Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart
Brandon Sanderson

Delacorte
Released September 24, 2013
384 pages
YA / Fantasy / Superheroes

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There are no heroes.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

I never had read anything by Brandon Sanderson before though I’d come across his name more times than I could count. He’s one of those authors that people assume I’ve read since I’m such a fan of YA fantasy. He gets showered with accolades and fan praise everywhere I look. So add in that his newest book involved superpowered humans, epic evil and an awesome cover, and I thought it was about time I finally dove into the greatest that was Brandon Sanderson’s fiction.

Sanderson is a really good writer with speedy pacing, vivid characters and the capability of making the fantastical seem probable. He’s also a very stylized writer, which is a great thing for anyone writing fantasy but it’s always hit or miss with a reader on if the “stylization” fits. Unfortunately a lot about Sanderson’s style just didn’t work for me. It started with the relabeling of Chicago to Newcago once it was a city of steel hundreds of feet into the ground and grew as the protagonist went on numerous pointless internal monologues that made me want to slap him in the face.

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Mini Review: Control by Lydia Kang

Control
Lydia Kang

Dial Books for Young Readers
Received an ARC through the Around the World ARC Tour
Releases December 26, 2013
400 pages
YA / Science Fiction / Superpowers

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An un-putdownable thriller for fans of Uglies

When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before—teens who shouldn't even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends’ peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl’s DNA.

A spiraling, intense, romantic story set in 2150—in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms—this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes.

I can’t imagine having four arms is the best superpower or being green and metabolizing sunlight like a human plant. While not the best superpowers, these odd and very specific mutations made for a really fun science fiction romp through a well-developed mad world. Lydia Kang has taken a somewhat done concept of mutants in the real world and added a unique quality with strange characters and the mystery of a missing sister.

Control opens with a gruesome car wreck that leaves Zel and her younger sister, Dyl, sudden orphans that are unknowingly being followed by the legacy of their scientist father’s secret life. After being separated at the equivalent of a foster home, Zel finds herself in a tower full of locked doors and mysterious mutant inhabitants, but without her sister. The rest of the book finds Zel doing everything in her power to find and retrieve her sister from another group of misfit mutants who have more sinister plans.

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Mini Review: Blackout by Robison Wells

Blackout
Robison Wells

HarperTeen
I received an e-ARC of this book in return for an honest review.
Releases October 1, 2013
432 pages
YA / Superpowers / Fantasy

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Laura and Alec are trained terrorists.

Jack and Aubrey are high school students.

There was no reason for them to ever meet.

But now, a mysterious virus is spreading throughout America, infecting teenagers with impossible powers. And these four are about to find their lives intertwined in a complex web of deception, loyalty, and catastrophic danger—where one wrong choice could trigger an explosion that ends it all.

It’s been over a month since I read this book, an odd superpowered terrorists versus the rest of the human race story. While reading it, I was never truly engaged with the story, often rolling my eyes, but I never outright yelled at the characters (as I did with The Girl of Fire & Thorn). Instead I was generally disinterested, continuing more because I felt I had to rather than because I wanted to. It wasn’t until after I was done and a few hours had gone by for me to process that I realized that I had a lot of issues with this book.

So I delayed writing a review until that ranting feeling had subsided, but as the ranty faded away, my memory of much detail drifted away with it. You have teenagers with superpowers caused by… something… and they’re all terrorists for who know what reason. So the government rounds up all the teenagers to test them for the gene giving them superpowers and puts them in nice internment camps until the coast is clear. Some superpowered individuals start to work with the army even though they are undertrained, not remotely trusted by the adults or have a real clue what they’re doing.

It just seemed like a weak premise and without much background behind the terrorist movement, Laura, Alec and their ilk seemed like they were on a death and destruction tour with no real purpose or meaning other than to destroy. Aubrey spends her time hating her ability to be invisible and being mostly a wuss about everything. When she and Jack begin to realize there’s something a little off about their cohorts, there decision continues to slide downhill and very quickly.

On the barest of levels, the ideas that compiled to become Black Out could have been an interesting superpower story of mass destruction. Instead it was a jumble of shaky motives and bland characters that made this an entirely forgettable book.

 

I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. Opinions are only my own.

Trailer Park Friday: It's Up Front Week Which Means NEW TELEVISION SHOWS!

If you stop by regularly, you will have noticed that I've been really off schedule. I blame home improvement project bleeding into the work week and a weird sort of eye infection thing that made extra time on a computer uncomfortable, but things are winding down so hopefully I'll be around more regularly.

