The Lightning Thief


I had orginally checked out, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) by Rick Riordan at my son’s request.  As often happens at my house, I end up reading these books as I read most things that cross our doorstep. This one I did enjoy.

In this fantastic world, mythical gods still exist and still sire children.  To keep these children safe, they are sent to a weird sort of camp. Percy, the main character, discovers he is the son of a god when his mother drops him at the camp right before her death. Then, a series of threats to the world force him to embark on an epic adventure.

Certain parts of this books were glib the way children’s books sometimes are, for example, the death of his mother causes no tears, only a sort of befuddlement.  The book plays into our cultures current fasination with fatherhood, much as that is a evolving role.  In this case, the father is awesome and great, but distant and perhaps indifferent.  Many young people can relate with this as well as his parents’ separation.

The book moves rapidly and stays true to its imaginative space. There is a variety of creatures yet the author is able to incorporate them into the modern world either with disguises or explained away by tabloids.

It’s interesting how well this is played out here, especially after just seeing Wrath of the Titans. The story line was exactly the same: a son of a god on quest to save the world.  Mars was even the enemy in both.  Yet while the special effects of Wrath of the Titans were spectacular- the story was hard to follow.  I was indifferent to the characters.  Percy Jackson and his friends are solidly human, full of the awkward bravado and insecurities of a young teen.  They make mistakes, and they build relationships between each other, and those friendships are very real.

Fantasy Life

I read Fantasy Life a long time ago when I first discovered Kristin Kathryn Rusch.  It is a wonderful book, full of magical creatures and extraordinary people with unusual powers.  She begins by introducing us to four generations of women with special powers who are protecting a very unusual sanctuary.  While there are magical elements to the book, there is a central mystery that is only revealed at the very end.

The author has a surprising way of weaving the magical creatures into the modern world that is believable and relevent.  The central theme of the book: the oil spills that cause havok on the environment, is woven into this fantasy. The book moves between the fantastical and “real” world without seams- and when the two conflict – it is interesting.

men in black 3

Normally, a third sequel is a well run dry, but Men in Black 3 while not breaking new ground, was still a fun movie to watch. I like Will Smith movies, and this film is centered on Will Smith even more than the other Men in Black movies.  I love that Will Smith movies are not usually violent and usually end on a positive note.  He has a casual humor that he’s taken all the way from the Fresh Prince of Belle Aire.

The narrative, as with the other films, is simple and cartoonish.  The villain is distorted and perverse in an interesting way, but is given only enough time to crack a few jokes, not enough to become annoying.  I really enjoyed the scene when he interacts with himself, (time travel is involved) and the audience discovers that he is so awful even he can’t stand himself.

If I had any criticism, it would be that the aliens weren’t as inventive as in the other film.  I still chuckle a little when I think back on the scene in the post office when we (along with the movies’ characters) discover that nearly every one is an alien, or in the first MIB when they use the tabloids to find their alien activity.  Still, it is a worth while, enjoyable film to watch, although I think I could have waited until DVD for it, if it didn’t cross three of my favorites in one: Will Smith, sci fi and Men in Black.

recovering apollo


In this series of short stories, Recovering Apollo 8: And Other Stories, Kristine Kathryn Rusch begins with her forte: deep space hard science fiction.  I am usually not a huge fan of hardcore space science fiction.  But Ms. Rusch always catches me with her great character sketches and her human sized futures.  In the title story, we meet a man obsesses with space, and a boyhood dream to rescue the astronauts from Apollo 8.  The whole story is about the climax of the anti-climax. I somehow feel like I am following Geraldo into Al Capone’s Vaults. Yet unlike the vaults, I am not disappointed.  She manages to find the meaning in a dream slightly skewed.

There is a strangely heartwarming story about death personified. Again, she creates characters, uniquely human in bizarre circumstances.  In spite of the gruesomeness of the situation she creates, the characters read true and as a reader you can’t help but enjoy them.

