Friday, February 22, 2013

Kindle Spotlight -- The Girl Who Bled Forever

Today I'm looking at an experimental novella: Kent David Kelly's The Girl Who Bled Forever (The Slipstream Chronicles). This book is every bit as macabre as the title suggests, and it's also pretty unconventional.

The story centers around Captain Alan Ramsey, USAF. He's being detained for disobeying orders. What exactly he did is revealed slowly as the story progresses. The plot is told entirely through military records,  meaning there is no real narrator to tell the reader what the protagonist is thinking. I guess you could say it's the literary equivalent of video camera movies like Cloverfield or Paranormal Activity.

Interrogating Captain Ramsey is Anna Morgenstern, a woman he has a relationship some point (since the story is not told entirely in chronological order, we don't really know when their relationship took place). Anna wants to know the details of the year in which Ramsey had to watch a mysterious girl die every night while she (the girl) tried to climb out of a hole in the sky. The details of her daily death are particularly graphic, so people with weak stomachs should beware. Why is this poor girl caught in a never-ending death loop? Ramsey has some theories, but they involve quantum mechanics so they ended up taxing my brain.

The Girl Who Bled Forever runs about 92 pages, so it's not very long. It's mostly the set-up for a much larger story involving time travel and other universes. It's pretty interesting if you can understand Ramsey's narrative, which touches on high-level scientific concepts ranging from Schrodinger's Cat to causality theory. Nevertheless, the story is nicely formatted and the protagonist is a compelling one. I recommend this story to either hardcore sci-fi readers or fans of the TV show The Big Bang Theory (that's me).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- Ubik

Today I have a real gem for you: Philip K. Dick's Ubik. Written in the 1960's, Ubik, like a lot of Dick's work, was way ahead of its time.

The story depicts the future (1992) as imagined by Dick. In it, telepaths are used for corporate espionage. The protagonist, Joe Chip, works for a company that detects these psychic spies for clients concerned they may have been infiltrated by them. Now, it is also important to explain that in this future when people die they are put into cold storage ("coldpac") where they are kept alive in a semi-vegetative state, and every so often their relatives can have them thawed out briefly for social contact.

Anyway--Joe assembles a team of his own telepaths ("inertials"), and they, along with their company's boss, Glen Runciter, head to the moon to ferret out spies. However, it turns out to be a trap, and a bomb goes off, and Runciter dies. Or does he? Despite being told their boss is too far gone even for coldpac, Joe and the team begin receiving messages from Runciter in the most unlikely places, telling them to seek out a mysterious product called Ubik. This, of course, confuses the hell out of them, and to make matters worse, the world around them begins regressing at an accelerated rate. Everything--technology, money and even food--starts becoming older and older. This means that soon all food will become too old to eat. Why is this happening? Where is Runciter? What is Ubik, and does it in fact hold the key to saving their world?

Ubik is a smart, fast-paced ride that has withstood the test of time (an ironic statement, considering the problems its protagonists face). I kept telling myself, "Just another pair of pages." The book is a page-turner, no doubt. It has interesting characters and a not-so-predictable ending. And, as is characteristic of Philip K. Dick stories, the narrative stands as a warning about the unchecked advancement of technology, although in a slightly lighter tone than, say, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the fact that Joe must insert coins into his front door like a pay phone every time he enters or exits his apartment--and the door gripes about it if he fails to do so--is particularly funny. I place Dick into that exclusive class of visionaries inhabited by Jules Verne and Arthur C. Clarke, and this could quite possibly be my favorite of his novels.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Soulless: The Manga

This past week at Barnes & Noble, I picked up the first volume of Soulless, the graphic novel based on Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate steampunk series.

The story centers around well-endowed (in more ways than one) Alexia Tarabotti. In addition to having to deal with the public's belief that she is well beyond the marrying age (she's 26), she is also a Preternatural, a being with the ability to nullify the powers of both werewolves and vampires. One night she is attacked by a rogue vampire but manages to kill him with her brass-weighted parasol. The creation of new blood-suckers is strictly regulated, and no one can account for this new one, so this presents a mystery. Where did he come from? And why are werewolves around London disappearing? To find the answers, Alexia teams up with alpha wolf--and potential romantic interest--Lord Maccon, as well as the extremely effeminate vampire lord Akeldama. Action and comedy ensue as these unlikely allies battle both bad guys and sexual tension.

I haven't read any of the novels this is based on, so I'm just going to treat this as a stand-alone story. Despite being classified as a manga, it is in Western left-to-right format rather than the Eastern right-to-left. However,  the visual gags have a definite anime style (for example, characters will get comically deformed when they yell at each other). I'm no expert on drawing, but I find the art style of this book very appealing. The artist, REM, is unquestionably good at drawing beautiful women, and the cover illustration (see below) is really slick.

I'm honestly not entirely sure who this book is catered to. Alexia's cleavage is front and center throughout, yet there is also female fan service. I guess that just means Soulless can appeal to anyone. There isn't anything too graphic in here, though; it's rated "Older Teen."

Overall, I feel the fusion of steampunk and manga worked out really well here. They are two great tastes that taste great together.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Kindle Spotlight -- Lady of Devices

Recently Shelley Adina's Lady of Devices, the first book in her Magnificent Devices series, became free on Kindle. I had never read any of her work before, so I decided this was a good time to start.

The story takes place in 1889 London. The protagonist is 17-year-old Claire Trevelyan (no relation to the bad guy from Goldeneye, I'm sure), a young woman from a noble house. Like a lot of steampunk heroines, Claire has a knack for mechanics, and so she aspires to pursue higher education. Her mother, on the other hand, wants nothing more for her than to marry well and live the good life in high society. Unfortunately, a tragic turn of events derails both their plans and threatens to destroy the entire family. Claire ultimately has a chance to rise from the ashes of her old life like a phoenix, but first she'll have to deal with the consequences of her parents' poor choices, murderous thugs and even a Dickensian group of cockney street urchins.

I enjoyed Lady of Devices. At first it seems like it's just another steampunk story, and you think there's going to be a great evil to overcome. Well, there is, but it's not what you might expect. The true villain of this story is society's many weaknesses, but that doesn't mean Claire's struggle is any less noble. As she fights to gain the trust of people society forbids her from associating with, you end up rooting for her more and more, and by the end Adina has assembled a lovable cast of characters. Moreover, the story is not as predictable as I expected. I would elaborate on that, but that would entail spoilers. You'll just have to trust me.

The book is well-written, and I really don't have anything bad to say about it. It's a fine example of what steampunk has to offer, and since it's free, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Secrets of the New World Cover

Here is the cover for my upcoming novel, Secrets of the New World, the 2nd book in the Infini Calendar series.