Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kindle Spotlight -- The Last Man on Earth Club

It's been a while since the last Kindle Spotlight. What have I been doing during that time? Reading a beast of a book (and I mean that in the best possible way): Paul R. Hardy's The Last Man on Earth Club.

The story takes place on a version of earth whose inhabitants were wiped out by an asteroid strike. An organization called the Interversal Union (basically the Federation from Star Trek, except they're made up of universes instead of just planets) has since come in an designated the planet Hub. In other words, it's a hub world for other universes. On Hub the IU has established a center which is home to a support group consisting of a handful of people who have nothing in common except the fact that each of them is the last survivor of an apocalypse.

The story is told from the point of view of the group's therapist, Dr. Asha Singhe. She has the Herculean task of getting each member of the group to both come to terms with what happened to them and open up to one another. Most of them are angry with the various people they blame for the annihilation of their species, and are slow to trust Asha and each other. Just like real therapy, it takes a considerable amount of time for them to reveal their secrets (not all of them are what they seem). Progress is made, but so are setbacks, and you can't help but wonder if there is any hope for this group of emotionally crippled people.

This is a very powerful and heart-wrenching story. As each member of the group gradually reveals what trauma they've experienced, you begin to sympathize with them more and more, and a number of important questions are raised. Who should be held responsible for the destruction of an entire race, and how should they be punished? When does a search for justice become mere vengeance? If you don't think anyone's going to help you, is it OK to take matters into your own hands, and if so, how far should you go?

This is not a light-hearted story by any stretch of the imagination. The horrors of what the characters have experienced are revealed in tragic detail, and more than suicide attempt is made as they try to deal with what happened to them. But even so, this is one of the most important books I have ever read. If you've got the stomach to follow along with these poor souls, I strongly recommend character-driven story. As someone who has contemplated suicide himself, I just cannot heap enough praise onto this book. Mr. Hardy has done a great service to humanity by writing it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Martian Successor Nadesico Complete Collection DVD

Right Stuf just re-released all of the anime Martian Successor Nadesico with a bunch of extras not present in the 2000's DVDs. This is the first anime series I ever got on DVD, and it's just as fun today as it was a decade ago. The action, off-the-wall humor and occasional hard-hitting somber moments still keep me coming back after all these years. If you like anime, you absolutely MUST give this a try.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kindle Spotlight-- Aladdin and His Wonderfully Infernal Device

Today we're going into Arabia with Aladdin and His Wonderfully Infernal Device by Tee Morris. If you've ever read the story of Aladdin or seen the Disney movies, this will be very familiar to you.

It starts off with young thief Aladdin as he steals a gear from a vendor on the streets on Arabia. He is soon embraced by a famous magician claiming to be his long-lost uncle. Aladdin takes the man home to meet his mother. Although Aladdin's mother takes the lad aside and reveals that in fact his father had no brothers, she still tells him to go with the imposter to find his destiny (despite their mutual belief that Uncle Jaha is up to no good). Aladdin grabs his mechanical flying carpet and sets off into the desert with his faux relative (who--surprise, surprise--soon betrays him). Can the young hero unravel the steampunk trappings of the story and save his own hide in the process? You'll just have to read to find out.

I'm torn on this one. Normally I'm more than fine with sending steampunk to settings it hasn't been to before, but in this case I don't think it does enough to advance or enhance the Aladdin story. It's preytty much the same story you remember, just with a little bit of steampunk thrown in. Also, I didn't particularly care what happened to Aladdin. He and his mother show remarkably bad judgment in regards to the obvious imposter uncle. Granted, the same thing happens in Japanese RPGs, but at least with them you get a 60-hour journey filled with interesting characters that you become attached to. With Aladdin and His Wonderfully Infernal Device, you just get a novella with only a few characters. If Morris had taken the Aladdin story as the foundation, added a lot more colorful characters and sent the story off into other directions, we could have had a hit here. As it stands, though, I give it 2 1/2 stars.