I have a thing for owls, decoratively speaking. I try to limit myself but I have owl cushions, owl ornaments, owl glasses, owl decorations, owl doormats, owl aprons… you get the picture. So when my colleague saw me reading this, she rolled her eyes and referenced my love of owls. Which is fair. Mostly. Because look at that cover. That is one hell of an owl. And the plot is revolves around owls. But it’s also a political satire, and that, I like to think, is why I actually picked it up. She says only semi-convincingly. Andrew Langford plans to be Prime Minister, and thinks nothing of the owl he killed, despite being one of the driving forces behind the law that makes them a protected species. That’s what drew me in, but this is really the story of Andrew’s political advisor, Charles, and Charles, to be honest, is not that interesting. There’s potential in this book, especially in relation to the hints of supernatural shenanigans in the background, but it didn’t quite manage to live up to expectations. The cover is still a winner though.
Although I like the steampunk genre in theory, I’ve never read a steampunk novel that I loved. There was such buzz about this book that I thought it might be ‘the one’. Alas, I was wrong. The story itself is solid – a mad scientist invents a machine that burrows beneath Chicago, destroying the financial district and unleashing a gas that turns people into zombie-like creatures. Yes, to all of that. Also yes to the story of his widow, Briar, being an outcast thanks to the actions (and subsequent disappearance) of her husband. And absolutely yes to her being forced to go back to the walled-off, zombie-filled parts of Chicago she used to live in. So much yes to that part. Unfortunately, she goes in after her wayward son, who is annoying rather than interesting, and takes up far to much of the focus of the novel. I also wasn’t overly sold on the writing style. Overall, it was okay, and I would like to see the further adventures of Briar in kinda-zombie-Chicago, but it doesn’t make it anywhere near the list of books I’d recommend to other people.
Alarmed by the increasing lawlessness she sees from her balcony, agoraphobic Ludo barricades herself in her apartment, virtually disappearing from the world as Angola fights for its independence. Through snatches of action she spies from her window, we are introduced to several other characters allowing us to view Angolan independence from a variety of viewpoints. This is a beautifully written book, that changes character with ease. We see Ludo slowly take her home apart, stripping the wooden floors and burning the books to stay warm, while catching pigeons to keep herself warm. But we also see the rapid change that Angola goes through, as experienced by a handful of characters who are all, satisfyingly, brought together at the end. There is hatred, and fear, and racial division, but there is also poetry, and thoughts about the real truth of being alive, and kindness. While I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Ludo’s time alone, this was a wonderful read, and one that highlighted a bit of history I knew little about.
The art in this was such a distraction. The Dead Boy Detectives are supposed to be boys, but you wouldn’t be able to guess this by looking at the artwork. Charles suffered from this most, looking uncomfortably like the girl he has a crush on (who herself suffers from an appearance that makes her look anywhere from 12 to 30 years old at any given time). Honestly, I can barely tell you anything about the plot because I had such a hard time with the art – except for Dave McKean’s covers which were as gorgeously dreamy as always.
I was over the latest threat to all of mutant kind event before it even started – the terrigen mists are killing us all, oh noes! – but the new Uncanny X-Men has put an interesting spin on it. Magneto’s new team are on a mission to stop anyone who could contribute to the extinction of their species. Pretty normal stuff for an X-title, to be honest, but this time they’re including any mutants who attempt to hide themselves away from what’s happening. Which leads to some thought-provoking stuff. If you put yourself into suspended animation during a crisis point for the survival of your species, are you doing the right thing for yourself or are you betraying everyone else? I can’t imagine they’ll revist that particular topic again, but I enjoyed what focus it got in this trade paperback. Plus, Monet’s on the team and I’m always happy to see Generation X alums brought back into rotation. Downsides are Greg Land’s art (seriously, Marvel, please stop hiring this guy), and the crumpling up and throwing away of Elixir (I’m still a huge fan of Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis’ run on New Mutants).
Russia + sci-fi + horror + graphic novel = amazing amazingness that sounds amazing. Unfortunately, this read as more of a writing exercise, than an actual published piece of work. There are flashes of potential in the story of a team being called to a seemingly abandoned military station, but they’re never fully realised. Everything happens too quickly, giving the horror elements of the story no time to properly develop. Then there’s the explanation for the time-travel aspect which is vague at best. Finally, I’m not a fan of the artwork. At. All. Hermann’s style is widely respected but it’s definitely not for me (the bad guys look like they’re wearing the William Shatner mask from Halloween and I really don’t think they’re supposed to).
I really need to pay more attention to SLG because I usually really enjoy their output (except for Slow News Day which was pretty dreadful). Dead Eyes Open is a zombie story that reads like Les Revenants meets True Blood, in the best possible way. When the dead start coming back to life with their personalities fully intact, the world struggles to accept them. John, a recently returned person himself, becomes a spokesperson for the government, uncovering a deep-seated conspiracy along the way. Discrimination is really cleverly dealt with, and yet the story never gets preachy, using it’s black comedy tone to the best possible effect. Plus, rather unexpectedly, it features Wil Wheaton. As a zombie.