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Booking Through Thursday: Cheating

imageDo you cheat and peek at the ends of books? (Come on, be honest.)

superman075For the most part, no. If I don’t already know the ending, I don’t want to know it ahead of time. The only reasons I really ever have to “peek at the end” of a book is to check the pagecount of the story itself (doing my darnedest to view the page number while forcing myself to NOT visually register the words on the page) or to see if there’s a “preview chapter” of some other book lumped at the end that’ll throw me off by a couple dozen pages with the true end of the book hitting too soon.

Now, the main exceptions come from graphic novels. At the bookstores or occasionally comic shops, if there’s tons of internet buzz and no one’s spoiling online, I might take a peek to see what the hype’s all about. I also have the problem occasionally with hardcovers, where I’ll remove the dust jacket so I can carry the book around and not worry about the DJ getting screwed up. Occasionally while pulling it away from the back side of the book, I’ll wind up catching a glimpse of a page or two at the back, which might grab my attention just enough to see what, exactly, is going on there.

The other primary exception comes if I’m trying to determine if I’ve already read something—such as a Star Trek novel I may or may not have read 15 years ago…I may look at the end to see if I remember it, as I have an easier time recalling endings than I do beginnings.

endersgamemmpbANECDOTE: If you’ve read Ender’s Game, you know that that has a doozy of an ending. It’s that ending that draws me back to the book on occasion (and partially influenced me on Ender’s Shadow a couple years back). Early in college, a friend was telling me about the book, and I convinced him to sum it up for me, as I didn’t see getting around to reading it. Sounded interesting, but having been told, I mentally filed it away as one of those things, and life went on.

A couple years later, for some reason or another, I happened to get a copy of the book, and got pulled in enough to read the whole thing. And I was blown away by the ending…only later realizing that this was THAT book my friend had told me about. And here I was “lucky” enough to not have made the connection, so I was still taken by surprise.

DragonsofAutumnTwilightIt’s this sort of phenomena that causes me to see re-reading books as a bit of an analogy for the time-travel experience, were it not fiction.

Having read the book, if you go back and re-read it…you’re traveling to the past, and re-joining characters who don’t yet know what’s going to happen…but as the reader…you DO know what’s going to happen. Or at least, have access to it. Of course, you can’t change what’s going to happen…but you’re aware of it.

Yet, there are details that slip away, and you might only remember the broad strokes and biggest players.

highlordskiesI’m near the end of Dragons of the Highlord Skies, and something’s just happened to a couple characters that has me on-edge, as I’d swear this isn’t something that happened to them, and I thought I remembered them doing something else. But this book delves back to a time between-pages of Dragons of Winter Night, which I haven’t actually read in a decade or more now…so I may be thinking of other characters.

Just as, if someone were to travel back 100 years…they might know big details, broad strokes…but not have any clue of what roles people play in the smaller stuff.

But I digress from the topic at hand.

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Booking Through Thursday: Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Booking Through Thursday.

One of my favorite sci-fi authors (Sharon Lee) has declared June 23rd Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Day.

As she puts it:

So! In my Official Capacity as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I hereby proclaim June 23 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day! A day of celebration and wonder! A day for all of us readers of science fiction and fantasy to reach out and say thank you to our favorite writers. A day, perhaps, to blog about our favorite sf/f writers. A day to reflect upon how written science fiction and fantasy has changed your life.

So … what might you do on the 23rd to celebrate? Do you even read fantasy/sci-fi? Why? Why not?

I’m not sure I’ll do anything to ‘celebrate’…I’m not much for the “big” holidays, even.

Fantasy/Sci-Fi is the primary genre I read in.  I haven’t read many of the “classics” in Sci-Fi; Ender’s Game is probably about the most “mainstream” sci-fi I’ve read. (Then again, I’ve read a number of Star Trek novels as well…)

I’ve enjoyed the Battletech books I’ve read, and I’ve read some of the more recent (2002-ish) Mechwarrior volumes (in part due to a brief period of time involved with the Mechwarrior: Dark Age miniatures game with some friends in my college days).

I’ve mentioned the Aliens series several times in earlier BTT posts–I’ve read the novelizations of the films, and about 2/3 of the novels based on the comics, and several of the Dark Horse Comics Omnibus volumes.

Some Star Trek, Stargate, Highlander, and a Star Wars novel or two can be added to the stack; and I’m sure I’ve read plenty of other sci-fi I’m not thinking of offhand…especially from the Science Fiction and Fantasy and Tolkien and Culture courses I took my junior and senior years of college.

Fantasy-wise, I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; the primary series I’ve read in the genre, though are Dragonlance and Magic: The Gathering.

Comics-wise, it seems that a lot of the superhero stuff can be in one or both genres without being so overtly.  Superman involves plenty of science fiction elements (and certainly the same sort of “suspension of disbelief”) and yet would probably be classified “comics” or “super-hero” before “sci-fi.”  Ditto Green Lantern, and pretty much any of the “cosmic books” from DC or Marvel (or any smaller publisher. Runners, or the TMNT for example).

It’s also interesting to note that what was once only science fiction in some cases either IS–or is close to being–science reality.  And that while something may be fantasy, that does not render it un-real.

