Robopony

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale. Amulet Books, 2017. 9781419721281.

I’m trying to read more ebooks, especially review copies. I’m out of space. To keep a book I need to get rid of one (or more if it’s thick). And that’s not counting the piles and boxes and books I have hidden in corners.

But when I see physical advanced reader copies of graphic novels at library conferences, I always pick them up. Hale’s new one is a perfect example of why. The finished book is going to be two color throughout, a combination of yellows and black ink washes. (There’s a page of finished art in the front of the book as an example.) Most of the rest of the ARC is finished line art for the book. I know it might not be as popular with young readers, but it makes Hale’s excellent line art, and in particular his old school textures, stand out. The real treat though are the incredibly loose sketch pages. Hale’s primitive, unfinished drawings border on scribbles, yet they show faces, emotions, and posture. Despite how unfinished they are, they’re genius. And together with the other parts of the book they really show the stages of putting a graphic novel together. Grab an ARC from your librarian friend who went to ALA Midwinter in Atlanta.

And just so I’m not remiss, the story is pretty cool, too. In a dystopian future, weird aliens hunt for the world’s technology and metal. When the find it they blow “bubbles” around it that carry off the resources and turn any humans in the way to dust. There’s a caravan of motorized vehicles whose human inhabitants stay on the move, avoiding zones full of aliens as they hunt for technology and information to preserve. But after three young people from the caravan discover a huge cache of hidden robots, including the robotic horse on the cover, the aliens swarm, the teens are separated from their people, and the horse (and a feral human they meet along the way) may be their only hope of staying ahead of the alien horde.

If Hale’s name is familiar to you, you’ve probably read some of his history comics or, like me, you loved Rapunzel’s Revenge.

My Little Motorcycle Talks To Me

MOTRO Volume One by Ulises Fariñas, Eric Freitas, and Ryan Hill. Oni Press, 2017. 9781620104088. 112pp. Contains MOTRO #1 – #4.

A young man with the strength of 10 named Motro lives in a post-apocalyptic world where vehicles speak in images, including the friend who shares his cave, a small wheeliebeast (motorcycle). Heading into a village to trade, he finds it under attack by gun-wielding marauders. He takes them on with his fists and some pepper-root. That’s just the first bit.

Later, working as a gravedigger to clear a battlefield, Motro finds a magical lens that reflects the future. What he and others see gets him adopted by the Captain of the United Brothers Army, and sets him at odds with the Captain’s biological son, Rockmaster. There are fights, reptoids, frog wizards, adventures, and battles as Motro grows into the leader/warrior he’s destined to become.

Everything is drawn in a pleasant style that really flows, story-wise — the characters all look a bit squat and startling compared to average, overly anatomical comics, the same way Frank Quitely’s art did the first time I saw it, in JLA: Earth 2. And it feels like a weird cross between Heat Vision and Jack, The Road Warrior, and One-Punch Man. (That make sense to anyone other than me?)

Flow My Empire, The Scientist Said

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. Tor, 2017. 9780765388889.

the-collapsing-empireScalzi’s best science fiction novels are a perfect combination of concept, setting, and characters. Reading them is effortless and fun, and it feels inevitable because they’re impossible to put down. This is one of his best.

Somewhere near our universe is the Flow, an extradimensional “river” that allows one-way, faster-than-light travel between some star systems and defines the trade routes that tie humanity’s interstellar empire together. But access to it is about to disappear. Most of humanity’s outposts will die because of their interdependence.

The new Emperox knows the truth — her father hid and supported a scientist who was secretly studying changes to the Flow — but she’s not only new to the her post, she’s unprepared for its politics and power struggles, and her capital is under attack by terrorists. That scientist lives on the empire’s farthest outpost, End. Because of an open rebellion there, as well as the political machinations of an ambitious family (who also seem to know what’s about to happen to the Flow, and are using it for their own ends), the Emperox may not get the proof she needs to convince humanity’s leaders to accept the truth about the Flow before it’s too late.