Another story deals with one of her favorite topics: xenocide with aliens. However, this xenocide occurs on earth instead of in space.  It is told alternately between the past and the present between a cop who finds a huge amount of bones, and the last alien survivor.  Again the perspectives are great, full of truth and yet not preachy.

Recovering Apollo 8: And Other Stories by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Earthborn


It has been a while since I reviewed an Orson Scott Card book, mainly because I have read them all and now have to anxiously wait for a new one to come out. I am on the author alert at the library and they sent me an email saying a new novel from him had been released: Earthborn (Homecoming).  Now I thought that I had read the whole Homecoming series, but since I couldn’t remember for sure, I got it again.  Sure enough I had read it (the library had bought a new addition), but I didn’t remember it fully so I sat down and read it again.

This series is wonderful, but I would recommend reading it from the beginning. The Memory of Earth is the first in this five-part series and by far the most interesting to read.  In this future world, humans have left Earth to settle in Harmony and Earth is such a distant memory it is a myth. A powerful computer manipulates the settlers towards its goal: to return to the lost home planet. While as a Christian, I grapple a little bit with his idea of a computer as a semi-god; manipulating lives. However, I love the feminist society that he creates in the first book (unfortunately, this society decays in the next few books, but women remain complex and important characters) .  The characters with their special powers are complex and interesting to imagine.

In Earthborn (Homecoming), the original characters are so far in the distant past they have become almost gods.  The new cast has some of the same special abilities as the originals yet they deal with the abilities in different ways.  However, their issues are not returning to a distant home planet, rather how to get along with the new creatures who have populated Earth, creatures far different from humans.  The resulting conflicts resonate with the racism that we still deal with in our world, and with what it really means to be human. 

Diving into the wreck


Diving into the Wreck is divided into three parts.  The first two are the most interesting from a technology science fiction angle, the last more suspenseful and dramatic.  This should give  you a clue which ones I like the best.  The future Kristine Kathryn Rusch has created in this book is so distant, that while technically advanced from today, they have lost some of their best technology.  As a wreck diver, the lead character searches the universe for old spaceships, from which she sells items.  The she discovers in this book  with its unusual technology may be her biggest haul.

The lead character in this book, “Boss” is a tough nut to crack.  Rusch likes this hard-nosed character but in spite of the character’s seriousness, she does have a deep moral code and a very caring heart.  The main villain besides the nameless, faceless Empire is her father.  She battles her own mixed feelings when she comes in contact with him, besides his diabolical nature.

As always, Kristine Kathryn Rusch creates a seamless future world.  The ideas are completely reasonable and coherent.  She has a way of writing that evokes comic books, quick, to the point and full of action.

The retrieval artist

The Retrieval Artist: A Short Novel (Retrieval Artist series) includes a short novel and a few short stories set in a complex future of alien legality.  With the interaction of humans and aliens comes the certainty that an individual may unknowingly break a law within the alien cultural structure.  Intergalactic law demands satisfaction on the aliens’ terms especially in circumstances that create destruction to an ecosystem or murder.  These people who often unwittingly break the law, disappear, much like the Nazi war criminal in South America.  This creates a whole series of complications, which plays out in many interesting ways. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has written several novels in this future, but this is a prequel and a companion.

In this future, cultural sensitivity is raised to a new level. Yet she never creates alien characters. Aliens are the mise en scene, the landscape. She never deals with aliens as plot vehicles, thereby creating a metaphor of alien as the environment with an eye toward xenocide.

In this series, she writes in the voice of the old private eye, but with a moon base for a home, instead of the big gritty city.  (Ironically, the city’s dome is slightly malfunctioning so there is literal grit.)  The companion stories included in this book are told from the perspective of a anthropological psychologist.  This character has a different voice, but is also fun to read.  He has made mistakes in the past, and is hoping for redemption. Both characters grapple with serious demons.  Her characters often have hard shell, but are cracked easily.

I enjoy how Ms. Rusch has a great knack for creating a believable future. She is also one of the few authors who have created a very hopeful future (in the current culture of apocalypse and zombies).