Now, despite my opening statement…perhaps–assuming I remember–I WILL blog on the topic in recognition of the day. Time’ll tell.

Ender’s Game: Battle School #4 [Review]

Creative Director & Executive Director Orson Scott Card
Script: Christopher Yost
Art: Pasqual Ferry
Color Art: Frank D’Armata
Lettering: VC’s Cory Petit
Story Consultant: Jake Black
Pasqual Ferry & Frank D’Armata:
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Beginning this issue, I feel like I’ve missed something. I’m not sure if I simply missed an issue…or if there was a story jump that’s alluded to in the opening text, or what–but I found myself wishing there was a bit of a recap page for this issue. I’ve read the novel this is based on, so know what’s happened…just no memory of seeing everything in this visual format.

We pick up with Ender having been transferred out of Bonzo’s army and into another army, which opens up different dynamics between Ender and the other kids. We move through the incident of the younger kids getting away from the larger bullies in the battle room, and finally to where Ender–in the computer simulation game–throws the snake through the mirror and is set upon by many smaller snakes.

On the whole, the art continues to be good and fairly stylistic. The visuals are different than what I have in my head for these events, but I can let that slide with no real trouble.

The story holds up as well–though again, I’ve read the novel and so can fill in any gaps that I’d otherwise find myself missing. This definitely continues to feel–both visually and the story–like an adaptation. Yost and Ferry do a good job of holding to the spirit of the source material, though, which is indeed a plus in that department.

For the point of the story we’re at 4 issues in out of 5, I can only assume that we are indeed going to hve a series of mini-series adapting the entirety of Ender’s Game. However, I wonder at the same time if we might get a longer series combining both Ender and Bean for the next segment, as it seems likely that this mini will end not long after the two are introduced.

If you’re not already familiar with Ender’s Game or interested in beginning with something that is an “adaptation of” the work, this probably isn’t for you–especially for the price. Otherwise, this isn’t bad, and one could do much worse than revisit the story in this format.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

Ender’s Shadow: Battle School #2 [Review]

Creative Director & Executive Director: Orson Scott Card
Script: Mike Carey
Art: Sebastian Fiumara
Color Art: Giulia Brusco
Lettering: Cory Petit
Story Consultant: Jake Black
Cover: Timothy Green II
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This issue picks up at and follows Bean through his time with Sister Carlotta as he learns from her and eventually seeks to learn more about where he himself came from. By issue’s end, we see Bean about to leave for Battle School to face his future.

Where with the previous issue I had not read the novel and thus had no pre-conceived notions or expectations, I have since read the novel this is based on, and had very high expectations for this issue.

The story seems quite accurate, though obviously a good deal is lost for lack of thought balloons and internal narration. Some of the art provides a bit of nearly cinematic symbolism as we follow Bean, which gives us an idea of what he’s thinking.

The art itself is good, though doesn’t quite fit the visuals I formed as I read the novel (and the first issue’s art did not insinuate itself into my mind enough to hold as I read the novel). There is a nice consistency in style, and does not seem bad; it is just what it is.

All in all, a solid issue, though two issues in and not even to Battle School, I wonder how rushed the rest of this story is going to feel.

Worth getting if you’re a fan of the Ender-verse stuff; having now read the novel (inspired BY the first issue to pick that up in the first place), I think this is a strong adaptation…it just suffers as any adaptation does by not BEING the source material.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

Ender’s Shadow: Battle School #1 [Review]

Creative Director & Executive Director: Orson Scott Card
Script: Mike Carey
Art: Sebastian Fiumara
Color Art: Giulia Brusco
Lettering: Cory Petit
Story Consultant: Jake Black
Cover: Jim Cheung & Morry Hollowell (variants by Timothy Green and Emily Warren)
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I almost missed this book. I’ve picked up the first two issues of Ender’s Game, and the trade dress for this is virtually identical, including the title’s logo font.

This story focuses on Bean rather than Ender. We open with Bean as a street kid trying to get in with a crew of other kids in order to survive. He presents a plan that hadn’t been done before, and while parts of what he suggests is followed–the crew gets a bully on their side–the other kids fail to see things through, which results in the bad stuff Bean knew would happen for a half-done job. The results of this helps propel him toward Battle School.

While I’d read the novel Ender’s Game a couple times and so was affected reading the comics adaptation of that, I’ve come into Ender’s Shadow cold–I’ve not read any of the later “Enderverse” novels, including the novel Ender’s Shadow. It’s cool reading about this character and seeing how Bean gets his name and winds up going to Battle School–I’m not sure how much credit to give to Card on the original work versus Carey on this adaptation. Suffice that whatever Carey does with the original, I’m having no trouble following along–and am enjoying this, knowing only that Bean was a character in Ender’s Game and that he’s the focal point of this run-through of that story.

The art has an interesting look to it. It’s almost sketchy in a way, simplistic, and yet it conveys so much at the same time. I have no problem with that–it seems to accentuate the story itself, and for a story I’m new to, I don’t think I really have much in the way of preconcieved notions as to what the look should be. I don’t have my Ender’s Game issues onhand to compare this to, but I’m pretty sure the visual styles are quite different…yet it works just fine, and I have no problem with it whatever.

