Book Reviews: Aliens, Sherlocks, and Rogues

Copywriting Made Simple: How to write powerful persuasive copy that sells
The title does not lie, as far as simplicity goes. The first graphic shows this perfectly: a man (reader) crossing a bridge at the urging of a woman (copywriter), exactly as the text just said. It’s kindergarten level. Thankfully it doesn’t continue this way, once your intelligence gets over feeling insulted.
The chapter on structure is amusing, because it perfectly mimics the steps I take to write a book, movie, or music review.
It’s a pretty big book, so there’s no surprise that there’s a few gems in here, mostly the examples of famous or just hilarious ads. I ended up making a lot more notes than I thought I would. At the same time, there are sections I skimmed through, with the thought that “If I ever need them, I’ll look them up then, but they won’t help me now.”
3/5

Dethroned
Of course Syl and Rouen can’t spend even a Christmas in peace, as the dark king decides this is the perfect time to take out the fair heir and his own daughter.
This is a novella that goes between the latest book and the upcoming one, with Ro basically facing the same choice Syl did last time. No surprise she makes the same decision. What I didn’t expect was for all kinds of fairie kids to be so instrumental. If there’s one low point, it’s that for such a short book there’s so many mentions of how Syl would have been dead from her injuries had she been merely human.
It’s tough keeping up with all the magic, new and also old, but then I’m here for the fun interactions, the snarky wordplay, and there’s plenty of that here.
3.5/5

Taking Flight
Recent widow thinks it’s time to get her life back, starting by returning to her speaker business. Flying to Vegas, the plane she’s in runs into a huge storm, necessitating a diversion to Denver. The pilot is a fan of hers, and his plan to woo her takes off (all pun intended). Though because of their schedules they don’t get much time together—plenty of time skips, which are not ideal—they do manage to have moments in Vegas and NY before he whisks her off to Hawaii for a week of relationship building.
Everything’s happy for the first half, but it can’t last, otherwise there’d be no story. Finally something happens to destroy their happiness. Some of it is a little obvious, like when a baby’s introduced; I instantly knew where he’d end up, and I’m pretty sure most readers did too.
I liked the writing well enough, but the plot was kinda clunky. At times felt by the numbers.
3/5

Killing Jane
Ugly murders are taking place in DC, with hints—especially the intro—that it’s a Jack the Ripper copycat. But this killer seems to have info on those famous slayings, including a theory I hadn’t heard: Jack might have actually been Jane.
This started slow, and I didn’t like the main character. Even though she’s just starting out as a detective, having been promoted from beat cop, you’d think she would have grown a thicker skin. Instead she’s very touchy, as well as insecure when she’s saddled up with a much more experienced investigator. I feel like there was too much of this: too often mentioned, too often shown. There’s only so many times you can read the same character flaws over and over. Likewise, her partner can be too forgiving.
The murder scene is horrific; I tried my best NOT to imagine it, unlike most books where I’m trying to find the killer before the fictional detective does. At least this allows a reaction from the protagonist that humanizes her. Turns out she’s still got PTSD from being raped, which she did not report. It’s made obvious that this is affecting her performance, or at least her mindset as she hunts for the killer.
Once I got over the goriness, I enjoyed the craftwork. Always good when an investigation is true to life and isn’t solved in 60 minutes (40 with commercials). The story itself was good, kept me guessing, though in my defense I don’t think there were enough breadcrumbs.
In a story with many brutal elements, there’s one near the end that’s even more so. And I can’t see any reason for it. Maybe it’ll pop up in a sequel, but it annoys me the way the author piles things on, almost like she doesn’t like her main character. And after that particular tidbit, it gets even worse for her. Sheesh.
Didn’t like the ending, came out of nowhere. Felt tacked on.
3/5

Marriage Under Fire
In a short novel that takes place in Seattle, two Marines who just worked an undercover case have to jump right into the next one, pretending to be married in order to infiltrate a spy ring.
She’d be absolutely fantastic if she could dump some of the testosterone she forces on herself to deal with the men. Him I simply didn’t like at all, but I can’t say he’s all that different from most Marines I’ve known.
The whole denouement hinges on him being so in love that he forgets his training and rushes in without waiting for backup. As a former Marine, I find that far-fetched. I would almost say it ruined the book for me, but the truth is I wasn’t feeling it anyway. It couldn’t decide whether it was a spy thriller or a romance, and those two parts didn’t mesh all that well.
2.5/5

