Thursday, March 12, 2009

Watchmen the book and others

Here’s a fresh batch of reviews that may prove of interest. I’m still working on getting the kinks out of the formatting so thinks will look smoother. Comments are always welcomed.

WATCHMEN, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, DC Comics, $19.95, ISBN: 9780930289232, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

This is the earth-shattering graphic novel that set the comics world on its ear when it first appeared. It was one of the few comics I kept up with back then. THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS was the other one that surprised readers when it first came out.

Whether you have seen the movie or not, this fills in the back story and other items like excerpts from The Owl’s autobiography and a faux history of the pirate comics that were popular after superheroes were banned.

This was a Hugo winner and was one of Time’s 100 best novels. It’s the story of an alternate world of 1985, but is still relevant today. This is one of the books that need to be in your library, and not in a pristine state but a well read one. Highly recommended.

Escape from Hell, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Tor, Feb 2009, $24.95, ISBN: 0765316323, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

Science fiction writer Allan Carpenter knows he was fortunate to escape from the nine circles of Hell thanks to his guide, Mussolini (see INFERNO). However, returning from the dead does not mean he is mentally freed from what he witnessed as he toured the Inferno. In fact, he suffers survivor’s guilt and struggles to return to his previous lifestyle as he saw innocent souls confined unjustly to hell’s torture. He vows to find a way to return to liberate those who deserve a better eternal fate.

Poetess Sylvia Plath escapes from the Wood of Suicides. She and Carpenter meet and realize they share something extraordinary. She agrees to accompany him on his quest into hell on what he believes is a heavenly cause. On their trek into the Inferno, they meet J. Robert Oppenheimer amongst others as the Devil tries to prevent them from freeing souls especially those frozen in the inner rings home of mass killers.

Although very similar in tone and theme to INFERNO, the sequel is an exciting damnation thriller, as Carpenter learns how hard it is to turn the other cheek with some of the damned he and Sylvia meet. The story line is fast-paced and of course pays homage to Dante while insuring the historical personnel met in hell seem real. However, the tale belongs to Allan and his sidekick as they learn the hard way the infinite meaning of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Castaways, Brian Keene, Leisure, Feb 2009, $7.99, ISBN: 9780843960891, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

On a deserted island, a group of contestants compete for a million dollars on the reality based show Castaways. The players must live off what is on the island and battle one another in various contests that the producer arranges. The winner of the day is immune from deportation while the group votes on who is exiled. The last person standing wins the prize. The contestants and the support crew assume the island is deserted, but they will learn otherwise.

The natives live in caves, but as the show’s participants will learn they are hominid but not quite human. They are covered in fur, never wash or use tools and communicate with one another without speaking in any known language. It is also difficult for their females to become pregnant and those who are born are typically deformed. Their plan is simply one of survival; they will eat the male intruders and rape the females keeping them pregnant until they no longer can bear their offspring. No rescue for the Castaways is in sight.

Although the tale of a reality TV show on an isolated Pacific island filled with monsters is not new (see Jaci Burton’s Surviving Demon Island), Brian Keene refreshes his version by placing his Castaway within a horror version of Christie’s And Then There Were None. Fans of Survivor will enjoy the twist as there is no getting off the island for the humans who are either sustenance or child bearers. The island paradise location adds depth to the horrific scenario confronting the show participants as Mr. Keene provides an enjoyable dark twist to reality TV.

Steal Across the Sky, Nancy Kress, Tor, Feb 2009, $25.95, ISBN: 9780765319869, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

The alien Atoners race came from deep space to establish a base on the earth’s moon. They use the Internet to inform humanity that they committed a heinous crime against mankind ten millennium ago that they cannot rectify. Instead they ask for twenty-one English speaking volunteers to serve as witnesses to see the results of the crime they committed by witnessing and testifying first hand what has occurred on seven planets in which they seeded abducted earthlings. Safety is guaranteed to and from the planets visited.

Cam, Lucca and Soledad respond to the Internet advertisement and are selected by the Atoners as human surrogates. They are escorted to the moonless twin planets of Kular A and Kular B. The humans living on these orbs treat life as expendable as they believe that life does not end with death. What the three human visitors learn they bring back to an earth already reeling from the alien visitation.

STEAL ACROSS THE SKY is an exhilarating cerebral science fiction thriller that asks profound questions about humanity’s development, religion, and social interaction through the Atoner (apropos descriptor for this group) intervention. The three earthlings represent mankind visiting two planets in which each orb can be seen in the sky of the other; while the Atoners remain mysterious almost Godly due to their superior technology, knowledge, and humble need to atone for their mistake. The residents of the two deep space orbs also seem real even as their culture (their existence actually) on the Kular twins is owed to the Atoners, which makes for a fascinating religious relationship between the settled and those who performed the deliverance. Nancy Kress provides plenty of action, but it is the thought provoking questions to include defining what a crime is that make this a great tale.

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