Throwback SF Thursday: The Autumnlands Vol. 2 by Kurt Busiek

Why should you be reading The Autumnlands?  For one, the art is gorgeous.  I’ve got copies of the new Darth Vader comics, Ms. Marvel, Rat Queens, Saga, The Walking Dead sitting on my bookshelf.  Only Saga has artwork that even comes close to that in The Autumnlands.  It’s detailed, beautifully drawn, wildly inventive, and richly colored.  Nobody draws animals like Dewey.  In addition to the normal panels, the issues are interspersed with two-page spreads more evocative of paintings (more on those in a bit).

Why am I talking about The Autumnlands here?  What if I told you that it is billed as “Game of Thrones meets Kamandi”?  Wait, wait!  We’re all adults here, right?  (Right?  I had better watch my language.)  We know what this is.  It’s marketing.  Busiek himself points to Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories as a major influence.  But you can’t sell it as The Dying Earth meets Kamandi, because “many of the potential readers would respond to ‘Jack Vance’ with ‘Huh? Who?’”  Well, for now.  Give Jeffro a couple more years.  Busiek points to Conan, too, if you’re not sold yet.

I might have pointed to Schuyler Hernstrom.  It was Hernstrom’s The Gift of the Ob-Men that really sold me on pulp.  The Autumnlands has so much of what I loved about The Gift of the Ob-Men.  The mix of science fiction and fantasy, the sense that it takes place both “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” and in our own distant future.  As I described Volume 1, “it’s old school, pulpy stuff: walking, talking animals, magic, floating cities and airships, walking chairs, gigantic winged insects as mounts, and a time-traveler from the past with scifi implants.”

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Audiobook Review of Tom Stranger by Larry Correia

Believe it or not, up until a couple weeks ago I had never listened to an audio book.  I think.  Maybe back when we called them books on tape.  I would like to, but a 5-minute commute doesn’t provide much audio book time.  Even for an audio book as short as The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent (let’s stick with Tom Stranger).  But Tom Stranger is short—just over 2 hours long—and only available in audio form.  So I knocked it out over the course of a couple short roadtrips.

Tom Stranger is not your average Larry Correia book.  There is some action, and good action at that, but that isn’t the point.  The plot is structured around a very eventful day in the life of interdimensional insurance agent Tom Stranger, and it’s a satirical work.  As such, it’s less a single story than a series of vignettes.  And your appreciation of the satire will depend, in part, on how much closely you follow Correia (and, to a lesser extent, Baldwin) and how well you know the insurance business.

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Review of Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan

With Sins of Empire, Brian McClellan cements himself as one of the brightest young stars writing fantasy today.  The Powder Mage trilogy was no fluke (you can find my reviews of those three books here, here, and here).  The magic systems are inventive and cool, the setting refreshing, and McClellan writes big battle scenes better than just about anyone.

Sins of Empire is the first book in the Gods of Blood and Powder series, a sequel series to The Powder Mage trilogy.  There is really no reason not to start with the Powder Mage trilogy (pick up Promise of Blood here), but Sins of Empire is an easily accessible entre into McClellan’s world.  It takes place a continent away and ten years after the events of the Powder Mage trilogy.  One of the minor characters from the first series—Vlora—is now a major POV character, and other characters from the first series show up, but you don’t need to know who they are to enjoy the book.

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Throwback SF Thursday: Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

martians-abroad-coverTwo weeks ago I reviewed Have Space Suit—Will Travel, my first Heinlein juvenile.  I bought, picked it, and read it a bit ago.  The review wound up being very well timed.  A YA book imitating the Heinlein juveniles was released on January 17—Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn.

I read a longish blog post a couple weeks ago responding to Martians Abroad by questioning why modern authors, even when they self-consciously try, can’t pull off imitating Heinlein’s juveniles.  Three reasons come to mind.  One, the market is much different.  Publishers pretty much won’t market anything as YA without a romance.  And they’ve pretty much abandoned boys to video games.  Two, the authors aren’t willing to commit to the straightforward and traditional morals that underlie the tale.  Three, they don’t have Heinlein’s talent.  There’s the rub for the #pulprevolution.  What good is it recognizing the genius of Leigh Brackett or Jack Vance without genius of your own?  (Warning: does not apply to Schuyler Hernstrom.)

So how does Martians Abroad compare to a Heinlein juvenile?  (Well, really, to Have Space Suit—Will Travel, since that is the only Heinlein juvenile I’ve read.)  The answer is…not really at all.  Martians Abroad isn’t a bad book.  It’s a prototypical book by a pro author off her game—technically proficient but lacking the spark of creative vitality.  It is also indistinguishable from any other contemporary YA novel.  A Mars colony and a girl named Polly does not a Heinlein juvenile make.

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Review of The Walking Dead, Vol. 27: The Whisperer War by Robert Kirkman

Life After the Zombie Apocalypse is Nasty, Brutish, and Short.

You…probably know what is going on in Vol. 27.  I would warn about spoilers, but what is there to spoil that hasn’t already been spoiled by the title and the cover?  Still, some spoilers.  Chekov’s gun came down off the mantle in Vol. 26 and started a war.   And a war we get.  Unfortunately, unlike the last one, this one doesn’t make a dang bit of sense.

The Whisperer War collects comics #154-162.

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Review of The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

The Crimson Campaign is book two in Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage Trilogy.  It’s not perfect, but it does establish that the promise McClellan shows in Promise of Blood was no fluke.  Tamas finds himself with a small army cut-off in hostile territory, Taniel Two-Shot has to deal with both the events of the last book and what his father’s absence means for him, and Inspector Adamat seeks to rescue his wife.

Book 1 in McClellan’s next powder mage series, Sins of Empire, is out today!


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Review of Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Promise of Blood is a fantasy debut that shows epic promise.  The action, plot, dialogue, pacing, and world-building are all top notch.  McClellan’s full Powder Mage Trilogy makes good on that promise.  The next chapter in the powder mage world opens tomorrow, March 7, with Sins of Empire, the first book in the Gods of Blood and Powder series.  My review of Sins of Empire will be posted next Tuesday.

Promise of Blood opens as Field Marshal Tamas—the ranking military officer in Adom—completes a successful coup over the rightful, but dissolute, king.  The coup is a success, but things get very interesting very quickly.  A powerful female sorcerer escapes Tamas’ purge of the king’s cabal of sorcerers, those sorcerers die with an enigmatic warning on their lips, royalists remain, a traitor is in their midst, and a mysterious master chef arrives (yes, a chef).  Tamas is joined as a main character with Adamat, a retired police inspector with a photographic memory, and Taniel, Tamas’ son and a powerful powder mage in his own right.


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