Murder in Keswick: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
As often happened back when Sherlock took a vacation, another mystery finds him, in this case a grisly murder, followed by a break-in at the now-widow’s house.
Unlike most attempts at writing a Sherlock novel, I enjoyed this one right off the bat. It sounds authentic. For instance, there was a clue in the laundry that rang true to Arthur Conan Doyle, subtle but I got it. What happened after, and her aim with the shotgun, only strengthened my theory. (In the end I got it right. . . except for the actual murderer. Sigh.)
Read it in a couple of hours on a burning summer afternoon. Only problem is the next day I couldn’t remember any of it.
3.5/5

Stage Bound
A lady ostensibly in charge of a theatre company has to juggle her boyfriend, her boss, her friends, and a mysterious new act as they put on a show. She not great at handling the pressure, but she perseveres, mostly with the help of Pez dispensers. But when things go wrong. . .
Despite the shortness, it felt really long. A lot of times it seemed like I was making no progress at all. In particular, the mechanical explanations had me skipping.
On the plus side, there were some thoroughly funny moments, and the relationships were fun to see. A couple of well-crafted erotic scenes helped too. I wish I could up the score a notch, but the main plot could have been much better. I feel like I could have cut at least ten pages off and it would have been better.
2.5/5

The Sherlock Effect
A modern—or a few years ago, anyway—version of the great detective goes into that same business when his friend offers him start-up money. His father was such a fanatic that his middle name is Sherlock, but that’s about the only qualification he has as the two go around solving some relatively simple crimes.
Anyone familiar with Sherlock Holmes knew how the first story would end. The local cop in the second story is way too loose, telling civilians everything about the case. At least one of the characters notices, but a not very satisfactory answer is given. Basically it feels like a halfhearted attempt at recreating Arthur Conan Doyle, which is an impossible thing to attempt, let alone achieve. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it didn’t engage me; not even the inclusion of aliens managed to pull me in.
3/5

Devoted
A director and the manager—and sister—of a famous actress butt heads on a new film production. She’s trying to keep her sister from falling off various wagons while he completes his magnum opus. Turns out they knew each other growing up in a small Canadian town—odds of that?—and she’s always had a crush on him.
Really easy reading! Love it when it flows so well. I particularly like how the author doesn’t beat the audience over the head with how much the characters want each other. Yes, it’s there, but it’s not overdone like a lot of books in this genre I’ve read lately.
Everything about this was pretty standard, except for the enjoyable writing. Even the sad tragic moments felt lyrical. I might have given this a higher grade if the typical jumping to conclusions wasn’t present.
3.5/5

Lord of Secrets: Rogues to Riches
She’s lower class and working for a rich cousin, gathering more money by drawing caricatures of the twits she sees at various events. He’s upper class but works as a fixer. He can’t figure out who the artist is. She didn’t think he would care. But then it gets personal. There’s a puppy pug involved.
This has some finely written characters and plenty of humor, but every scene is stolen by the appropriately named Captain Pugboat. There’s a great part with the two trying to teach the puppy to heel, followed by an even better moment of them dancing. This is where the romance blossoms, and is worth the read in itself. Another hilarious scene occurs when she meets his sisters for the first time. This author could be writing for sitcoms.
The plot is easily established; the point is how to get to the inevitable end, and that’s what I enjoyed here. For once it wasn’t a by-the-numbers romance; it wasn’t about obstacles they put on themselves, but rather the crap the society of the time loads on them. This wouldn’t have worked in a modern setting; they had to go against the entire social structure of the time and country they lived in, which means they truly earned their happy ending.
This is how this genre should be written.
4.5/5

