BooksOfTheMoon

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

The Day of the Triffids

By John Wyndham

Rating: 5 stars

It’s only by chance that Bill Mason’s eyes are bandaged up the night the meteors come. And the next day, he can see but everyone who looked at the strange sight has been struck blind. And that’s not the worst problem – the triffids that have been farmed for years suddenly start to become a real menace to the masses who can no longer see their vicious stings.

Although I’ve read and enjoyed other Wyndham novels, The Day of the Triffids has been a large gap in my scientificional education, and one that I’m very glad that I’ve now filled. I was broadly aware of the plot, but not the details and although I general don’t like post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels, I usually make an exception for Wyndham, master of the so-called “cosy catastrophe”. Critics may use this to sneer at Wyndham, but I definitely feel that there’s a place for this sort of writing to explore what happens when society breaks down. And I find it infinitely easier to read than some.

Possibly the best sign of a good book is that this has stayed with me since I read it, still thinking about the logistics of the tiny number of sighted people trying to stave off the triffids, help the blind and husband resources and knowledge to rebuild civilisation as best they can. I still try and think of plans and means to help them, how the existence of the triffids would hinder that, or how different the situation would be without the triffids: with 99-plus percent of the population blind (and new babies unaffected), it makes for an interesting set of thought experiments.

The triffids themselves are wonderful inventions. They still engender a sense of horror and are delightfully creepy in and of themselves. The idea of a mobile plant that has the ability to hunt and kill humans is just a scary thought so used, as we are, to plants being immobile and docile.

Wyndham’s survivors react to their circumstances in several different ways, some of which are indications of his time and others still relevant to today. The idea of the sighted being kidnapped by groups of the blind and forced to act as their eyes is something that I can definitely see, as is the inverse. But in the end, Wyndham ends on a hopeful note, with a fairly safe and stable colony trying to preserve the knowledge that they’ve inherited and find a weapon to drive the triffids back and reclaim the world.

The Day of the Triffids is a classic that has permeated mainstream culture, and with good reason. It’s a lucid, easy to read book with creepy and memorable antagonists and for this reason has been adapted multiple times into other media. But it’s still definitely worth going back to the original

Book details

ISBN: 9781856132527
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Year of publication: 1951

Century Rain

By Alastair Reynolds

Rating: 5 stars

Verity Auger is an archaeologist searching for artefacts in the ruins of a post-Nanocaust Earth when a mistake nearly costs the life of a young boy. Her boss uses this as leverage to get her involved in a secret project that involves illicit travel through an ancient alien hyperspace transit network controlled by a different faction of Humanity.

At the other end of the transit wormhole is an unpolluted Earth of three hundred years ago, except that in that world, the Second World War never happened. Auger must find the papers left behind by her predecessor, Susan White, who appears to have been murdered, and with a tenacious private detective and some seriously freaky children on her tail, that’s not going to be easy.

I really enjoyed this part space-opera and part alternative history novel. Despite (or perhaps because of) her prejudices, Auger is an interesting character, and I enjoyed some of the back story of the book, including the splitting into two factions: the Threshers, who reject nanotech and prefer to stay on the “threshold” of advanced technology; and the Slashers, who have gone whole hog and are now surrounded by a cloud of nanotech, surrounding and enhancing them at all times. Seeing Auger cope with an alternative 1950s France is fun, and the jazz-loving private detective, Wendell Floyd is a great character too.

There’s perhaps some comparison with Nausicaä (which I’ve been reading recently) too, with Auger’s Earth being a warning of what can happen when Humanity tinkers too much with nature (the Nanocaust was caused by nanotech released into the atmosphere to control the weather that got out of control and eventually consumed every living creature on the planet). The story was tightly told with information being dripped out at just the right rate to avoid being infodump or getting too frustrating. An enjoyable book.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575076914
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Year of publication: 2004

Nausica of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 7 (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, #7)

By Hayao Miyazaki

Rating: 5 stars

Nausicaä and the God Warrior that she accidentally awoke must go on a quest to seal the Crypt that preserves the technologies that kings and emperors have used over the years for evil, but it seems that even now, her way isn’t easy.

And so Nausicaä’s story finally comes to a close, with a message that is very Miyazaki-ian in nature, and somewhat reminiscent of Laputa. The warning in the tale is reminding us where arrogance can lead and to avoid thinking that we have all the answers and can ‘fix’ the world around us. The plot moves quickly and Nausicaä never stops being a sympathetic character you can’t help warming to, and you feel for her when those around her are in pain.

It’s a well-told (and well-drawn) story with a satisfying conclusion. And the series is inexpensive enough to pick up reasonably quickly and is probably worth buying since I think it certainly has re-read potential.

Book details

ISBN: 9781591163558
Publisher: VIZ Media
Year of publication: 1995

Nausica of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 6 (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, #6)

By Hayao Miyazaki

Rating: 5 stars

Nausicaä faces a spiritual journey in the penultimate volume of the series and in the process is able to heal the black soul of the Dorok emperor’s brother and set him free. She also discovers a secret of the Sea of Corruption but when she returns to the land of the living, while trying to protect the people she loves, she accidentally awakens the last remaining God Warrior in the world – one of the genetically engineered giant super-warriors who destroyed civilisation in the Seven Days of Fire, a millennium earlier.

Goodness me, it seems that Nausicaä is turning into a prophet – the scorned Wormhandlers even revere her as a deity. She’s yet to declare her message but people will follow her wherever she goes anyway. Roll on the last volume, as the final revelation in this makes for very unexpected reading!

Book details

ISBN: 9781591163541
Publisher: VIZ Media
Year of publication: 1993

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress