Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Surprisingly Not a Single Reference to Paper Sales

Justin Gustainis, “Known Devil” (Angry Robot, 2014)
There’s no doubt that Known Devil starts off on a high point, with a Tarentino parody involving elves robbing a diner.  This ludicrous scene is played straight, with a world weary narrator giving us the action.  It’s hilarious.

Unfortunately that scene is the high point of the novel.  Its blend of absurdity, violence and cynicism is amazingly effective.  As the story goes on, the absurdity is forgotten, and a rather straightforward police story emerges.  OK, it’s not entirely straightforward, as this is urban fantasy, and there are both cops and criminals of various supernatural natures.  But if we were to convert all of the supernatural characters into more realistic characters, it would all still work.

There’s a young mob boss from Philly who is trying to move into Scranton.  The locals are fighting back, but there’s a gang war going on, and our hero Markowski has to try to contain the damage.

It’s not that Known Devil is a bad novel.  I found it quite entertaining.  However, it really didn’t add anything to either police procedurals or urban fantasies.  There was so much promise in that opening scene.  It never comes close to living up to that.

Surprisingly, the Clowns are not to Blame.

Adam Christopher “Hang Wire” (Angry Robot, 2014)
There’s a lot going on here.  We have normal young San Francisco people with blackouts and missing bits of memory.  We have a serial killer.  We have gods hiding amongst the populace.  We have an circus that is hiding evil.  That’s a lot of balls for Christopher to juggle.

The sheer amount of story elements mean that the book quickly becomes somewhat disjointed as Christopher is forced to leap between characters and situations that have no obvious connection.  Add in some flashbacks and things can get confusing quickly if you don’t stay on your toes.

I hate to criticize an author for ambition, but ultimately I feel like that’s a great deal of the problem here.  Christopher has a big vision for the story that he wants to tell.  Unfortunately he sacrifices depth (specifically character depth) for width.  I found that I just didn’t care about any of the characters.  Too many felt like hastily drawn sketches, rather than fully fleshed out people.

I can’t help but feel that this book would have been significantly better if there had been more to it.  Build more slowly and carefully.  Without reader investment in the characters, it becomes merely an exercise in world building. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Comics Can Be Fun

Kenny Byerly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  New Animated Adventures Volume 1 (IDW, 2014)

Maybe it’s just because I’m an old guy, but I frequently hear people complaining about the lack of good All Ages comics.  As the industry has gotten increasingly grimdark there’s a vanishing pool of comics that are appropriate for both kids and adults.

That’s where comics like this come in.  It’s colorful and action oriented, with just enough character development to foster individuation amongst the turtles.  But don’t worry.  This isn’t Emo Mutant Ninja Turtles.  It’s all about doing the right thing.  And the stories are told in a fun, simple manner.
I’m not familiar with the TV series, but apparently this stays close to that portrayal.  If you or your kid loves that, this will be sure to be a hit.