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Books Review

Book Review – Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Carrie Vaughn from friends who read her Kitty Norville series, so when NetGalley had a copy of her new book, Martians Abroad, available to read, I jumped at it.  I’m glad I did, though the book is not without it’s faults.

The story takes place in a future timeline where Earth has settled the moon, Mars, and has stations and colonies out in the belt and on the usual moons.  Sort of like the Expanse, but less grim.  Polly Newton and her brother, Charles, are the kids of the main Martian colony leader.  Polly wants nothing more than to learn to be a pilot, but her mother has other plans – she manipulates their way into the Galileo academy, a prestigious Earth-based school for the best and the brightest.  Off-worlders usually don’t attend, not only for the physical limitations (with most growing up in 1/3 to 1/6 Earth gravity), but for the fact that the school is basically a networking tool for all the elite rich kids of Earth.  Polly is furious, but her brother Charles (an odd hacker who isn’t against a bit of manipulation himself) convinces her to give it a try as attending may give them some advantages in life.

From there, it plays out not unlike the usual YA novel where the outsiders struggle to fit in.  The Earth folks look down on them, the head of the school doubts them, but it’s a series of strange accidents where Polly has to be a hero that really throw them for a loop.

Martians Abroad is well-written and keeps things moving at a decent pace.  The main downside for me was, it seemed to take quite a long time (more than half of the book) for the mystery to really take hold, and even then, it didn’t stand out that the bad things happening were all that out of the ordinary.  Still, it was an interesting, YA-friendly take on future kids doing dangerous stuff in space and if any of that sounds appealing, or you’re already a Carrie Vaughn fan, it’s worth checking out.  You can pre-order at the link, the current release date is January 17, 2017.

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Books Review

Book Review – The Girl With All The Gifts

I am not normally a zombie guy, but I had heard great things about comic writer Mike Carey’s (styled M. R. Carey here) novel The Girl with All the Gifts and when it went on sale, I gave it a shot.  I’m glad I did, as it’s an enjoyable spin on the nature of zombies and the “zombie apocalypse”.

Carey’s book starts out with all the usual zombie trappings, you know, the last few human survivors working to find a cure, the zombie infection coming from a real-world source (a cordyceps fungus, like in The Last of Us), and the somewhat annoying trope that people don’t call zombies zombies.  The twist comes from the children found among the walking dead – seemingly still fully intelligent, they just have an uncontrollable hunger for flesh when they smell it.  The group of survivors we follow (most notably Doctors Caldwell and Justineau, and Sergeant Parks) are studying the children, hoping that they are a hint to a final cure for the infection.  The conflict comes from the differing views of just how far they should go in that study – Caldwell is rather freewheeling with a scalpel, carving up the intelligent zombie children, while Justineau empathizes a bit too much with them.  Things are turned upside down when the base is assaulted and overrun and they are on the run in a busted truck – with Melanie, one of the intelligent “hungries” along with them.

The rest of the story becomes a survival-on-the-road movie where Parks, Caldwell and Justineau learn more about the zombie infection while travelling with Melanie, but she’s learning at leaps and bounds too.  The Girl with All the Gifts moves at a solid pace for the most part, and drives to a solid conclusion I didn’t see coming.  It’s a bit abrupt considering the time spent on the rest of the story, but the only other negative was a rather eye-rolling romance aspect between Parks and Justineau that seemed unnecessary.  In the end though, it’s a book about zombies that had something new to offer, and considering how prevalent zombies are in our media at this time, that shouldn’t be ignored.  Check out the preview below if any of this interests you.

 

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Sing

Illumination’s latest movie, Sing, is a song and dance you’ve seen before.  Heck, the Muppets have done it twice at least.  Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey as a Koala) grew up loving the theater, and eventually (with financial help from his blue-collar dad) he buys a theater.  Buster’s not very good at running it, though, so it’s in pretty dire straits with the koala dodging the bank and having trouble paying his employees.  He’s got one last chance to save the theater, with an American Idol-ish singing competition.  Hijinks, of course, ensue.

The animation is fine, with some decent visual gags, and of course, the music works fine (it better, considering).  The one thing they needed to do is trim the cast.  There’s too many characters we are supposed to care about packed into too little movie to actually build them up.  They could easily drop the wannabe gangster mouse so we could flesh out the other characters a bit more.  This is fine for kids, probably, but adults will see through it as they rely on the fact we’ve seen these stories before to fill in the blanks.  At least the music is entertaining.  The voice cast does a perfectly fine job but nobody leaps out, except maybe Taron Egerton as the young gorilla Johnny.  Uh, no pun intended.

Sing is worth a matinee showing if your kids are clamoring to see it.  It’s cute.  Exactly what you expect happens right when it should.  Just don’t expect to think about it or remember much about it a few days later.  I’m still thinking about Kubo.