This week was Up Front Week. For those of you not obsessed with television like me, it means this was the week when all the networks previewed their new shows for the fall and midseason. Now I can obsessively plan the ridiculous amount of television I will watch in the near future. Here are some of the shows I'm most eagerly anticipating.

First up is the show I am most excited about watching and I can't imagine the trailer not being at Comic Con. That would be, of course, ABC's Agents of SHIELD and it has lots of Coulson awesomeness to go around.

Continuing with ABC, there is Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, which has an awful title that made me incredibly leery of this Once Upon a Time spin off. Then I watched the trailer and it actually looks really entertaining despite it's Suckerpunch-esque conceit. Plus Alice looks like she might be able to handle herself when in trouble, which is always nice to see.

Resurrection looks like a movie, not a series. I don't know how you expand this into a long running series, but it may be worth a viewing.

Now to Fox. They really only have one show that I'm excited about, but I'm REALLY excited about it. Karl Urban + android sidekick = HELL YES! Unfortunately it won't come on until mid-season. It's called Almost Human and makes me very happy.

The CW is packing their schedule with more sci-fi and urban fantasy shows since that's what keeps the lights on over there. Here is a scene from The Tomorrow People for all of you who needs more Arnell in your life beyond Arrow as it stars that Arnell's cousin, Robbie Arnell. It doesn't look like anything new, but it does look kind of cool for second tier network television.

Another CW show, this one is called Star Crossed and is essentially about insanely attractive aliens with facial tattoos getting integrated into a high school. Enevitably the hottest alien boy will fall for the most attractive human female and it'll be some badly veiled metaphor for acceptance. I just hope it's better than the movie version of I Am Number Four.

The CW has a couple of other new shows that sound interesting. Unfortunately the clip for The 100 - about a ship of 100 deliquents being returned to a post-apocalyptic world after 100 years - looks pretty bland. The others are midseason shows and don't have clips available yet (or at least that I've been able to find).

I'm not exactly CBS' target audience and I find most of the shows that have some sort of trigger that may appeal to me eventually become boring and flat. But there is one show coming up in midseason that looks pretty cool and not just because Josh Holloway is going to star in it. He is some sort of spy with uber crazy robot intelligence and of course he's a badass. This show is uncreatively called Intelligence.

And finally there is NBC, which is filling it's slate with cop dramas and horribly generic comedies. They do, however, have Dracula, which looks like it would be much better on pay cable and probably won't last on network television, but I will most likely enjoy the hell out of it while it's around.

There are a bajillion other new shows coming out in the fall. EW has great coverage and all the new trailers and clips. What new show are you most excited about seeing in the fall?

Mini Review: Mind Mgmt Volume 1: The Manager by Matt Kindt

Mind Mgmt Volume One: The Manager
Matt Kindt

Dark Horse Comics
Released April 23, 2013
152 pages
Graphic Novel / Spies / Super Powers

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Matt Kindt, the most original voice in genre comics, outdoes himself in this bold new espionage series! Reporting on a commercial flight where everyone aboard lost their memories, a young journalist stumbles onto a much bigger story - the top-secret Mind Management program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she attempts to find the flight's missing passenger, the man who was MIND MGMT's greatest success - and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees?

This is the most bizarre comic I have ever read, and I could not put it down. It had a weird Fringe vibe if Fringe had involved international espionage and terrorism instead of face-melting and parallel timelines. People with incredible abilities get recruited at a young age into an academy where they learn how to overcome physical harm, manipulate the thoughts of others and hone other creepy useful talents that might be useful to prevent and cause wars, stop rebellions and generally control the world.

The entire first volume tells the journey of Meru, a once-successful true crime writer, who is now lost and directionless. With a push from her publisher, she goes on the hunt for answers behind a flight that landed with all its passengers having lost their memories. This leads her to far-flung South American villages, African towns with mysterious pasts and to a land of talking dolphins (or an aquarium at least). Each clue takes her closer to the truth of what happened on that airplane and what exactly is happening to her. There are immortal thugs chasing her and an odd FBI agent trying to keep her alive. Everything is incredibly bizarre and mysterious. And did I mention the talking dolphins?

In between chapters are short profiles of some of the Mind Mgmt agents that cross Meru’s path, and her path is full of them. Some of these shorts highlight events and things that perhaps will come up in future volumes, but left me seriously intrigued. The entire story is unexpected and surprising, leaving me curious enough that I had a difficult time putting it down. Unfortunately the electronic ARC I had was difficult to read and prevented me from fully getting into this trippy story when I so wanted to drown in all this crazy.

Matt Kindt’s artwork is messy and raw, a beautiful contrast to the sharp, polished perfection of superhero and most mainstream comics. The e-ARC I had was incredibly blurry, which distracted me from truly enjoying the art, but it’s very striking and actively contributes to the mystique of the story. By keeping his art unpolished, it was as if any moment the characters might actually start moving around on the page.

