Serenity: Those Left Behind - Joss Whedon et al.
This short comic details the events that occurred between Joss Whedon’s television show Firefly, and its movie adaptation Serenity. Basically, Inara and Shepherd Book leave, and the guys with blue gloves are replaced by the Operative. And you don’t really need this book to tell you that. But the artwork is lovely, and the script is spot-on in terms of capturing the characters‘ banter (it was written by Whedon after all). This is a nice book to keep and thumb through, even if it is unlikely to take up much of your time.
The Year of Our War - Steph Swainston
Now this I really liked. Supposedly this is part of the New Weird movement, which is all about creating decidedly non-Tolkien-esque fantasy. To whit, out with the elves and the dragons and the swords and the sorcery and the poetic heroics, and in with, well, whatever the hell you want.
The Year of Our War is about a flying drug addict called Jant. Jant works as a messenger for the Emperor, who was, apparently, charged by god with preventing giant insects from taking over the land. As one of the Emperor’s Circle, Jant is immortal, which is nice, but he’s also required to be the very best at what he does. Since he’s the only person who can fly, you’d think that’d be pretty easy, but Jant gets involved in all sorts of infighting and backstabbing within the Circle, while seeking respite by taking dangerous quantities of his drug of choice and travelling into the Shift - a strange place where creatures from many different worlds mingle together uneasily. The parts of the book that take place in the Shift were actually among my favourites. Swainston’s already powerful imagination clearly goes into overdrive in these sequences, with the hideous Tine growing people into gory trees as a method of torture and a castle being guarded by a rather unthreatening fibre-tooth tiger (“He can’t bite you, it’s like being mauled by fluff”).
The Year of Our War is pretty insubstantial on the plot front, but Swainston has repeatedly emphasised that this is intended to be only the first part in a much larger story, and in that respect I can say that my appetite is well and truly whet. The Year of Our War embodies in equal parts imagination, drama and character, with a light dose of passion, friendship and romance.
The second book in the series is coming out in paperback this month. Me happy.
There’s a nice interview with Swainston here.
Eden Close - Anita Shreve
You won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve read another book by Anita Shreve. But while I loved Light On Snow, I have a few reservations about Eden Close. The lovely prose, the compelling characters, the palpable emotions - they’re all present in this book, as they were with Light On Snow. But they were accompanied by some slight unpleasantness.
In a sense, Eden Close is a little like The Year of Our War - both are books by women who are exploring the possible positive and negative aspects of a masculine protagonist. But while Swainston’s portrayal of Jant is compelling, if unflattering, Shreve’s portrayal of Andrew starts out as merely unimaginative, and goes on to become slightly disturbing. Then that makes you notice that, as well-crafted emotionally as the story may be, it really is just a story about a psychologically injured woman who needs ‘the right man’ to come along and fix her.