DWJ ReRead · Fantasy · Science Fiction

Getting lost in the Great Forest (DWJ’s Hexwood)

“Controller Borasus sighed with relief. Libraries were not places of danger. It had to be a hoax.” ― Diana Wynne Jones, Hexwood

It’s funny how long I’ve waited to reread Hexwood, when it’s the book that made me think about doing this reread in the first place. I first read this book when it was reprinted back in 2000, and was thoroughly confused by it. A couple of years later, I distinctly remember enjoying it but I barely remember the plot. I remembered a forest and a roleplaying game gone wrong, and characters being pulled in to act out scenarios, but nothing more. I also remember that it was more difficult to get through compared to the other DWJs I had been reading at the time. And… that was about it. Continue reading “Getting lost in the Great Forest (DWJ’s Hexwood)”

Romance · Science Fiction

A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray

A Million Worlds With You is the third of the Firebird series in which the characters can jump between multiverses. The protagonist is Marguerite, whose parents are famous scientists and the inventors of this dimension-hopping tech. When her father is murdered, Marguerite has to go after the killer as he jumps from dimension to dimension. She’s determined to get her revenge, but with each jump, Marguerite learns of the life of another alternate Marguerite, and it makes her wonder if there’s such a thing as fate.

Honestly, I went into this series not knowing what to expect (besides the typical YA thing) and was happy to find it reminiscent of one of my favourite books as a kid, Continue reading “A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray”

Science Fiction

Thoughts on Ninefox Gambit & Too Like the Lightning

Year 1438
Month of Jumada
al-jum’a (Jumaat) the 13th

Dear reader,

The Sci-Fi Experience (hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings) is a challenge that isn’t really a challenge, in which readers “a) continue their love affair with science fiction, b) Return to science fiction after an absence, or c) Experience for the first time just how exhilarating science fiction can be.” You can read/watch/play anything SFnal for it, between December 1st and January 31st. While I usually participate when it comes to reading and watching, these days I realise that the reviewing part of challenges get harder to do. Because I’ve been busier lately, yes. But also because I find these books so mindblowingly amazing and I don’t really know what to say other than “I find this book mindblowingly amazing.”

So I’m not going to write a review. (And I’m not even posting this within the challenge dates!) Continue reading “Thoughts on Ninefox Gambit & Too Like the Lightning”

Comics · Science Fiction

Mooncop by Tom Gauld

mooncopI really enjoyed Tom Gauld’s cartoons in You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, and was interested in Goliath when it came out, but I think Mooncop is my first time reading one of his longer comics. Mooncop is so wonderfully spare, which brings a sense of melancholic beauty. The titular Mooncop – a cop working on the moon – has been living on the moon for some time, but unlike our dreams of life in space, his lunar experience is rather stark.

More and more jobs on the moon are being replaced by robots, and one by one the other inhabitants begin to leave. The story begins with his small adventures, if you could call them that – searching for a lost dog, returning a rogue robot. The main constant in his life is the automated donut stall where he gets his coffee and donuts. As he watches more people leave, he wonders if he should get a transfer back to earth…

The lonely, empty moon and its inhabitants were drawn in muted tones, and I finished the book feeling a little bit sad.

“Living on the moon . . . Whatever were we thinking? . . . It seems so silly now.”

A character made this comment to the mooncop, and I guess just as they had forgotten the human aspect of science – even on the moon, people needed to be able to connect to other people – we on earth are slowly replacing these human connections with machines, too. Technology makes everything easier, and machines are more efficient at many things, but this book reminds me that there’s a reason I’m still hanging on to the analog for certain things (zines, piles of notebooks, and snail mail are still the way to go!) Would I still volunteer to live on the moon, though? Most probably. If I can bring all my books. And my cat.

Comics · Fantasy · Science Fiction

Mari Reads the Marvel Universe, Part 2

In which I read the first volumes of the All-New All-Different Marvel Universe, or at least the ones that caught my attention! (Part one here.)

All-New X-Men Vol. 1: Ghosts of Cyclops by Dennis Hopeless & Mark Bagley

allnewxmen1While I enjoyed the first couple of volumes of Bendis’ run of All-New X-Men, I have to admit that I haven’t read the whole run, so I started this new volume with no idea as to what the characters are up to. Turned out that by this time Scott Summers has died (I knew this part, having read mentions of it elsewhere), and the young!Cyclops have decided to no longer use his powers (I didn’t know this). When a group of new mutants began to commit crimes under the name of the older Cyclops, going as far as to call themselves the Ghosts of Cyclops, Scott Summers may have to get back on the superhero wagon… this time, with young!Beast, young!Iceman, young!Angel, the new Wolverine, Kid Apocalypse and Oya.

Things I liked: The new group. The only one in this new group that I really liked is Laura (Wolverine), but I’m enjoying their group dynamics so far. I’m starting to like Kid Apocalypse and Oya a lot. And yes, I like reading about the young!X-men because they’re the X-Men I remember from my own childhood, rather than the people they ended up becoming. Oh, and Pickles! I love Pickles.

Things I disliked: the fact that I’m still in kind of a blur over what happened to the other X-men? Do I have to read Extraordinary X-Men to get to the rest of the story? Because I tried the first volume, and couldn’t make it past the second issue. Which is sad because I love Storm.

Will new/old fans like it? Well. I like it, and I’m a mix of both old (I read X-Men as a kid) and new (I’m not really up-to-date with the X-men/mutant stories). But it’s not my favourite, either. Continue reading “Mari Reads the Marvel Universe, Part 2”

Comics · Fantasy · Science Fiction

Mari reads the Marvel Universe, Part 1

Well… not quite the entire Marvel Universe. I did think about trying every single volume ones that came out from the All-New All-Different Marvel Universe, but I’m a lot busier at work than I ever was these days, and I barely have time to catch up with work-related reading. Luckily, checking out promising Vol 1s is also a part of work – so I decided to go with selected titles that caught my eye at our New Arrivals.

Invincible Iron Man Vol. 1: Reboot by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

ironmanI like Tony Stark (even though he annoys me sometimes), but I haven’t checked out any of his solo titles until now. The reason I’m finally reading this? Bendis, of course. And also the fact that it’s a Volume One – I wonder why a simple renumbering made me more apt to pick up a title. Anyway, in the post-Secret Wars world, Tony (1) is no longer as rich as he used to be (but is still pretty rich), (2) makes a new Iron Man suit, and (3) has a new love interest (and I really like her). There are also other spoilery twists that I won’t share, of course. Also in this volume: Doctor Doom! Doctor Strange! Madame Masque! Mary Jane!

Things I liked: Friday, Tony’s A.I. I really do hope that Friday in the Marvel Cinematic Universe could be at least half as snarky as the one in this comic. And I know the fact that the Tony Stark in this run is more RDJ-like than usual, but I don’t really mind that one bit (in fact, I love it), because RDJ was the reason why I started to give his character a chance in the first place.

Things I disliked: Dr. Doom. Not one of my fave villains, and although the depiction of the new him is refreshing, I know it can’t last very long.

Will new/old readers like this? I think this is a good volume for newbies to start with, and a fun one for older readers, unless they hate the RDJ-fication of Iron Man’s character, of course.

Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1: Lost Future by Gerry Duggan and Ryan Stegman

uncannyavengersThis is a title I didn’t think I’d pick up at all… but rather enjoyed, anyway. Old man Steve Rogers assembles a new team of superheroes, consisting of humans, mutants and inhumans! The Avengers Unity Squad’s agenda is to promote peace between the races, but this doesn’t really work out all that well – there’s some tension between the mutant and inhuman members, and in the beginning a prominent member decides to leave the team on account of the fact that Steve Rogers allowed Deadpool in.

Things I liked: the exploration of the mutants/inhuman tensions, how each group are treated differently by humans, and the consequences of Black Bolt terrigen bombs. The fact that many of these characters are outsiders or don’t quite belong elsewhere, which of course was why I loved Uncanny X-Men, the first Marvel series I ever followed as a kid. Rogue and Human Torch sniping at each other. Quicksilver being Quicksilver. Deadpool!! I enjoy the Deadpool in this run, although I don’t know how long he could last as a non-killing member of Avenger.

Things I disliked: not quite a dislike, but the plot points could be convoluted for new readers, who wouldn’t know about the terrigen bombs or the disease infecting the mutants because of it. Oh, and there’s a storyline involving Red Skull and Xavier that I didn’t like.