Summer Sizzle
Two people end up renting the same house and, though they can’t stand each other, can’t fight the attraction either. He’s got a doctorate in sociology, which he gave up when his little boy was killed. She’s an accountant building up money to get an advanced degree, and nothing will deviate her from that plan. . . so she thinks.
I wanted to like her, but except for sex and the kite lessons, she’s got a bug so far up her ass she’s just no fun. This is not someone I would want to know in real life, especially when she lets her cat do all the emotionally dirty work for her. Speaking of, this may be the first feline in history I’ve ever liked. (Gimme a break, I’m allergic.) But the cat giveth, and the cat taketh away; it was a silly way to cause the inevitable trouble in the relationship, but plausible, I suppose.
Points off for “orgasmic climax.”
Doesn’t matter how great they may be, because when it comes down to it, they’re both dumb as rocks, lacking in emotional intelligence. His PhD in sociology taught him nothing. Both invented stupid reasons for artificial roadblocks. Up to that point I’d liked this, but the last quarter was a mess.
Even worse, there’s a lot of loose ends. Her lost/stolen money issue is never resolved; she doesn’t even go to the police. With his reluctance to do just that, I thought the slimy lawyer was in on it.
And speaking of that character: what good was he? To make the main guy jealous? To make him look good in her eyes? Or did the author have someone in real life they couldn’t resist throwing in as vicarious revenge?
The ending, or next to ending, I hated. Brought down the score.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Road trip to the Moon

RoadTrip America Arizona & New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips
As the title tells ya, here’s side trips off what can be boring landscapes along the main throughways, in a vehicle the author named the Dirty Queen. Sounds like an oxymoron, but okay.
The first part features side trips off Interstate 10, which is a great idea, as long stretches of this road can lull you to sleep, especially when driving.
Some highlights:
Carlsbad Caverns is an oldie but goodie.
For Roswell there’s a green alien dressed as a mariachi playing a trumpet. That’s an image I’ll never get out of my head, thanks a lot.
I feel an urge to go see the world’s largest pistachio. . . right now!
The thing about the spelling of “chile” and Texas was hilarious.
Spaceport is cool, but not for four hours, as I recall. I’d rather spend that time at the cliff dwellings.
The Coronado Scenic Trail byway looks like just the thing to make me throw up, but if you like roller coasters, this one’s free.
Given a choice between photographing hoodoos and the Shootout at the OK Corral. . . well, I think the choice is obvious. I do find it hilarious that the Tombstone newspaper is called “The Epitaph.”
I need to go see Oak Creek Canyon NOW!
I’ve traveled extensively through both states, and this book told me about places I haven’t seen, and now want to visit. For that alone this book is worth the money.
4/5

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon
There are some really long bios on the astronauts, which start interesting but drag far too long. Makes it feel like a standard bio, but I suppose the title should have warned me. Everything that happened to bring the astronauts’ lives to the launch is important, but it’s still at about the halfway point of the book, when the massive rocket actually takes them into space, that things really get interesting. . . just like in real life, I suppose.
I do like that there’s so much here about the wives in the time up to and including the launch, even more so than the astronauts themselves, with their macho “I’m not scared” attitude.
At this point it turns from biography to something more akin to a very technical science fiction novel.
In the middle of the flight the author pauses for a chapter on how the year 1968 had gone, musically as well as politically and socially. I guess it resonated with me because it’s the year I was born, though of course I don’t remember it. RFK was assassinated only a month before my birth, not far from where my parents lived, and as someone who enjoys counterfactuals—what ifs—it’s easy to speculate what might have happened: no Nixon presidency. On the other hand, there’s no way to gauge how far civil rights would have gone if MLK hadn’t been shot. The chapter mentions the Beatles and Stones, but at the end there’s Jimi Hendrix’s version of All Along The Watchtower, and put in this perspective, the lyrics hit home like never before.
It’s a tough road, but if you make it through the first half there’s plenty of reward. Definitely think said first half could have been shorter.
Such a poignant way to end it. . .
3.5/5

Eric Stanton & the History of the Bizarre Underground
I enjoy finding out about new artists, and here’s one I had no idea existed.
Right off I can say there’s lots of bondage drawings and comic strips amongst biographic text. Bettie Page shows up, as kinda expected. Exactly halfway through Spiderman gets makes an appearance.
To be honest, it feels like this artist is being celebrated more for longevity than any special artistry. This book is kinda fringe, good for the people interested in the subject. I wasn’t as much as I thought I would be, so I didn’t find it that entertaining in the end.
2.5/5

The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes: Essays on Victorian England, Volume Two
This book basically takes one small item from a Holmes story and makes a small lecture out of it, but doesn’t really have anything to do with Sherlock. Each small entry feels like something out of the Sherlock Holmes Encyclopedia (which I proudly own) or wiki; in fact, according to the notes at the end of each chapter, some of the information down here is indeed gathered from Wikipedia.
Three of the first five essays cover sports.
While not putting down the research work that went into making each article, much more info could be found by a simple internet search. One can imagine the author never running out of topics in which to write these very short treatises, as only a mention in a Holmes story is required for inclusion.
3/5

