Friday, 21 September 2018

Review: Galileo's Daughter

Galileo's Daughter Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a while to finish this book but not because I wasn't enjoying it and not because it was a heavy read... It just seemed to take a long time and I'm not sure why.

It was really enjoyable. All the time I was reading it, I would talk to people and find my self starting sentences with, "I'm reading this book about Galileo...". I suspect most people only know the headline: religion versus science. This book makes it clear it that is a horrendous over-simplification. For instance, Galileo's Daughter suggests that Galileo was a good Catholic who worked hard to make sure his book did not fall foul of church doctrine. It also made me aware that science, as we know it now didn't exist: Galileo was inventing it in the face of opposition from his peers (e.g. most people know about the famous experiment where he dropped two balls off the Leaning Tower of Pisa but I didn't realise that many of his contemporaries refused to accept the evidence, preferring instead to cling to the wisdom of the ancients). But is also hinted that for all his brilliance he was not always wise: for example, he seemed to enjoy humiliating his rivals and perhaps it was not wise to put the words of the pope in the mouth of a character called "Simplicio" (which, in Italian suggests "simpleton").

The reason for the book's title is that it prominently features letters sent to him from his daughter. While the insight into covent life was interesting, I must admit I would have been quiet happy to have missed that aspect of the book.

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Saturday, 1 September 2018

Review: iZombie, Vol. 1: Dead to the World

iZombie, Vol. 1: Dead to the World iZombie, Vol. 1: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story was OK but I felt it was just beginning when this collection came to an end. There were some good ideas (e.g. cute zombie, ghost that's stuck in the past, a not werewolf, ...) but at times it felt a bit derivative (was anybody else reminded of the TV show "Being Human"?).

The artwork is similarly uneven. Mike Allred is clearly talented (some great covers, artwork overlapping interestingly placed panels, the sketches at the end of the book, ...) but often his work looks strangely flat. For example, there is a section where two characters walk across the bottom of the screen while stuff happens in the panels above: an opportunity to inject something dynamic which is squandered by the cookie cutter nature of the walking people.

In summary, interesting but not interesting enough.

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Thursday, 9 August 2018

Review: Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A friend raved about this book and, given the number of five star ratings it has here, it is clearly loved by many others. I thought it was good but not great.

I was tempted to give it three stars because of a major problem I have with a major plot point but in the end gave it four stars because it was a fun read. I liked the art, it made me laugh a couple of times and the pop culture references worked for me ("If you'll be my bodyguard, you can call me Al?")

My problem is with the basic premise of the book. I just cannot buy into the idea that the last two male mammals would be allowed to wander off on a quest for answers and fiancées. Seriously? Not a chance. Even if the post-event world was full of peace and love instead of a chaos and destruction, the last male would be held somewhere secure. He would be prodded and pressed in a search for answers... and descendants. His mum had the right idea: keep him secret, keep him safe.

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Friday, 6 July 2018

Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book that has made me cry. The other book made me cry because of real world events as much as because of the book itself.

This book made me cry because it was beautiful and painful... and truthful.


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Review: Hacker

Hacker Hacker by Malorie Blackman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Worth saying at the start that I am not the target audience... but I enjoyed this book anyway.

The Computing is extremely dated but right for the time it was written; Majorie had clearly done her homework. So, a big thumbs up from Computing Scientist me.

The grown up me can’t help but think the story would have been much shorter if, at any number of points, one of the children had just spoken to an adult. The young teen me though would have understood why they didn’t, would have felt things as intensely as the characters (...my parents will get divorced if I fail my Maths exam!) and would have told my grown up self to shut up.

Teacher me got really annoyed at the dad’s defence to the headteacher (“Are you calling my daughter a liar?”). Young teen me would have said, “You tell her, dad!”

What can I say? I enjoyed this book. Young teen me would have enjoyed it even more.

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Friday, 29 June 2018

Review: Ultimate Comics Avengers Vol. 1: The Next Generation

Ultimate Comics Avengers Vol. 1: The Next Generation Ultimate Comics Avengers Vol. 1: The Next Generation by Mark Millar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book confused me at first. When I picked it up in the charity shop, I just saw Mark Millar’s name and Avengers. I failed to spot the “Ultimate” bit and, having not encountered any previous work from the Ultimate universe, it didn’t really mean anything to me anyway. Hence my confusion. Tony Stark is a useless, untrustworthy drunk... with an obnoxious big brother? Nerd Hulk? Hawkeye with guns? Hmm!? Once I relaxed, I kind of enjoyed it. (Apart from Tony Stark big brother. He remained annoying throughout.)

Worst thing? Some ill judged attempts at humour at the expense of the French. I suspect Millar was aiming for irony but, in my opinion, he missed. (The Hawkey of humour he is not.)

Best thing? Seeing Captain America in action; taking on The Avengers (and the bad guys) and winning! (Not really a spoiler - good guy wins in the end. Surprise!) We see him really living up to the name “Super Soldier”. Super not just in terms of his fighting ability but as super planner and super tactician. Excellent.

For letting me see Captain America in this new light, I’m willing to forgive everything that rankled.

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Review: Daredevil by Mark Waid, Vol. 1

Daredevil by Mark Waid, Vol. 1 Daredevil by Mark Waid, Vol. 1 by Mark Waid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I first encountered Daredevil through Marvel UK reprints in the late 70s (or early 80s). At the time, it was not easy to source American comics in the UK and Marvel UK was my main source. As far as I remember, I liked Daredevil but somehow, never picked up on him even once American titles became easier to find. But I saw this book in a charity shop, and even though I didn’t know anything about Waid, Rivera and Martin (the creative team), I decided to give it a go.

I’m glad I did.

First, the artwork. Interesting page layouts (like all the little frames introducing his origin story on the first page) and fascinating drawings of what Daredevil would “see” (from the cover with pigeons drawn using the word “flap” to a double page spread of a walk through the city with sounds, smells and dangers highlighted. Brilliant.

And the writing was equally creative. From the opening pages with Daredevil crashing a wedding, stopping a hit and stealing a kiss from the bride, to the way he defeated Bruiser. Outstanding. I also loved the way he dealt with the reveal of Daredevil’s secret identity - flat out denial.

By far and away my favourite section though was his fight with another superhero (no spoiler/reveal of who he was fighting). The way the two opponents not only used each other’s weapons, but used them with great skill, showed just how good these two hero’s are at what they do.

Loved this. I will be on the lookout for more Daredevil and more from Waid, Rivera and Martin.

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