Throw in one badass ex soldier (the Scientist’s daughter) and a foul-mouthed woman as determined to get laid as she is to make money for her family on a trade run, and it’s super entertaining.

Too Much Future

Normal by Warren Ellis. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016. 9780374534974.

normalHidden in an experimental forest in rural Oregon is a facility funded by various government agencies and NGOs, a facility where professionals help mentally ill futurists. They observe trends in technology, finance, and warfare in order to predict what comes next, and are driven mad by what they predict. Foresight strategist Adam Dearden arrives after a breakdown and is ready for time away from the constant inbound information that controlled his life. Then a patient goes missing from his locked and very closely watched room, leaving behind a huge mound of writhing insects on his bed. The facility goes into lockdown and everyone begins to panic. Adam decides that the safest thing to do is to solve the mystery before anyone from the outside world comes and investigates his background too closely.

Ellis provides his usual gonzo, fever-dream take on current and near-future technology, much of it based on the work of futurist friends. He writes a fast-paced mystery that will leave you unsettled by the doomsday scenarios that brought patients to the facility.

What do you think about the birds in the sky?

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. TOR Books, 2016. 9780765379948.

allthebirdsGene: I think my pitch for this book to you was, “This book is breaking my heart.” I couldn’t read very much of it at a time. I think I started it in July or August, but I didn’t finish it until December after we decided to do it as a book club. I think I was just so upset by the early chapters… but they were also so beautiful, so beautifully done.
Sarah: I remember you telling me that it was great and that it kept changing genres, it kept breaking your expectations. And I thought, “I would read it for that.”
G: Breaking expectations and also my heart. In a way that kind of put it in that Neil Gaiman area.
Continue reading “What do you think about the birds in the sky?”

Oops!

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland. First Second, 2017. 9781596439368.

spill-zoneThis graphic novel is currently being serialized online at http://www.thespillzone.com/

Addison lives with her sister Lexa at the edge of the Spill Zone. Their old hometown is part of it, and it cost the girls their parents. No one knows what happened. Was it a nuclear accident? Nanotechnology run amok? Aliens? Or something weirder? The military has cordoned off the area. No one is allowed in.

But Addison needs to make money, and it’s usually fairly easy to sneak in past the patrols, enter the zone, and snap a few photos. Colors have changed in the zone, so has physics. Rats behave as if possessed. Animals have mutated. Empty swings move back and forth like there are kids in them. And people caught during the event float in the air, meat puppets with glowing eyes.

After a close call with a monstrous wolf-thing, Addison is contacted by the collector who has been purchasing her work. She’s offered the chance to make a life-altering amount of money, which she could use to help Lexa, but it will mean violating all of the rules that keep her safe while in the Zone.

Westerfeld is a great writer, so it’s no surprise I found myself rooting for Addison, but it was Puvilland’s colors and Zone creatures, at once fascinating and horrifying, that had me rereading it. And there’s a creepy talking doll, too.

Wow! Flying Dinosuars

Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City by Brendon Leach. Secret Acres, 2016. 9780996273930. 44 pages.

pterodactyl-huntersGene: It came out 5-6 years ago from Top Shelf, oversized on newsprint. Which fits, because it has fake news articles, and it was just this big, beautiful black and white thing. But I never wanted to buy it because I was paranoid that I couldn’t keep it nice. I don’t collect newspapers.

Sarah: It’s just going to get scrunched up under something.

G: It was going to be destroyed and I was going to cry. So I bought a copy from amazon.fr because they had an oversized hardcover edition.

It’s a vignette set in an alternate 1904 New York. It’s not quite steampunk, but it’s guys in hot air balloons hunting pterodactyls with these harpoon rifles. And then eventually, of course, dynamite. That’s my pitch: old timey pterodactyl hunting above New York City.

S: Look at that! You can see the head turn in the sketchy bit!

Continue reading “Wow! Flying Dinosuars”