Reviews by eknapp
Beautiful but sometimes dull.
Saul Garamond is a young London man whose father is murdered, and Saul stands accused. Before he can plead his case, a shadowy figure breaks him out of prison and recruits him to do battle against a homicidal, maniacal, centuries-old flautist (whose identity you can probably guess).

King Rat initially is a "hidden London" book in the vein of Neverwhere or London Falling (it's not as good as either). Saul discovers a new layer to the city which he can inhabit and traverse while hiding in plain sight. Later it has elements of another Gaiman novel, American Gods, as Saul takes up with a trio of anthropomorphic demigods: King Rat, Anansi (a Caribbean spider god and the protagonist of yet another Gaiman story) and Loplop, the king of birds.

I find Miéville's style alternately beautiful and boring. He writes roads the way George R R Martin writes food: in lengthy, excruciating, unnecessary detail.

Why do I need to know all that??

It annoyed me a little that the author tried to write rats without knowing much about them. Trust me, China, a rat would have little trouble turning around while standing on a pencil; a mooring line would be like a sidewalk for a rat.

The ending was uninspired. It had almost the exact same villain meeting the exact same fate as in the Fables spinoff Peter & Max, though, so maybe with this particular bad guy it's unavoidable.

Eh, overall it was enjoyable enough I suppose. And hell I learned a new word! That's worth a few points in my book.

FUNAMBULATION--noun. The act of walking on a tightrope. Rope-dancing.
Great plot/awful writing
"Redshirts" is about the disposable, low-ranking crew of the Universal Union flagship Enterprise Intrepid, who get killed off at a statistically alarming rate. They live in terror of being called upon for "away missions" by the ship's heroic captain, science officer, doctor, engineer, and navigator.

:-D It's flat out hilarious and geekishly satisfying.
X-( The atrocious dialogue and boring, one-dimensional characters made my head hurt.
:-D Scalzi cleverly calls out Star Trek for a slew of sins against logic and science. His redshirt characters compile statistics about the absurd death rate and question why High Command takes it in stride. They observe the ways in which the laws of physics are bent or broken during dramatic incidents: pointless explosions on the bridge, the navigator and engineer leading dangerous exploratory missions for no reason, plot-convenient facts popping into their heads when they didn't know them before, etc. It's gratifying.
X-( The characters' conversations sound painfully awkward, like they're reading from cue cards and don't know what the words mean. It's stilted, wooden, and cringe-inducing. "The fungus relaxes people, not makes them attack anyone in the room, requiring them to defend themselves." That's an actual line from this book.
:-D The whole thing is very meta and Scalzi handles it skillfully, at one point even subtly acknowledging the reader. The post-climax codas at the end of the book are a nice inclusion, exploring some of the tangential fallout of the big plot resolution. I'm glad to have read "Redshirts". Easy five stars.
X-( Each character is given one superficial distinguishing trait, that's it. They're otherwise identical. And even in a book ABOUT bad science fiction writing, the author's lack of knowledge stands out. I don't think he'd recognize science if it walked up and formulated a hypothesis at him. One star and that feels generous.

("Redshirts" left me feeling pretty ambivalent.)
Remarkably coarse and wonderful.
Re-read for the first in years for the Graphic Novel Reading Group. It's as profane and demented as I remember it being. Ennis must have dumped every good idea he'd ever had into it, it's just jam-packed with fascinating ideas: the Genesis-baby, the angel hierarchy, the Saint of Killers character, Cassidy the hard-drinking hard-living all-around-great-guy Irish vampire, Arseface, the Voice of God, the Abdication, and John Wayne (echoing Elvis in Tarantino's "True Romance") for starters. Wall-to-wall brain-fizzling full-court press of enthrallment.

Noticed for the first time on rereading how weird the central goal is. It sounds cool, a preacher who vows to physically track down God and charge Him with not living up to his responsibilities to his Creation. But seriously even in Ennis-land who would think of that? Why would he think it's remotely feasible? It's silly, and it only worked for me initially because it was drowned out by all the WTF going on.

Still an easy five-stars. Even on re-read it exceeds my expectations.
Drab writing but terrific ideas.
A SOCIAL-science fiction novel. A new subgenre, perhaps?

In the near future, a company develops a method (personality testing, brain mapping, and complex algorithm) for grouping people behaviorally and socially into "Affinities". It's a little like a dating service but an Affinity is comprised of people that trust each other naturally and cooperate extremely effectively. The Affinities tells the story of the creation, heyday, and collapse of the Affinities through the eyes of one early joiner.

It's a fascinating concept, the idea that all this social power is out there just waiting to be tapped. But Wilson goes a step further by addressing the implications of such a phenomenon, things that might logically follow from the rise of powerful, hyper-collaborative yet naturally exclusionary social units. Affinity-oriented financial institutions. Successful, landless virtual-states, as family and national loyalty is trumped by Affinity loyalty. Inter-Affinity warfare. I love this stuff.

It doesn't have a happy ending, exactly, and yet there's an air of optimism about the future. Wilson doesn't provide answers to global warming, overpopulation, poverty, or any of the other great world problems. But he offers kind of a blurry outline of what a solution might look like. It's neat.

Bland writing and a certain ineptitude for action scenes kept this from being a 5 star read for me. But I'm glad I read it.
Fantastic standalone graphic novel.
A young, broke, lonely artist makes a deal with Death: he gains the ability to sculpt anything he can conceive of with just his hands, in any material, but will die after 200 days. Naturally, the sculptor then meets the girl of his dreams.

It's like a practical companion to McCloud's brilliant comics manual [book:Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art|102920]. He demonstrates many of its concepts to great effect: various panel transitions, panel bleeds to expand time, polyptychs, staggered and overlapping panels. It's black and white but there's so much texture that it doesn't feel like it. McCloud uses a lot of interesting perspectives.

Hands are very important, appearing in the vast majority of frames, closeups as well as long shots.

But it's not just the illustration that drew me in. The story is engrossing, as the sculptor tries frantically to find his masterpiece, make a name for himself, and be with his girlfriend while time inexorably runs out. Amazing book.