National Parks of the USA
This book is geared for kids, but has plenty of info for the adult as well, starting with a brief history of how the park system came about.
After a map showing the locations in the east, each park gets a few pages, the first a stylized poster-like painting, followed by stats and facts. The same scenario is then played out with the central, southwest, Rocky Mountains, and West, although the Virgin Islands seems to be misplaced. At the end is an A-Z of animals and an index, as well as a plea to help protect the parks.
It’s pretty to look at, and the information is nicely presented. I’m not happy with the font, which looks kinda like italics but tougher to read, but everything else was well done.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Sci-Fi Twist

Here There Be Dragons
In a future where two huge conglomerates fight for supremacy in space, a law enforcement official investigates one of them, because his brother works for them. Instead of doing his job he falls hard for the local AI genius caught between the two companies.
This is the second in a series, and I wish I’d read the first, because that one had the Del/Sun story, and he doesn’t get much here. Some of the world building might have been in that one too, and therefore missing here. On the other hand, the best parts are the descriptions of the company headquarters and other places—the party near the end comes to mind—as well as the accounts of the ships moving through space in their unique way.
The strangest thing is that this book is billed as an erotica, but nothing such happens until near the end.
3/5

Strange Music
For many years I thought there was nothing better than seeing a new Alan Dean Foster novel was out. I started reading him about 35 years ago, when I was in high school, and that was the Flinx series, which is still going, as proven by this latest book.
There was a bright spot for me at the beginning, where Flinx and his lady friend—finally!—are living on Cachalot, which was the scene of one of my favorite early books. But then he’s convinced to go on yet another mission, thinking that after all this time there’s nothing he can’t handle. As always, he’s wrong.
In this story the twist is that he can’t read the emotions of the natives of this new planet he’s sent to, or more precisely he can’t read them when they’re talking. The people speak in a singsongy tone, which I enjoyed at first but quickly gave me trouble, which surprises me. It’s a fun excuse for the author to be even more verbose than usual.
This is typical ADF in its worldbuilding as well. He loves inventing new creatures and geographies, and while nothing will ever be more wild and strange than the lifeforms in Sentenced to Prism, there’s some fun stuff here too.
If there’s a word for this, it’s “typical.” There’s a sameness to previous plots, not just Flinx but even his Star Wars novels, as well as Icerigger and Spellsinger. It feels like he’s more interested in going crazy in his worldbuilding and doesn’t worry about plot anymore. But even if this is a typical ADF story, there’s so much awe in his inventiveness, and his incredible humor, to worry about the frame. Just enjoy the work of a master wordsmith.
3.5/5

(OMG) Don Quixote and Candide Seek Truth, Justice and El Dorado in the Digital Age (LOL)
Candide—after he got tired of his farm—wanders into a bar where Don Quixote is entertaining German tourists with his stories. They feel a kinship and decide to explore this modern world together, with Candide’s ultimate goal to get back to El Dorado.
For someone who’s loved the book for decades, it’s more than a little weird listening to the thoughts of a grown-up and no longer-innocent/naïve Candide. Yes, at the end of that novel he’s lost that charm, but he’s far worse here. On the other hand, his luck hasn’t changed a bit; everything bad still happens to him.
“The conductor leaned in and pointed to his badge. ‘My real name is Cyrano.’” This is the first of many appearances by famous literary—and otherwise—figures. Started out enjoying the Sherlock cameo, until it became—can’t believe I’m saying this—too meta. Luckily there’s more of him later, though I do wish someone could write about him without shoving Moriarty into it too. The entire Star Trek scene was disappointing, anticlimactic; when you get Don Quixote calling Captain Kirk a coward, you know you’re in the wrong book. They appear again near the end, but that wasn’t much better. And those good ol’ Suthin boys Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn turned out to be much bigger jerks than Twain would have ever thought possible.
Proving I am much like Candide, the long philosophical conversations during travel, especially in cars, put me to sleep. This book would have been considerably shorter and tighter without them.
At one point I thought for sure Candide would run into every character from his book, and couldn’t wait to get to Cunegonde. When he did. . . well, it could have gone better, but I’ll bet he doesn’t regret it. Too bad the monkeys from the trip to El Dorado didn’t make it into this one.
I’ve seen the Who’s On First routine done with bands before, but never for this long.
Nuevo Mancha seemed a lot more realistic than Vegas.
There are no words more chilling than “You shall join the other eunuchs.”
So. . . that was longer and tougher going than expected. A silly romp through history and the world, with each new chapter seemingly sprouting at random. Same wacky adventures with a modern twist, featuring two of early history’s most talked-about travelers. Where else would you find so many fun historical characters together?
I’m not at all sure if watching Man of La Mancha a few months ago helped or hindered this reading. . .
3.5/5