Will new/old readers like this? I think yes, if you’re reading for the characters. Newbies would have to look up some stuff on their own, or read previous comics, which I suppose can be a turn-off. Older fans of X-Men might enjoy this more than fans Avengers, maybe.

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1: Worldwide by Dan Slott & Giuseppe Camuncoli

spiderman1Parker Industries is doing well (much better than Stark Industries, one might say) and Peter Parker is traveling all over with his “bodyguard” Spider-Man in tow. Lots of meh villains, including a group that calls themselves the Zodiac, and some awesome heroes show up. I really, really, really was hoping to fall in love with this series, but judging from this volume, it isn’t going to happen.

Things I liked: Peter’s tribute to the (now-defunct) Fantastic Four. Peter’s friendship with Johnny Storm. The fact that Peter finally gets to be the genius he’s always been.

Things I disliked: The villains and the running plotlines in this volume just failed to interest me.

Will new/old readers like this? The current Peter/Spider-Man may confuse newbies, especially if they’re only familiar with the film adaptations – there’s a lot of catching up to do. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t like it! As for older readers, maaaaybe fans of early Iron Man would enjoy this more than fans of early Spider-Man?

All-New All-Different Avengers Vol. 1: The Magnificent Seven by Mark Waid and Adam Kubert

avengers1Mark Waid! Kamala Khan! Sam Alexander! Miles Morales! This is a must-read for me, definitely. In fact, this is one of the two titles I’m currently subscribed to (I really can’t afford to subscribe to more than two titles, although sometimes I cave and buy random issues). In the post-Secret Wars world, there hasn’t been a functioning Avengers team (somehow nobody counted the Unity Squad?), until an alien threat surfaces, and a group of heroes had to work together to counter it. The new team: Captain America (Sam Wilson), Thor (Jane Foster), Vision, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Nova (Sam Alexander), and Miles Morales (Spider-Man). With three new super-young members, I wonder if the ex-Young Avengers are a little bitter. As far as this volume goes, I was a little indifferent to the adult members of the team (despite liking their characters, and solo comics), and found that it was the younger members that really drove the story.

Also, now that Tony had to sell off the Stark Tower, and can’t fund the team the way he used to, being an Avenger doesn’t have the same perks as before.

Things I liked: All the Nova/Ms. Marvel/Spider-Man bits, definitely. And the bits where they’re limited by their low budget. And Captain America/Thor revelations.

Things I disliked: I am obviously very, very biased, but I can’t think of anything.

Will new/old fans like this? It could go either way. Sometimes this title may seem to be more like a Ms. Marvel or Nova comic with a supporting cast of heroes than an Avengers comic, which I have absolutely zero complaints about, but I’m sure fans of the other heroes will be dissatisfied about. BUT I’ve a feeling that Waid will focus more on the other characters in due time, so it might be worth it to continue reading.

Guardians of the Galaxy: New Order Vol. 1: Emperor Quill by Brian Michael Bendis & Valerio Schiti

guardians1In this series, we find that Peter Quill is no longer with the Guardians, having taken on his new role as the emperor of the Spartax. Rocket Raccoon is the new leader (yay!) with Groot and Drax, plus Kitty Pryde (the new Star Lord!), Ben Grimm (The Thing), and Flash Thompson (Venom). Now, I LOVE Kitty Pryde – she was my absolute favourite X-Men – and everyone knows I adore Rocket, and I even liked the Peter Quill/Kitty Pryde romance awhile back, but. Somehow, this run doesn’t seem to entertain me as much as I thought it would.

Things I liked: Kitty Pryde. She is maybe even more awesome when in space, as much as she claims to hate space.

Things I disliked: I don’t know if it’s just me, but I found it hard to follow all plotlines – partly due to the fact that I haven’t read Guardians before, I’m sure, but also because I kept getting distracted, and despite liking all these people, this title doesn’t seem to make me care all that much about what happens to them.

Will new/old fans like this? Maybe not. Newbies may want to read older Guardians titles first, and older fans may prefer the older runs anyway.


Doctor Strange Vol. 1: The Way of the Weird by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo

doctorstrange1I have to confess that Doctor Strange is one of the characters that I hardly ever read before this. I’ve never read his solo titles, and he so very rarely makes an appearance in the comics I do read, although he’s been appearing more often recently (thanks, upcoming movie?). So I didn’t have any idea what pre-Secret Wars Doc Strange was like. I did like him in the Secret Wars comics, and I liked what I’ve seen of Chris Bachalo’s art for this series, which were my main reasons for trying it. I’m so glad I did! This title starts with a (slightly confusing) bang: Stephen Strange finding himself fighting monsters while naked, and without any weapons or spell books. It’s okay, though, because he’s confused about the whole thing himself – and when he finally gets clued in as to why, we learn that everything mystical in the multiverse might be in great danger.

