Reviews by eknapp
Still good but treading water.
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We've kind of plateau'd in volume three, the creative storm has abated for now. The wonderfully funny dialogue is still going strong though.

A cyclops barfs on a baby. A planet uses a psychic parasite to add visitors to its ecosystem. Alana learns to fly. Slave Girl gets a name.
Not good.
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In an alternate history England, 1890 saw the island overrun with zombies. Desperate to save some semblance of civilization, the nobility turned themselves into vampires, giving them enough strength to wall off London. The world is now comprised of the vampiric noble elite, an underclass of pissed off humans, and endless zombie hordes always searching for a chink in London's armor.

Fifty years later, Scotland Yard's last homicide detective is tapped to solve the first murder of a vampire in decades.

Disappointing. The art lacks depth; there's virtually nothing to suggest light or shadow. It's all flat-looking figures occupying monochromatic panels. The dialogue is stilted and obvious, and the author keeps re-explaining terms like the reader is an idiot. At least it was quick.
Fun and fluffy. Somehow not as dark as it should be.
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An anthrax attack in Atlanta kills 600,000 people. For murky reasons this enables thousands of dead souls to possess the survivors. The protagonist is a cartoonist whose colossal prick of a dead grandfather begins taking over his body. He and two friends who also have hitchers work together to understand what's happening before they all disappear forever.

Wow, is McIntosh ever hard on his hero. His grandfather dies of age, his wife is killed by lightning right in front of him, his twin sister drowns (and it's partially his fault), his hometown loses 600,000 people--including his two best friends--to a terrorist attack, he dies for 10 minutes in a car accident, and then he comes down with a bad case of possession. I think that was all before page 40. Positively Jobian.

The good stuff was pretty good. McIntosh does a nice job plotting a series of disasters, government responses, social reaction and evolution. A shoe-oriented spontaneous memorial felt right, as did a self-deputized army of God who went around murdering afflicted innocents in order to "exorcise demons." They subscribe to a kill-em-all-and-let-God-sort-em-out philosophy, which I've no doubt is exactly what would happen. The afterlifey stuff is sufficiently bizarre and creepy, dipping lightly into the Eastern mysticism bunk that most of us roll our eyes at. Very believable.

The bad stuff...eh. I have no real complaints. It just didn't break any real ground or blow my mind with its perspicacity. Hitchers is simply a good fun read, and somehow light in spite of all the tension and tragedy.
Awesome. Insightful and funny.
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Ye gods this was excellent. Or at least the first half was. The second half was merely very good.

A girl discovers that she freezes time briefly whenever she orgasms. (Ha, how do you measure brevity when time has stopped? MIND BLOWN) Later as a young woman she meets a man who can do the same thing. They compare notes and histories and eventually join forces, using their odd ability to rob banks so that they can save her library...until the SEX POLICE track them down. [Sinister piano chord]

The intro was an amazing depiction of the scary, lonely hell that is adolescence. This girl does not know what is happening to her and her attempts to understand are stymied. Adults pollute answers with judgment, squeamishness, more judgment, incomplete information, bad information. Her mother calls her a whore just for asking about sex. Other kids give her answers for which she is not ready. There's so much TRUTH in this part of the story. It's rare that I find myself empathizing with, cheering on, feeling for a character to this extent.

The "Criminals" chapters are more straightforward...as straightforward as a time-freezing-orgasmic-bank-robbers plot can be anyway. They have sex in bank bathrooms. They rob said banks. The Sex Police hunt them. They run. It lacks the wonderful insight and commentary of the earlier stuff but it's well-constructed and well-drawn enough to be worthwhile on its own. We're also given the best graphic novel villain name of all time: Kegelface.

And I LOVE that the authors acknowledge some of the logical inconsistencies inherent in freezing time. Why can they smell? Aren't the molecules that they're sensing frozen in place? Why do some machines work and others don't? That stuff drives my inner science pedant nuts.

Complaint: The protagonist's time-stopping boyfriend takes the story a little too deep into Beavis-and-Butthead territory for my taste. While she refers to the sparkly timefreeze period as The Quiet, he calls it Cumworld. Once a day he rubs one out in the bathroom then craps in his boss's potted plant. Which, yeah, kind of funny but....ew. Coulda done without.
Weak science, but big ideas make for a very worthwhile read.
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We are invaded in the near future by elephant-sized, telepathic starfish-like aliens who can scan every human mind within about 8 miles. Because they know every move human armies are going to make as soon as the intent manifests, the Luyten are virtually unbeatable, and over the course of a couple years they grind humanity's numbers from 8 billion to about 3.

In desperation, mankind engineers an army of Defenders: 17-feet tall, 3-legged, tactically brilliant, unsleeping, hyperaggressive giants with no serotonin in their brains to render them telepathy-proof. (The lack of serotonin also diminishes dramatically the Defenders' emotional range, making them simple in some ways. While humans adores them, the two groups have a hard time relating to one another.) The tide turns immediately, the Luyten surrender, and suddenly we're stuck with millions of giant warriors with no one to fight.

Defenders asks a lot of good questions, explores some really cool territory. What would happen next? The Defenders are as alien and terrifyingly powerful as the Luyten were. What do we owe them? Can we coexist with them? What missteps do we need to watch out for? It's all very Mary Shelley.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The tension ramps up when the Defenders demand Australia for their home, and the millions of Luyten prisoners--whom the world governments had promised safety in exchange for their surrender--for slavery and random butchery. McIntosh isn't afraid to think big.

It's not without its faults. Parts of the plot come across as simplistic. Why is Australia handed over so easily? Millions of people are willing to just uproot and move to North Dakota? Man's guarantee of safety to the Luyten MUST be sincere (they read minds!), so how could people be so easily ready to hand them over to the Defenders for execution etc? How does a third leg work, physiologically? As written it sounds like they're just glued on. If there's only one sex, what makes it "male"?

Overall it's a big win though. The bizarre Defender psychology works particularly well. Great fun.