Slayers & Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Buffy & Angel
It took a moment for me to understand what was meant by “oral history.” Rather than it being an audiobook or a Homer epic, this takes interviews and puts snippets into a chronological order that eventually makes sense.
In the end it works pretty well, even when you don’t recognize the speaker. A lot of them are recognizable, though, staring from Joss Whedon and including most of the actors and writers/producers. Especially fascinating was the chapter right before the show aired, when everyone was wondering if Buffy would be a hit or bomb.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: X Files, Sherlock, and Serial Killers

In honor of absolutely nothing, there will be no opening joke in this review. You’re welcome.

The Complete X-Files : Revised and Updated Edition
No doubt done just after the nick of time of the series’ return, this retrospective is a nice trip down memory lane, but not much more than that.
It starts out with tons of photos, and carries on throughout. They don’t look all that great in digital, but they get the job done. The best part is that every episode gets at least a paragraph, though nothing in-depth. There’s really nothing wrong with this book, but it pales in comparison to similar ones on Twin Peaks, Back to the Future, and so on that I’ve read recently.
3.5/5

The Whole Art of Detection
This book is a series of short stories set in the Sherlock Holmes universe, and trying very hard to read like Arthur Conan Doyle.
Holmes and Watson take turns in the first two chapters telling each other stories to get them out of the doldrums; the buddy vibe is well done. At other times this writer overdoes it, putting in extra stuff not needed; doesn’t have the economy of Doyle. Most were good mysteries, but the one about the twin brother was woefully obvious. The last one had Sherlock narrating, and just like Doyle’s version, it’s the weakest.
3.5/5

Outsider
In this sequel to Insider—as you might guess from the title—the Exodus End tour continues, this time with the emphasis on Reagan, the new rhythm guitarist, and her relationship between not one but two men: the guy who plays rhythm for the opening act and her bodyguard.
Enjoyed the first one so much I was looking forward to this one, and was so glad to find Toni, the main character from the first, is in this one too. This story takes place concurrently with the other, particularly the big plot twist involving Toni.
This one is slower to get going, as the start is all long talks and three-way sex; nothing wrong with that, just wished there was more to it. Eventually it does pick up, with scandals and misunderstandings and families and a lot of soul-searching between the three. It is an unusual romance, with unusual sex scenes, but like the first its draws are the humor and the behind the scenes look at a rock tour. Don’t think it was quite as good as the first one, but still enjoyed it a lot. And as before, eagerly awaiting the next one.
4/5

Bitter Moon
The fourth in the series featuring FBI profiler Roarke and serial avenger Cara, though this one is quite different from the previous three. It almost felt like an interlude in the main plot, with Cara’s origin story featured and better explained, showing how she became a protector, or revenger.
As with the previous books, it switches chapters between the two protagonists, in this case between Cara as a teen—suspected of more murder—and Roarke looking into that cold case. So with that there’s a lot of new characters, the most intriguing being the nun; never thought I would like a religious Batman dresser, but this is no ordinary bride of Christ.
At the end of each book I wonder where the next one is going to go, and I’m always surprised when I read it, doubly so in this case, as adult Cara doesn’t show up at all. Neither does Roarke’s team, though that’s to be expected, as he’s on leave. There’s a few calls to Singh and the techie, but that’s it.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Sherlock, Unabomber, and Nazis

Did that ad say “shed pounds while you walk” or “she pounds while you walk?” Cuz I wanna know what she’s pounding. . .

