Category Archives: Reviews

Rereading: THE ANGRY PLANET by John Keir Cross

Cover and interior illustrations by Robin Jacques.

Published in 1946, this adventure story about a trip to Mars has more of the feel of Jules Verne than post World War Two fiction. It was one of only a few science fiction books in my grade school library, though, and I liked it a lot then. In rereading it now, I see that the science aspect is greatly lacking, and author Cross does much worse than Verne in his space voyage books despite this one being written many decades later, but as an adventure story for children it’s not bad. The excellent illustrations by Robin Jacques help.

Professor Andrew McGillivray in Scotland has been building rockets, and has finally made one big enough to travel through space. His neighbor and friend, writer Stephen MacFarlane, helps when he can, and the two men plan a voyage to Mars. Things get complicated when Stephen is forced to take charge of his nephew Mike Mallone and Mike’s cousins Paul and Jacqueline Adam for a few weeks. Unknown to the Professor and Stephen, the children stow away on their rocket just before it leaves for Mars, and the five travelers arrive there unharmed. What they find is superficially like other versions of Mars:—the dry, red, sandy landscape for instance—but the Martians that greet them and bring them to their city are quite different, as seen in the cover illustration above. These Martians, who call themselves The Beautiful People, communicate through telepathy, and are friendly once they realize the travelers mean them no harm, and the group enjoys exploring their city and their way of life.

Not long after they arrive, though, the space ship Albatross is attacked by a different, malevolent type of Martians who succeed in capturing young Mike. Soon the two Martian races are preparing for war, with the travelers caught in the middle. When that war begins, even more danger comes from a volcanic eruption. Will they be able to escape in their ship and return to Earth? Of course the reader knows they will, as the book is told in a series of chapters and reports by the five travelers after they’re home, but it’s an exciting adventure all the same, and I liked the characters. This is not as interesting a Mars as those written by Edgar Rice Burroughs or C.S. Lewis, but it has its moments. Looking online I found there was a sequel, which I’ve never seen. I’ve ordered it.

Mildly recommended.

And Then I Read: JIMMY OLSEN #7

Image © DC Comics. Written by Matt Fraction, art by Steve Lieber,
colors by Nathan Fairbairn, letters by Clayton Cowles

This comic is fun for me, as I remember the goofiness of Jimmy Olsen comics in the 1950s, and a lot of that is here. I can’t say I was a fan of those comics, though I did like Jimmy Olsen on the “Adventures of Superman” TV show of the same era. Then Jimmy’s title became part of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World in the 1970s. I loved those comics, even if Jimmy wasn’t a big part of them really. The current series doesn’t have much of that influence, maybe a little in the outer space/inner space storyline. This issue we visit Jimmy’s psychiatrist who discusses the many Olsen personalities, see Jimmy and his siblings as small kids in a sequence not unlike “Li’l Archie,” follow current day Jimmy and his sister to Opal City (I didn’t get that one), find out what’s happening at Jimmy’s Gotham City apartment rental (a lot!), and perhaps most fun of all, we see Jimmy’s job interview at the Daily Planet that landed him his job. If that’s not enough, there’s another piece of the Olsen and Luthor families feud. The writing, art, colors and lettering are all excellent. And the story is so fragmented in this series, it almost doesn’t matter where you start.

Recommended. Make that highly.

And Then I Read: SOURCERY by Terry Pratchett

After reading this fifth book in the Discword series, I’ve decided that if I had read them in order as they came out, I might have dropped out here, and missed some great reads later. “Sourcery” is very much like the first two books except that Rincewind the hapless, cowardly magician is even more annoying than in the first two books. The Luggage is here as well, but doesn’t have many good moments. The simian librarian of The Unseen University, the college of magic, is here, and is perhaps the best of the returning characters, though limited in dialogue mostly to “Oook.” Death appears a few times, but doesn’t have much to do either.

The new threat to Discworld is a young sourcerer, Coin, who has enough power to easily take control of the much older wizards of Unseen University, and he begins to remake the world to suit his plans, with the usual chaos ensuing. Rincewind, Conina (the daughter of Cohen the Barbarian) and would-be hero Nijel attempt to stop him, and the usual disasters occur with occasional triumphs. I found this book to be mostly a retread of the first two in spirit and design, and was often tempted to stop reading it, but persevered. It’s not a bad book, just too much of the same thing, very plot driven, and too light-weight for my taste.

Only mildly recommended.

And Then I Read: THE DREAMING #17

Image © DC Comics. Written by Simon Spurrier, art by Bilquis Evely, colors by Mat Lopes, letters by Simon Bowland, covers by Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn.

Simon Spurrier’s writing on this title in this storyline is dreamlike itself, in that it vacillates between things that seem to make sense and things that don’t, as the dreaming mind struggles to tie together unrelated images and events into a story. There are many parts to it, and those parts are interesting, but I struggle to see the whole picture. Things that happen are gripping at times: the opening scene between Abel and Lucien is one. Others drift by like colored balloons that make little impact on me. The motivations of many events and characters are murky and unclear to me, even as I marvel at the visuals and the display of interesting ideas and clever language. I suppose it’s the perfect representation of a story you might tell yourself in a dream, even if I don’t connect with all of it. Worth the trip, for sure.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: NANCY DREW: THE PALACE OF WISDOM

Image © Simon & Schuster and Dynamite Entertainment. Written by Kelly Thompson, art by Jenn St.-Onge, colors by Triona Farrell, letters by Ariana Maher, issue covers by Tula Lotay.

I am definitely not the target audience for this book, even though I did read a few Nancy Drew novels in my childhood, and plenty of Hardy Boys ones (they’re in here too). A mysterious anonymous and threatening letter brings Nancy back to her home town of River Heights, where she is soon involved in several murder mysteries with her old friends and a new one. As the mysteries deepen, Nancy is thrown into danger, literally, and she and her friends are soon investigating secret flash drug parties and a seafood restaurant tied to it. Can Nancy come up with a plan and keep it on track before a new murder happens?

While I have some issues with the art on this book — too manga in style for me — the writing is terrific and pushed me right past the art issues. I don’t think I’ve read anything by Kelly Thompson before, but now I’d like to. I also applaud the all-female creative team on display here, they’ve done an excellent job. I suspect this would be liked a lot by the target audience, teenage girls, and perhaps get them reading Nancy Drew books. Anything that encourages reading is okay with me.

Recommended.