me feeling confused and cheated.

There were some fun set pieces, and cool bits, and Garland’s final farewell to her father was nicely handled but this is a book that failed to deliver on its possibilities.

Book details

ISBN: 9780571230167
Publisher: Faber Faber
Year of publication: 2005

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