The Misadventure of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock and Watson battle Moriarty, with Sherlock marrying Irene Adler though not knowing whose side she’s on. And John has a girlfriend not named Mary.
First, the characterizations. This sounds like Watson, though he’s a bit more snarky than usual. The problem is this rarely sounds like Sherlock, and definitely doesn’t act like him. Even if he was playing Irene, and there’s no evidence of that at the end, it’s too weird. The wedding reception feels like it’s right out of the series, but other than that I didn’t like this story or the writing very much; I caught myself reading without really reading, just because at some points it got quite boring. The best part was the fun use of the audio wax cylinder, what had to be modern tech for the time.
Ugh, ends in a cliffhanger. . .
2/5

Every Last Tie
Supposedly the story of how the Unabomber’s brother turned him in, but despite it being a thin book there wasn’t that much of that. Most is family background, how Ted became alienated from the family as his (probable) mental illness took hold, and so on.
Some moments were of particular interest to me. Ted Kaczynski went to Harvard on a scholarship at sixteen; that’s as obvious a warning sign as you’re gonna get. I also found it funny that the play Antigone is mentioned, since I’d never heard of it until a few months ago, when I saw it.
But the most telling note is: “So strong was his opposition (to pleading insanity) that he preferred the death penalty over allowing his defense attorneys to present mental health evidence.”
The last quarter or so of this already small book is afterward, which I looked forward to but found just as disappointing, if not more. It goes through mental illness and jails, as well as mass shootings. While necessary in general, it has nothing to do with the topic. It’s so rambling most people would likely give up before it gets to the reason for it.
2/5

Toxic Love
A choose-your-own-adventure erotica with an intriguing premise: in a world devastated by war, the lead character—who wants to be an famous actress, of course—is found to be immune to the gas that killed off so many people. This will make her very rich, if she’s okay with becoming a baby factory to make more immune humans. She falls in love with one of the immune guys just at the time he’s tired of having to sleep around.
There’s some great ideas here, especially the main one, but the writing, despite the humor, did not resonate with me. The execution should have been better; some of the interactions were just silly. The dinner with Joaquin was the most fun chapter; if only the whole thing could have been that good. It was simply all over the place; tighter would have been better. I’ve read a few of these choose-your-own-path books and the shorter ones, usually less than 100 pages, have been better than longer entries like this one, which clocks in at 187 pages.
2/5

The Bleiberg Project
Jay’s long-lost father dies, then his mother’s killed. Now they want to kill him, and his long-time boss—who isn’t what he seems—helps him escape by giving him a cute bodyguard and sending him to Switzerland to dig up stuff on why everyone’s getting killed.
“When I sprinkle two pills into my palm, I feel better already. I toss them back and swallow them dry—water’s for pussies.” This tells me all I need to know about the main character. It’s not that he’s a badass, which he thinks he is but is far from; it’s the arrogance. His snarky humor at times goes jackass, but since he receives just as much as he dishes out I’m okay with it.
Like most plots dealing with Nazis, eugenics is involved. There’s a good Superman and a bad Supergirl, though I found his identity easy to figure out. There’s also a side plot that is timely nowadays: a drug company causing a pandemic because they have the antidote, and who cares if a lot of people die.
About halfway through it occurred to me how strange the opener was. The book starts in the past and occasionally goes back, but in the prologue there’s a character that’s completely fleshed out, enough so that it’s easy to assume he’ll be the protagonist. . . and then he gets killed. And the story’s not in solving his murder or anything of that sort; he’s simply done and we move on. Very strange.
This was originally written in French. Parts are in first person, then switch to other points of view; it got confusing a couple of times, especially when it switches within chapters, but oddly enough not that bad on the whole.
This book was far from perfect, but I enjoyed parts of it. There’s something about stories that involve a reluctant hero who has to grow up and find what he’s capable of.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Star Trek/Green Lantern and Sherlock Holmes Graphics

“Promise me you’ll always make me laugh.”
“That sounds like a marriage proposal.”
She threw her arms around my neck. “See? Exactly what I mean!”