Mind Mgmt was a very pleasant surprise from an author and artist I was previously unfamiliar with. Kindt has a very distinct voice and knack for creating believable twisted versions of our own world. It left me glancing around in public wondering if any of the strangers around me could really be psychic spies or worse. I would recommend this to readers who might want to get into comics but don’t like the capes and tights variety. A very different but enjoyable read.

 

I received an electronic ARC from Dark Horse via Netgalley in return for an honest review. Thank you to Dark Horse for introducing me to something new and trippy that I might not have found otherwise.

Review: Rupture by Curtis Hox

Rupture (Transhuman Warrior #1)
Curtis Hox

Self-Published (2012)
YA / Science Fiction / Supernatural

Simone Wellborn is a Transhuman with an attitude. She’s been genetically engineered from birth to be super smart. The problem? All that tinkering her parents paid top dollar for provided a few unexpected results, like an annoying ability to blast telekinetic energy at the worst possible times. She also has another tricky issue: strange entities possess her and, worse, transform her into something dangerous. 

Simone's mother sends her to the Sterling School for reject Transhumans. While there, she meets a few other students with similar problems. They’re all Transhumans with dirty secrets. Heartthrob Hutto Toth is a charming gladiator. He annoys Simone from day one, but he’s also a Werebear who accidentally killed a boy in a glad match, and Simone can’t stand how much she likes him. There’s two-foot tall Wally Dorsey, who’s determined to pilot a personalized mech. His best friend,  Beasley Gardner, is a mountain of a young girl with enough muscle to beat up any boy at school, but she’s suffers from a rage disorder. Finally, Simone meets Kimberlee Newkirk, an unassuming Succubus who fears she’ll kill the next boy she kisses. 

These defective students find themselves at the center of a deadly conflict when another student, Joss Beckwith, attracts a Rogue Artificial Intelligence, the new power brokers in a society radically changed by science and technology. 

The Transhuman Warrior Series tells the story of Simone and her friends as they’re transformed into highly specialized human weapons. They must challenge the increasing power of the Rogues as these enemies push into Realspace with one goal in mind: total domination.

Rupture is a hodgepodge of a lot of things. It is high-tech science fiction mixed with metaphysical fantasy thrown together with a melodramatic family soap opera that is steeped in cyberpunk. So many things blend together to form this novel that it’s hard to pull the pieces apart to understand fully what’s happening at any given moment. A glossary in the back defining all the science fiction AI terms came a little too late to unmuddle what felt to me to be a very cluttered story.

It takes a while before I figured out who the main character was as Hox introduced several transhuman characters, focusing progressively more on each individual until, about a third of the way in, Simone took center stage. While it helped to get that background on some of the characters, it made it feel very disjointed as though it took a while before the plot had any true direction. Once the story did get going, the combination of misinformation provided by Simone and the cross of metaphysical religious philosophy and cyberpunk science fiction tropes complicated matters beyond my comprehension. How exactly are these AIs taking over humans, becoming solid and creating zombie vampires? And what does that have to do with Simone transforming into some strange giant alien creature from Avatar? And why does the jock turn into a giant grizzly bear? There was no room in the story for more background or exposition, but I needed it to tie everything together. Instead I had to just throw comprehension out the window and go with the flow of the story.

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Review: Touch by Jus Accardo

Touch
Jus Accardo

Entangled Publishing (2011)
251 pages
YA / Fantasy / Superpowers

Purchase it from Amazon

I’m always surprised when I realize in the middle of the book that I’ve just identified a new archetype that I didn’t realize I adored so much. It doesn’t happen that often. I mean, really, there aren’t that many archetypes to explore, much less any that don’t show up in every other book you pick up. And yet in the middle of Touch by Jus Accardo, I found myself giggling hysterically and finding that I have something for extreme fish-out-of-water characters that I didn’t realize before.

Touch is about Denzee Cross, a seventeen-year-old girl who lives to piss off her workaholic father. One night on her way home from a party, she crosses paths with a strange boy being chased by a group of men in weird blue spandex bodysuits. As any teenage girl who lives to piss off her father, she takes the boy, Kale, home with her only to find out that he’s incredibly odd and not only is familiar with her father, but also thinks he’s the embodiment of evil. Turns out her father is a higher up in a company that utilizes people with “special abilities” in covert tasks and Kale has the ability to turn people into dust just by touching them. When he touches Dez, trying to kill her to spite her father, he finds that she’s immune and then they run off together to unwrap a giant conspiracy and possibly save the world.

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