On the whole, this is an enjoyable issue, even going in knowing it’s the first of a five issue mini. I enjoyed it more than the first issue of Ender’s Game, and am actually quite interested now in reading the novel of this title, just to learn more of Bean and everything only hinted at in this first issue’s segment of story.

While my usual hesitations at mini-series apply, if you’re particularly interested in seeing the property adapted visually, this is well worthwhile. For the more casual reader, I’d suggest waiting for the collected volume for a fuller experience instead of just getting a single issue’s content at a time.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

Ender’s Game: Battle School #2 [Review]

Creative Director & Executive Director: Orson Scott Card
Script: Christopher Yost
Art: Pasqual Ferry
Color Art: Frank D’Armata
Lettering: VC’s Cory Petit
Story Consultant: Jake Black
Cover: Pasqual Ferry & Frank D’Armata
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Picking up where the previous issue left off, we see Ender’s trip to and arrival at Battle School. His teacher lays it on a bit hard, intentionally (and effectively) isolating Ender from his fellow students from the get-go…the hope being this will prevent Ender from getting comfortable, and force him to think outside the standard “system.” We see Ender’s craftiness as he quickly engages older students, proving himself worthy of their level…we also see Ender’s skill in the Battle Room, easily adapting to a zero-gravity situation other students have a harder time with.

The story seems quite true to the book as I recall reading. Whether this holds up under close/immediate comparison I’m not sure. I find it to be quite satisfactory, though. The concepts Card presents work well in present-day American culture where we’ve got a war going on a couple of fronts and non-traditional enemies abound…and military advances seem to be pushing the bounds of traditional practices. While obviously set in the future, the story has that charming relevance in present-day.

After the first issue, the visual style’s growing on me a bit–it’s still not what I initially imagined when I’d read Ender’s Game years ago…but it fits, and it’s not hard to let this visual take influence my memories. There’s a certain vibe to the art that I can’t quite put my finger on…sort of a manga influence while seeming like it’s trying to fit a live model for certain characters.

On the whole, not a bad issue. As an adaptation this holds my interest–a sort of re-reading of the familiar story, but with pictures replacing thousands of words.

I’m not entirely sure why I bought this issue…this is a 5-issue limited series, and I would be absolutely shocked if the collected-volume (aka “graphic novel”) isn’t available within a month or two of the final issue’s shipping. You’re probably better off waiting for that version, unless you’re absolutely chomping at the bit for a visual production of Ender’s Game.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

Ender’s Game: Battle School #1 [Review]

Creative Director & Executive Director: Orson Scott Card
Script: Christopher Yost
Art: Pasqual Ferry
Color Art: Frank D’Armata
Lettering: Cory Petit
Story Consultant: Jake Black
Production: Irene Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Consulting Editor: Nick Lowe
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Cover: Pasqual Ferry & Frank D’Armata (variant by Emily Warren)
Publisher: Marvel Comics

It’s been a number of years since I last read Ender’s Game. Much as a movie based on a book rarely holds up to the source material, I’ve found that to be the case with most books-to-comics adaptations as well. Still, I decided to give this issue a try, given the source material, and wondering how it’d translate.

The issue opens with a young boy–Andrew “Ender” Wiggin having a monitor device removed from the back of his neck. Though the procedure doesn’t go as routinely as expected, the boy soon returns to class, where fellow students take note of the monitor having been removed. Lacking “status” granted by the device, Ender finds himself having to stand up–alone–to some bullies, and gets away with his fellow students looking at him thrugh much different eyes than earlier. As the issue progresses, we are introduced to the rest of Ender’s family, and the reason he had a monitoring device attached to him, as well as other elements that set up the story.

The art here works well, though it’s not entirely to my taste. The style has the feel of something trying to resemble CGI, or at the least of trying to mimic real life models or of being based on human actors, as a comic adaptation of a movie. That said, it’s quite interesting to put some actual visuals to characters I’ve only previously seen in my own imagination. This version doesn’t match what I’d imagined…but is in the unique position of providing me imagery going in, and as the story progresses, to continue to add to what I recall of the story.

The story is what I remember, though some subtle details I’d forgotten. Having words and pictures rather than just words to tell the story, many details obviously are sacrificed, even as others are enhanced by having visuals to SHOW what’s happening rather than just TELLING. A picture being worth a thousand words and all that, after all.

Overall, not a bad outing for something of this nature. This issue is billed as the first of 5…but from what I can remember of the novel (and that this is subtitled “Battle School”) I get the feeling that this mini-series-to-become-graphic-novel-collected-volume is just the first of multiple arcs that as a whole will give us (at least) a visual AND words adaptation of Card’s original novel.

I think that this might have been better suited for an original graphic novel format, as the story would probably work much better in a much larger chunk all at once instead of the little story segment we have here.

If you’re a particular fan of the novel and eager to read the story in a new format, this issue ought to be worth checking out. If this is a passing curiosity or otherwise…I think you’d be best suited to wait for a collected volume, and go from there.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6.5/10

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