The Courier
A bike messenger in a futuristic West Coast city. . . sound familiar already? Yep. But luckily it goes off in a different direction than Dark Angel and Heinlein’s Friday. For one thing, Kris Ballard hides her girl-ness. For another, while she’s doing well, she’s not a kick-ass fighting machine; she’s winging it and barely surviving, which makes it more exciting as everyone underestimates her. So even though the premise is the same, the execution isn’t.
As one would expect, the plot centers on something she’s delivering, and when things go wonky everyone’s after her. About halfway through the story comes into focus, involving much more than just futuristic Earth, and of course corporate shenanigans, not so much espionage as infighting between factions of one up and coming company who wants to play with the big boys. There’s also an anti-corp group involved, I suppose you can call them the Resistance.
There wasn’t anything great about the writing, but I did like the main character, as well as the world-building. The idea of one vast city stretching from San Diego to Los Angeles has been mentioned before, but what’s new here is levels, with the lowest being the poorer sections, where people can go their entire lives without ever seeing the sun. As for Kris, she’s feisty yet vulnerable when no one else is around to see. It’s hard for her to trust anyone, considering her family history, but as you get to know her she’s thoroughly likeable and you end up rooting for her.
4/5

Sherlock Holmes: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
This is most likely the most famous non-Doyle Sherlock story, now brought to you in graphic novel form.
An old Watson is telling a Sherlock story many years after to Miss Dobson, who likes being called charming. Everyone in the story has died—except for Watson—so he can tell it now.
It’s claimed that Watson made up 2 of the canon stories, about Holmes’ death and return, having to do with Moriarty. He gets Sherlock to go to Vienna so Freud can cure him of his cocaine addiction, so they’re in the right place at the right time to prevent, or at least postpone, the first world war.
I find myself enjoying this bare-bones version more than the original novel; Meyer always liked going overboard with the clichés. And there’s a few pieces from the movie that were not in the book, but the reader doesn’t need to know anything about those versions to get the full gist of this. As for the artwork, the drawing of Holmes seems to be based on Rathborne or Brett, certainly not Cumberbatch. And Watson also looks like the older versions, more stout than Freeman’s slight figure. The graphics are more brightly colored than I expected for this kind of story, but it works perfectly. Definitely a must for Sherlock fans, and good enough for those who aren’t.
4/5

Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War
Some catastrophe happens in the Green Lantern universe, sending those characters into the Star Trek universe, where they again fight their evil nemesis with the help of the Enterprise crew. That’s the best I can tell you, as I’m not at all familiar with the Green Lantern stories.
All the Star Trek characters are drawn remarkably similar to their real-life counterparts; I know that’s how it’s supposed to be, but even more so here. Even non-regulars like General Chang look exactly right, and thankfully he’s not spouting hammy Shakespeare when he shows up.
The plot was a bit difficult to get through, as this is really a Green Lantern story set in the Star Trek universe, though there are a few moments that would not have happened anywhere else, especially the outcome of the final battle.
Here’s a twist that I’ll bet no one thought they would ever hear: Vulcan zombies!
4/5

The Adventures of Basil and Moebius Volume 3
A British dandy who fancies himself the next Indiana Jones and a former SAS guy are forced to serve an ancient alien by going around the world collecting artifacts for him, though they don’t know why he wants them. The story starts in Hong Kong but goes off to many other places, including London, before the final showdown in Crete. Both the Mossad and a secret cult are after them, with no one knowing the endgame, as you would expect.
I love that it’s the old Chinese professor who comes up with the perfect word everyone’s groping for to describe Basil’s mom: “Cougar?” There are other female characters more appropriate to this kind of story, particularly Sophi, who’s a wannabe Lara Croft, especially in the way she dresses. Isabella the assassin babe is actually more fun, and exquisitely drawn, until she meets her untimely death in a most gruesome way; I hate when that happens, and even more that Basil didn’t try to help her.
The one thing that could have been done better was the exposition, which happened in the form of clunky info drops. There isn’t much opportunity in individual comic books to tell the whole story, but there’s room for improvement.
Extra credit: if you go to their website you can see a short film about these characters, with Zach Levi from Chuck playing Moebius!
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Sherlock, Sci-Fi, FBI

I wish I could remember where I read this:
It had been said that the likes of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan had been good to their mothers. Tales of bad temper tend to grow with each occurrence of the tale told, just like a dropping of soda can on one corner became a dam bursting by the time it reached the other side of the street, or the casual meeting of eyes was a full-blown adulterous affair when it reached the husband.

