Thursday, October 17, 2013

What I'm Reading: Roundup

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted!  I've been reading a number of things, most notably Moby Dick, which explains why I haven't been posting.  Still working on it, I'm about halfway through.  When I'm finished, I'll put up a lengthy post on what I think about it, but so far, I love it.  Hugely epic in scope, language that if maybe not quite biblical is only one step from the King James Bible, characters that are fully rounded and motivated yet archetypal.  And of course, this is where Khan in Star Trek II got all his quotes!

Here are some other things I've been reading:

Prophet: Remission:   A 2013 reimagining of the 1990s comic series by Rob Liefeld, a terrible artist who was inexplicably popular for a few years.  I think that's why I overlooked this series when it came out earlier this year--I just saw the name "Liefeld" and my brain shut down.  What a mistake that was!  I'm lucky somebody loaned this to me with a strong recommendation because this is awesome.

Writer Brandon Graham places John Prophet, a genetically-engineered human with a rather taciturn, Conan-like attitude towards violence and morality (i.e., he has a moral code, but doesn't let it get in the way too much when action is necessary), in the very distant future, when humanity has died out and Earth has been colonized by various alien species.  Prophet awakens and embarks on a mission to restart the once-mighty human empire, which requires visiting certain key sites, if they are still around, to send out signals across the galaxy that will wake frozen humans from their eons-long sleep.

The real attraction in this book is the huge variety of extremely weird creatures, aliens or bizarrely-evolved earth creatures.  I especially liked the Jell City, a living ship that has landed on earth and which gradually decomposes while its inhabitants eat it until they're ready to emerge on their new planet.  The desert caravan of massive elephant like-creatures who sell their dung as architectural materials are a nice touch, and the continent-wide once-living giant floating in space whose innards provide a living space for species not even around when he died is impressive.  If you are at all interested in science fiction with a heavy dose of weird, this is a good bet.

The Wake: A horror series by DC's hottest writer of the moment, Scott Snyder.  I just finished the fourth of ten issues, which I'm sure will be collected in a graphic novel once the whole series is out.  Its set on a deep-sea research station run by an oil company.  The company has brought together a band of scientists to address a problem: the crew has come across a murderous creature that's a...mermaid.  Or rather, a merman.  But it's not beautiful, it's hideous, and it has to be confined in chains so it doesn't get loose and rip the station's crew apart.

We learn where mermaid myths come from when the merman sprays a fast-acting neurological venom in a crew member's face.  After recovering, he reports it causes euphoric hallucinations, meaning, for instance, the creature's hideous form appears as beautiful and its awful shrieking as an angelic song, rather like the mermaids and sirens from stories in human history.  In the latest issue, has call has attracted others of its kind from the deep sea, who are attacking the station.

There's not really a lot in it that's original, but it's very well executed and truly scary.  I get a strong John Carpenter's Thing-vibe from it, something about highly-competent individuals trapped in an isolated area with an alien killing machine.  I'm definitely looking forward to seeing where it goes.

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