Reviews by eknapp
Whut the whut?!
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This is like if Lost finished halfway through the second episode. This is how I felt when HBO prematurely yanked the plug on Carnivale. NOOOOO! IT'S NOT FINISHED! Did Paul Cornell see a squirrel and just decide to be done?? Yes, I know that makes no sense. That's the point!

Vol 2 zips through the entirety of the presidential race, occasionally flashing some insightful commentary on the process of campaigning but never pausing to breathe. It's a highlight reel, and it could have been so much more.

Meanwhile, Professor Kidd continues to wrestle with his hallucinations and eventually does in fact uncover their source (this is the only plot thread that generates any closure). He notes afterward, "Part of me misses the mystery." Perhaps that's the author's way of telling the reader to embrace Saucer Country's mysteries because he sure as hell won't be getting any resolution.
Unexpectedly good.
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Paul Cornell's horrifying witch tale London Falling was simply terrific. His fantasy comic Demon Knights was awful. A Better Way to Die, his short story contribution to GRRM's anthology Rogues, was uneven, a promising effort that fell flat. The guy is just all over the place.

He dekes again by taking what bodes to be a pulpy crapfest of a concept--flying saucers--and somehow crafting from it an intelligent, thoughtful exploration of UFO mythology combined with a fairly shrewd study of an unlikely candidate's run for the presidency.

The main character is a divorced Hispanic woman, the governor of New Mexico, and a very improbably presidential candidate. She's also an alien abductee. She's forced to walk a particularly wobbly tightrope: using the power of her unique position to investigate what happened to her, running the brutal campaign gauntlet, and preventing the public from learning that the potential next chief executive sort-of-maybe believes in little gray men from outer space. Not to mix my metaphors, but Cornell keeps all three balls in the air with wonderful deftness.

Having read this right on the heels of the execrable Demon Knights, my expectations were very low and Saucer Country turned out to be a wonderful surprise. I keep thinking it must be a different Paul Cornell, but I've checked three times and Goodreads keeps insisting it's the same guy.
Beautiful and empty.
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A marauding horde led by a "Questing Queen" and her sorcerer lover attacks a small village en route to greater plunder, only to find that the local tavern is coincidentally packed with insanely powerful warriors and mages. None of whom are affiliated. They just happen to be there at the same time. By chance. Half of them are immortal.

Most of the volume is comprised of elaborately drawn, beautifully rendered stabbings, beheadings, disembowelings, and dragon/demon-burnings, with the occasional mangling and pulverization thrown in. You know, for variety.

The dialogue runs the gamut from decidedly-not-good to just-embarrassingly-bad. The characters generally shout, and they say exactly what is happening and what they're going to do next:

"I WANT TO DRINK ALE. YOU ARE A TAVERN, BUT YOUR DOORS ARE CLOSED AND LOCKED. I AM NOW GOING TO BREAK DOWN YOUR DOORS AND DRINK YOUR ALE."

And:

"WE ARE THE QUESTING QUEEN'S OUTRIDERS. WE ARE NOW GOING TO KILL YOU AND TAKE YOUR BELONGINGS."

Those aren't direct quotes, but they're REALLY close. Man, I wish I still had the volume in hand so I could more accurately convey the extent of the jankiness.

I THINK that Demon Knights is an attempt at a retelling of The Seven Samurai, but there are just enough plot point departures that I'm not sure. If I ever learn that that's the case, I'm docking this another star for shitting on a masterpiece.
I've read better, I've read worse.
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Adam is a charismatic celebrity youth minister who preaches abstinence and proclaims his virginity to the world. Then his girlfriend is murdered in the most horrific way possible and the wheels come off his perfect life. While he rages and grieves--and travels to Africa to claim her body and hunt her killers--we explore the intersection of faith and sex through Adam's eyes.

The dialogue often sparkles, it's the one bright spot in this book. Seagle certainly got the youth pastor right, though the ones I knew didn't say "fuck" quite so much. The back of the volume contains several text-only interviews that are uniformly smart and funny.

Everything else about AV1 was pretty weak.

Pacing--Rushed. Adam is happy ambitious self-righteous bam girlfriend's dead bam off to Africa bam fighting with bad guys. Seriously, take a minute to breathe.

Logic--[SPOILER AHEAD] Adam flies to Africa and literally stumbles into one of the killers. Later, while they're hanging from a bridge, the bad guy spills all to Adam for no reason then commits suicide by cutting the rope and falling to his death. Dude...why didn't you just let go?

Art--Subpar. Backgrounds are often an afterthought. Adam's sister is supposed to be superhot but as drawn appears to be overweight and riddled with acne. Are those supposed to be freckles?

Meh. It's an interesting topic but the execution is lacking.
Creative and disturbing
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It's a rich, amazing world GRRM has orchestrated. Lowball contains endless cameos for fans of the series--Croyd, Curveball, Earth Witch, Carnifex, Drummer Boy, Tesseract, more--as well as some inventive new characters: Eel, Vaporlock, Wheels, El Monstro, Baba Yaga... As one would expect from a Martin creation, no character is safe so you have to check your expectations at page one.

Stuntman struggles with the failure of his bounceback ability. Frank Black gets promoted young and is shunned by his fellow detectives. His partner Michael Black lives the dream with two cohabiting girlfriends and a wonderful ace toddler daughter. Rustbelt searches for Ghost's missing teacher. IBT and Father Squid lead an effort to find missing jokers. Baba Yaga turns people into living (for a short time) furniture. The satellite plots all fit together to tell the story of a kidnapping ring that forces jokers to fight to the death for the entertainment of the bored sadistic wealthy.

My only complaint is that so much of the story goes unresolved. Typically each Wild Cards installments has a contained story arc, but in this case it ends mid-climax. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!