Investigating Sherlock
Specifically the current BBC show, not Elementary, the movies, or anything else.
It starts, as one would expect, with a chapter on how the series came to be, with the long train rides during the filming of Dr Who giving the creators time to come up with this idea. There’s also a bit on the casting; it’s hard to remember Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t a gigantic star before this show started, whereas Martin Freeman could at least be called semi-famous. Also a big chapter on Conan Doyle, from his start as a doctor and how he based the character on one of his med school professors to him being fooled by fairies. Nothing new if you’re a huge fan, but concisely done for the newbies.
Finally we get to the episodes, with each of the nine given a chapter that includes a synopsis—forget about spoilers, if you haven’t seen them yet you shouldn’t be reading this—highlights, “Did you notice?”, references to the original books, interesting facts, nitpicks, and bloopers. Since I’m a huge fan of the books, I like how the author compares them to the filmed version; shamefully I admit I missed some. There’s also plenty of interviews to keep things fun.
All in all, there’s really nothing here that a fan wouldn’t like.
4.5/5

Trace Elements
A few weeks ago I reviewed the second book of a series about an actress who wants to become an FBI agent. It was so good I had to read the first one as soon as possible.
While I liked the character of Nikki—and her character of Annika—just as much, the plot wasn’t quite as good. For one thing the story was much slower, with less action until the end. Since it’s listed as more of a romance, the main characters don’t like each other until they give in to the sexual tension. The best part for me was the psychology when trying to get the little girl to talk, and the reasons she doesn’t. From a more personal nature, my favorite moment was Nikki wearing a UCLA cap.
So while I didn’t find it as good as the second book, it’s still a great character-driven story. You’ll fall in love with Nikki’s sense of humor and love of life.
Note: the last quarter of this book is the pilot episode of the series she’s filming, so the book’s a bit shorter than expected.
4/5

Girl From Above
Hard to say no to a book where the publicity blurb proudly compares it to Firefly AND Blade Runner.
There are two main characters, who alternate chapters in first person: we’ll call them the Captain and the Robot. . . no, not a simple robot, but a very sophisticated android called 1001, who is part River, part 7 of 9, and part Pris from Blade Runner. (Wow, who knew I was so genre-savvy?) There’s also a homage to The Empire Strikes Back when they hide in an asteroid field.
It’s all very cute, but it didn’t really grab me like I thought it would, especially considering its DNA. Perhaps I’m just tired of characters who are too stubborn for their own good, but there were too many moments where with a little smarts the Captain would not be in all these messes. So it’s fair to say I liked the android and the Inara/Zoe/Wash copilot a lot more.
Some time ago I read a book that to me seemed like a close copy of Firefly, with just a few names changed. The difference here is that I was told about it beforehand, and in the end it didn’t turn out to be all that much except for a couple of the characters. They also tell you this is the first in a series, so I wasn’t surprised by the lack of definitive ending, unlike others I’ve skewered for exactly that reason.
3.5/5

Star Trek: The More Things Change
This is a novella, and therefore a pretty fast read; don’t be angered when it finishes quickly.
In a nutshell, the Enterprise is taking delegates to a conference—yes, you’ve seen that plot before—when one of them gets sick and needs to be taken to a ship of her own kind for treatment. Piloting the shuttle is Spock, and trying to take care of the secretive delegate without much success is Christine Chapel.
It’s specified, more than once, that this story takes place a few months after the events of the first Star Trek movie, so Spock is still suffering the effects of his mindmeld with V’Ger. He seems to be even more emotional here than in Wrath of Khan, as though he’s trying to incorporate emotions into his life but isn’t sure how to do it yet. Chapel, for her part, is ambiguous about remaining on the Enterprise after McCoy comes back to take over the medical section again. The McGuffin here is a Trill named Dax, though of course not the more famous one; she’s not the one whom McCoy had some fun with in a previous story, but it is the reason he orders Chapel to go on this mission in his place.
There’s one mention of the uniforms they’re wearing, but it wasn’t enough for me to tell if it was referring to the pajamas of the first movie or the silly overdone red things from the second and on. There’s a little action as they’re attacked and followed, but mostly it’s a psychological study on the motivations of the two main characters for continuing their roles on the Enterprise.
It’s a bit difficult reading this while remembering the Starfleeters don’t know anything about Trills yet. There’s also callbacks to the Galileo episode of the original series, as expected considering the plot and Spock’s place in it. Most likely this novella would only be enjoyed by diehard fans, possibly casual fans, but definitely not the place for those who don’t know much about Star Trek.
3.5/5

;o)