Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: WONDER WOMAN #12

Image © DC Comics.

Even-numbered issue, Wonder Woman Year One storyline. Diana has stopped terrorists attacking a San Diego mall, bringing her to the attention of the media and the world. Her military handlers and friends, including Steve Trevor, Lieutenant Candy, and Doctor Minerva are still trying to figure out what exactly her powers are, as is Diana herself. It seems they appear when she most needs them, unexpectedly. Steve has her out in the desert training when he learns that she cannot return home, a sacrifice made for him that he didn’t recognize before. Later, she tries to help interrogate the terrorists she captured using her magic lasso with very surprising results, see the image above. Great writing by Greg Rucka, lovely art by Nicola Scott. I’m still finding this storyline a more fun and appealing than the present-day one running in the odd-numbered issues, though I like that too.

Recommended.

Listening To: RINGWORLD by Larry Niven

This is the third complete science fiction novel I’ve enjoyed listening to on Audible, included as part of Amazon Prime. I own the book, but hadn’t read it since it came out in the 1970s, also true of many other Larry Niven books. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy his writing.

The Ringworld concept is a huge one, and a fascinating idea: an artificial world in the shape of a ring orbiting a star. The ring is so huge that if the surface of our own world were made flat, many thousands (perhaps millions?) of them could fit on the surface. It rotates enough to provide gravity, and there are very high walls on the edges to contain atmosphere. Four explorers crash-land on the surface, their ship shot down by automatic anti-meteorite weapons, and most of the book involves them trying to find a way to repair their ship and get it to the edge of the ring so they can escape Ringworld.

Two are from Earth. Louis Wu is a man just celebrating his 200th birthday, but in fine physical shape due to longevity drugs. He’s done and seen it all on Earth, and in Niven’s “known space,” comprising a number of inhabited worlds and competing civilizations. The very dangerous expedition to Ringworld appeals to him as something new and different. Teela Brown, a beautiful young woman, has been chosen in an unlikely way by the leader of the group not because she and Louis are having an affair, but something more scientific (at least in this book). She is extremely lucky. The other two members are non-human. Speaker-to-Animals is a Kzin, a tiger-like humanoid whose warlike race has fought and been defeated by humans and others, and is now learning the ways of civilized diplomacy. Speaker is the ambassador of the Kzin on Earth. Finally, the leader of the group, at least initially, is Nessus, a non-humanoid of the species Pierson’s Puppeteer. He has two heads, and other unusual anatomy, and his overriding personality trait, like all his species, is cowardice. The fact that he is even willing to go on this dangerous expedition suggests he may be insane by Puppeteer standards.

There’s plenty more plot leading up to the launch of the spacecraft “Lying Bastard” from the Puppeteer homeworld to Ringworld, which they have discovered, giving plenty of time for the reader (or listener) to get to know the characters and for them to learn about each other, all on a fascinating idea-filled backdrop of Niven’s “known space,” but once they arrive on Ringworld itself, the plot becomes one of exploration of unknown wonders, survival of unexpected dangers, and communication with the few other intelligent beings with some knowledge of Ringworld they can find. Most of the place has reverted to very primitive societies who understand little or nothing about where they live, and who worship the unseen Ringworld engineers as gods.

It’s a big book full of big ideas, entertaining characters, and exciting adventures. I have to find time to reread more of the Ringworld books now. Highly recommended.

And Then I Read: HAL JORDAN AND THE GL CORPS 9

Image © DC Comics.

Writer Robert Venditti is bringing out the big DCU space villains. Up first is Starro the Conqueror, that starfish-shaped creature who takes over minds with his face-hugger children, as seen above. But the real threat is Brainiac, who has led the Corps into a trap and into one of his “bottles.” Meanwhile, Hal Jordan, presumed dead, has a fascinating encounter with the very first Green Lantern he ever met, and Sinestro’s daughter, Soranik, is trying to help the people of Xudar, where things are happening, with her group of Yellow Lanterns. Lots going on, all of it interesting, and both John Stewart and Guy Gardner have enjoyable moments. Nice art by Rafa Sandoval and Jordi Tarragona, too.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE MYSTERIOUS EDGE OF THE HEROIC WORLD by E. L. Konigsburg

Cover photograph by Michael Frost, cover design by Russell Gordon.

Amedeo Kaplan has just move to a new town and school in rural Florida, and though he’s used to being a loner, he finds a new friend in William Wilcox when William happens to get off at Amedeo’s bus stop. William’s mother is an estate sale handler, and is working at the home of Amedeo’s neighbor, Mrs. Zender, an eccentric older woman who used to be an opera singer. William is helping his mother, and soon Amedeo is helping, too. He and Mrs. Zender seem to hit it off well, and Amedeo and William spend much of their free time at her home going through her collection of things accumulated in a long and busy life. Amedeo is even asked to go on errands with Mrs. Zender, where she sometimes embarrasses him with her strange behavior, but generally they seem to understand each other. Meanwhile, Amedeo’s mother, an artist, has a friend, Peter Vanderwaal, who is putting together an exhibit of modern art that was banned by the Nazis in Germany, and through his research, we learn much about that troubled time, and some of the people caught up in Nazi raids of galleries that showed modern art.

One item in Mrs. Zender’s home is a small original drawing by Modigliani, one of the German artists whose work was banned. Before long a surprising connection emerges between this drawing and the exhibit being curated by Peter Vanderwaal. Old secrets are uncovered, unhappy memories explored, and Amadeo and William learn some surprising things in this heartfelt story of persecution and sacrifice in the past intertwined with events in the present.

I read Konigsburg’s first two books when they were published in 1967. One, “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” won the Newbery Medal in 1968. I’ve read and enjoyed many of her other books, including her second to win the Newbery Award in 1997, “The View From Saturday.” All her books are great and thought-provoking reading. She tends to tackle subjects that are uncomfortable and not typical of books for children, and does so extremely well. This is the last published book by Konigsburg, who died in 2013, it came out in 2007. I still have a few titles of hers to find and read, and I plan to do that.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: GREEN LANTERNS 9

Image © DC Comics.

Writer Sam Humphries begins a new arc this time in an excellent way, by focusing on the life story of a previously unseen character, Frank Laminski. Frank’s early ambition was to be a pilot, and when given the chance to test-pilot a new jet, he hoped it would make his career. Instead, his flight was a disaster, and his life was only saved by the intervention of Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Frank was so impressed by Hal that he turned to a new ambition: to become a Green Lantern himself. This issue focuses on Frank’s efforts to become noticed and chosen as one of Earth’s Green Lanterns, which was not an easy endeavor. He did get noticed eventually, though, and it seems his ambition might be achieved after all. Excellent writing and outside-the-box storyline here, and I was also very impressed with the art by penciller Robson Rocha and inker Jay Leisten. They manage to capture a wide variety of body types and expressions well, and the page layouts and storytelling are great, making this issue fun to look at. Well done, all!

Recommended.