June 27th, 2009

earthsea

June Books 25) The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle, by Jim Butcher

This is a graphic novel based on a series of books by Jim Butcher which had a TV show as well; but it was all new to me, and I only got it because it is on the Hugo shortlist.

It's actually very good. Our hero, Harry Dresden, is a hardboiled private investigator who also happens to be a wizard, and is routinely called in to help solve mysterious cases in Chicago. The plot here, involving odd goings-on and strange deaths in the Lincoln Park Zoo, is pretty straightforward; the villain, being English, is easy to spot, and the rest is just routine defeat the bad guys stuff. But it is told vividly and with a certain humour, and very well drawn by Ardian Syaf (who is also mizkit's illustrator for Chance). This is my first encounter either with the Dresden Files or with Syaf's work, and it has certainly whetted my enthusiasm for both - especially for Syaf.

Will rank this behind the Serenity story on the ballot but not far behind!
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June Books 26) Y: The Last Man: Whys and Wherefores, by Brian K. Vaughan

Stephen King describes this on the front cover as the "best graphic novel I've ever read", which of course is not a helpful data point unless you know how many graphic novels King actually has read. Is Neum the prettiest seaside town in Bosnia-Herzegovina? Was Dick Cheney the greatest US vice-president ever to come from Wyoming?

I'm afraid it didn't really work for me, though I think I can see why Stephen King and his fans like it. The premise has our hero, Yorick, unexpectedly surviving some disaster which killed all other men - and I think also almost all male animals - in a contemporary earth; this last volume has him juggling contacts with his friends and lovers, and with the Israeli and Russian female military teams trying to capture him and his Y chromosomes.

I found the whole thing a bit unconvincing; almost all the surviving women seem to be young and beautiful, and where John Wyndham did diffirent bits of this story in various interesting ways, Vaughan doesn't. I think this is the tenth and last volume of a series of books about Yorick/Y, and perhaps earlier ones were more compelling, but this one won't be getting a particularly high vote from me.
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June Books 27) The Inner Shrine [by Basil King]

This was the best selling book in the USA in 1909, a century ago. I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg after reading John Scalzi's piece about the bestsellers of yesteryear, and how they are forgotten. (Does anyone want to join me in reading Florence Barclay's The Rosary next year, a century after it topped the charts?)

The Inner Shrine is probably a decent enough novel in the romance genre, and people who like that sort of thing today will probably enjoy this as well. After an opening couple of chapters in France, where the older heroine's first husband dies in murky circumstances, we then shift to New York, where the challenge becomes to unite three pairs of lovers sundered by circumstance and social codes (all are, or have been, very rich). You probably aren't going to read this, so I shall reveal that the "Inner Shrine" of the title is a woman's heart, which can be unlocked by the three words "I love you." That is probably the crucial data point that will help you decide if you want to read this book or not.

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earthsea

June Books 28) The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay

I love Kay's later works, Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan, Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors, so I was prepared to be forgiving of this earlier work. It is a competent enough portal fantasy, with five young Canadians wrenched into a largely Celtic world to fulfill a variety of quests. There is some odd pacing of info-dumping, and the characterisation is not as good as in Kay's later works - did he take the wrong lessons from his work on The Silmarillion? But it's decent enough, and is interesting for the way it draws on various different cultural roots without too much disharmony - the Summer Tree of the title being a particularly good example (Neil Gaiman uses it in American Gods as well, but more intrusively). So I will read the sequel in due course.