Aliya Whiteley, Skyward Inn (2021)

Author: Aliya Whiteley

Title: Skyward Inn

Format: E-book

Pages: 304

Series: –

I requested Whiteley’s novel after I’ve read her collection of short stories, From the Neck Up and Other Stories. These were unusual, dark and difficult to classify, straddling the border between horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Not all of them were great, but they were unique enough for me to want to read more, with questions concerning identity and humanity, and a significant dose of body horror thrown in the mix. And so I picked up Skyward Inn, whose blurb admittedly didn’t sound too interesting – I gave it a pass the first time it was available, because it just seemed like another generic “alien encounter” novel. But after reading the short stories I reconsidered: nothing written by Whiteley could be really generic.

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Roy Plotnick, Explorers of Deep Time: Paleontologists and the History of Life (2022)

Author: Roy Plotnick

Title: Explorers of Deep Time: Paleontologists and the History of Life

Format: e-book

Pages: 312

Series: –

I’ll be very frank: Roy Plotnick’s book is a strange beast indeed; I have expected something along the lines of Dean R. Lomax’s Locked In Time, a pure palaeontology delight filled with descriptions of unique discoveries and fact-based interpretation of the traces of life long gone. What I got instead was an unusual mixture of a tiny bit of paleontological knowledge, a huge load of pages seemingly lifted from Who’s Who in US palaeontology, overflowing with personal information about various US palaeontologists in the last 50 years, complete with short biography boxes completely disrupting the flow of the book, and a fair amount of what looks like a memoir of Plotnick himself, with personal photographs. In short, if you want to become a palaeontologist in the modern United States, this book is for you. It’s filled with useful information about positions, institutions, big and small names in the field, the development of various palaeontology areas and subdivisions, and so on. But if you want to know a bit more about the contents of palaeontology itself – look somewhere else. I strongly suggest Lomax’s book, because it’s as illuminating as it is engaging. 

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Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball Z (1989 – 1995), part 2

Here we go, as promised months ago, in the first part of the review ;). My enthusiasm for Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z hasn’t changed a bit, even though since then I’ve read loads of other shonen titles: Fullmetal Alchemist, Naruto, Kaijuu no. 8, My Hero Academia, Bleach, One Piece, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba… I still consider Toriyama’s opus magnum the best ;). Though that doesn’t include the most recent run, Dragon Ball Super, which is so bad I refuse to acknowledge it as canon ;).

So, without further ado, here’s my second part of the highly emotional journey through Toriyama’s famous manga. There are tears, and fist pumps, and everything in between ;).

Dragon Ball Z, vol. 12: Enter Trunks!

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5.5/10 stars

The first third, concluding the fight between Goku and Freeza, is simply amazing. Loved every bit of it! All stars!!! And it’s actually the only reason this got five stars instead of one.

Because after that first part… well, to be fair, it was probably impossible to top the Goku-Freeza showdown with anything, really. But the rest of the volume is a disappointment, a major slump in terms of both emotional and martial content, with the coincidental return of Freeza and Goku, over a year later, to Earth, just as a setup for the appearance of a mysterious warrior from the future. Trunks must save the day in the absence of Goku, and while the reveal of Trunk’s parentage was a really fun part, the ease with which he dispatched Freeza and his nasty dad was rather jarring. And then we get the forewarning about evil androids soon to be made by a mad scientist, and the decision to wait for them and train hard just doesn’t make any sense. Aargh. That’s just so lazy.

Honestly, I hoped we had seen the last of the Red Ribbon Army a long time ago. Not to mention that the new Terminator vibes are somehow way less alluring than the old Superman vibes 😉

One of the weakest volumes to date, I’m afraid. Still moderately enjoyable, but nowhere near the usual levels I came to expect from Toriyama’s DB and DBZ.

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K. Eason, Nightwatch on the Hinterlands (2021)

Author: K. Eason

Title: Nightwatch on the Hinterlands 

Format: e-book

Pages: 416

Series: The Weep #1

An opening to a new series set in the Rory Thorne universe, Nightwatch on the Hinterlands is a fast-paced SF noir mystery inspired by WH40K and D&D, featuring a duo of unlikely allies embroiled in a conflict that starts small but grows exponentially – and quite satisfyingly – throughout the book. 

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Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination (1956)

Author: Alfred Bester

Title: The Stars My Destination

Format: e-book

Pages: 258

Series: –

Bester’s SF classic, Tiger, Tiger!, renamed later to The Stars My Destination for the American market, remains one of his most popular and highly valued novels. Praised for originality as a forerunner of cyberpunk, and for respect for classics as a SF retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo (and clear inspiration from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Blake’s Songs of Experience), The Stars My Destination remains an immensely readable book. It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly 70 years old, as the prose and the meta-level of skilfully interwoven references and tropes are still very, almost cuttingly fresh. 

There is a lot to like in this novel, certainly; intriguing ideas, masterful worldbuilding, fast-paced and delightfully twisty plot. The only problem I had with this book was the characters themselves 😉 And it is, sadly, a rather big problem, all the virtues of Bester’s novel notwithstanding. But ad rem.

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