Things I liked: I have to say that I REALLY like Stephen Strange in this run. And the fact that the new character introduced is a librarian. And the art, oh so gorgeous in some parts. The majesticness of Doctor Strange’s cape. The fact that the main plot hinges on the price of magic, too. The sheer weirdness of his sanctum sanctorum. (WHY haven’t I read any Doctor Strange before this, again?)

Things I disliked: Can’t think of anything!

Will new/old fans like this? The writing catches you up without being clogged up with backstory, so it’s probably the perfect place to start reading Doctor Strange.

DWJ ReRead · Science Fiction · Short Story

“Mela Worms” by Diana Wynne Jones

arrowsoferos1I think this is the first DWJ adult fiction that I’ve read – not counting Deep Secrets, since I read the expurgated version. “Mela Worms” is a funny (both in the “strange” and “haha” sense) story that is somehow still VERY DWJ-esque despite the sex. And there’s a lot of sex, since this story first appears in Arrows of Eros, an anthology specifically created to address sex in science fiction. I don’t think it was ever reprinted elsewhere.

Fingi is an officer on planet-leave as the ship she works on, Bon Quin, docks on the planet Reiss. Fingi hates Reiss because it’s human-made and she openly admits to being prejudiced against humans. I’m not sure about the true source of her prejudice, but I do understand why she would hate Reiss.

“They say the humans who built Reiss were pirates. I believe it. Their harbour dues made Yanni turn pale and they had already slapped on extra charges in all directions. Before I went upstairs to the interior, I had to pay a fee for the air I was going to breathe. There was a grille across the exit, and there I found I had to buy a permit to drink water and another, costing twice as much, to drink alcohol. Naturally I asked for an information cube then, thinking there must be some sights they didn’t charge you to see. Not a bit of it. The cube, costing as much as the other permits put together, informed me that I hadn’t yet paid my entry fee, and when I had, it kept flashing up: Penalty for littering 1,000 CR. Additional penalty for littering gutters up to ten years hard labour. After which it listed amusements in order of price.

Reminds me of a certain tiny island. Ha. Anyway, with not much money left, Fingi goes to the zoo, which only costs 1.5CR and is basically the cheapest entertainment available to her. There, she wonders about why humans were so proud of their ancenstry as she looks at the caged apes, and is approached by four men of varying species. Assuming that they’re looking for free sex she rejects them, but they go after her, causing her to run in order to avoid a fight (which would get her fined). She ends up not just causing array, but also littering, by throwing one of the men into a gutter, and quickly heads back to her ship… to find out that her human captain Yanni has accepted over a hundred paying passengers (including the four men that had approached her!), and a cargo of mela worms that needed to be kept at a particular temperature at all times.

Fingi doesn’t know the exact temperature, since she’s only told that the room is too hot or too cold, nor does she know what mela worms were, until they escape from storage and wreak havoc on the libidos of everyone on board. (Yup, the worms create a scent that seem to make everyone want sex all the time, although it also seems to affect some species more than others.) So while the passengers and crew were engaged in orgies, Fingi is now desperate to collect and store the worms safely before the captain gives up on piloting altogether.

In the end, she gets help from the four men she had met at the zoo, which I think is very Diana Wynne Jonesian, both in the misunderstanding and needing to correct Fingi’s first impressions, and in the subversive take of the “chosen one” subplot. Perhaps it isn’t as great as her YA and children’s fiction, but it’s still funny and a good read, and so far my favourite in the Arrows of Eros anthology (I’ve only read 1/3 of the stories, though.)

Note: Following my original re-read list, “Mela Worms” would’ve been #35, but I just realised that I had listed “The Green Stone” as a 1996 story, when it was first published in 1988, meaning that I’ve accidentally skipped it. I’ve renumbered my original list, and will be doing “The Green Stone” next before moving on to “The Master”.

DWJ RE-READ no.36 | “Mela Worms” (1989)
next story: “The Master”
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