The plot thickens!

Ascender #13 by Jeff Lemire (author), Dustin Nguyen (cover art, artist)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The beginning of this one is told from Mila‘s perspective.

Mother‘s story continues, we go on a detour to Gnish and I spotted something that looked suspiciously similar to a light saber… Oh, an Telsa takes us to a really interesting place at the end of this issue! The plot thickens! One more issue in this story arc and volume…

Have you heard?

I just came across a post mentioning Tom Hanks as an audiobook narrator. Colour me intrigued. I immediatley sought out the book and listened to the sample.

The Dutch House (Audible Audio) by Ann Patchett,  Tom Hanks (Narrator)

The sample sounds great, Hanks goes along at a nice clip, enunciates beautifully and is just his usual awesome self. However, the story is really not my kind of thing. Usually I run the other way, when I see a book tagged as literary fiction.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

From the Goodreads blurb

Will have to think about it! I also feel tempted by his short story collection, Uncommon Type: Some Stories. Somewhere I came across a story talking about his hobby of collecting manual typewriters. It immediately made me long for having one again myself. They are so expensive! And not easy to come by…

I love Tom Hanks. I hope there will never, ever be any stories in the news declaring him to be a horrible human for some reason. It would break my heart.

Going places

Ascender #12 by Jeff Lemire (author), Dustin Nguyen (cover art, artist)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

An in-between issue. Andy fights vampires, the story of Mother is taken another step forward and we meet another character from Descender, who was not such a surprising surprise. He had to show up eventually.

If you are interested in this series, you should start with the first Descender volume:

Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A boy wakes up in a place where everybody else is dead. He has been asleep for 10 years. Turns out he‘s not a kid, but a robot companion. 

Gorgeous watercolour artwork.

There are some pretty strong Star Wars vibes. That flashback was a throwback to Tatooine. All that was missing was R2D2 and C3P0. Plenty of potentially interesting planets and (hopefully to come) complex world building.

Tim, Driller and the yappy bot are great characters. The humans and otherwise biologic entities are a colourful bunch. Shocking violence! I screamed like a girl. Well, once… the bad guys are nasty. And the potentially nice guy is flawed. I liked the story of robots being the hunted underdogs.

The original post of my 2019 review is here: Think AI and Star Wars.

Around the world…

The Voyage Of The Beagle (Illustrated)
by Charles Darwin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I am pretty sure I read this as a teenager, about 40 years ago, and liked it, mainly for the illustrations. I decided to have another look… 

Places Darwin visits with the HMS Beagle:

  1. Chapter I: St. JagoCape de Verde Islands (St. Paul’s RocksFernando Noronha, 20 Feb.., Bahia, or San Salvador, Brazil, 29 Feb..)
  2. Chapter II: Rio de Janeiro
  3. Chapter III: Maldonado
  4. Chapter IV: Río Negro to Bahia Blanca
  5. Chapter V: Bahía Blanca
  6. Chapter VI: Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires
  7. Chapter VII: Buenos Aires to St. Fe
  8. Chapter VIII: Banda Oriental
  9. Chapter IX: Patagonia
  10. Chapter X: Santa Cruz–Patagonia
  11. Chapter XI: Tierra del Fuego
  12. Chapter XII: The Falkland Islands
  13. Chapter XIII: Strait of Magellan
  14. Chapter XIV: Central Chile
  15. Chapter XV: Chiloe and Chonos Islands
  16. Chapter XVI: Chiloe and Concepcion
  17. Chapter XVII: Passage of Cordillera
  18. Chapter XVIII: Northern Chile and Peru
  19. Chapter XIX: Galapagos Archipelago
  20. Chapter XX: Tahiti and New Zealand
  21. Chapter XXI: Australia (Van Diemen’s Land)
  22. Chapter XXII: Coral Formations (Keeling or Cocos Islands)
  23. Chapter XXIII: Mauritius to England

I read the first few chapters, then skimmed my way roughly to the middle of the book, looking at the illustrations and reading a bit here and there. The writing doesn‘t feel as dry and dated as I feared, but all together this didn‘t grab me enough to properly read it in full. That‘s just me though. I recommend reading the Goodreads review of my buddy Trish…

P.S.: I found a fun website detailing the voyage, with an interactive map.

Sharks, whales and a lot of crazy

Nightstalkers (Meg #5)
by Steve Alten

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The prologue was a smart way of summarizing the salient points of the previous book. The first chapter though… did he just copy and paste that complete chapter with the kayak tourists and the pod of orca from the previous book?

Early on we meet the main character from The Loch and the subsequent novels of that series. Cross-over time! Unfortunately that character talks with a Scottish brogue. I don‘t mind (too much), however it‘s pretty inconsistent. Whole sentences in the Queen‘s English and then a few Scottish things thrown in. Nobody talks that way.

Alten sticks to his tried and tested routine: two plots with distinct sets of main characters that each face their challenges—the respective monster of the day. First they alternate by chapter and eventually, as the suspense heats up towards the later parts of the book, the narrative switches between the plotlines faster and faster. Chapters usually finish with cliffhangers and then move on to the other plot. Which is annoying and means that you basically have to rush from one chapter to the next, driven by the momentum of whatever crazy thing just happened.

Somewhere in or after the middle Alten throws in some weird development from the other series, specifically from Vostok (I think—I haven‘t actually read that one). You have to suspend your disbelief very hard. He went into a very ridiculous, superfluous direction. Which is saying much, considering that this is about the appearance of pre-historic sharks, Liopleurodons and a ton of other bizarre creatures. My reading buddies and I all rolled our eyes so much… 

Up to that point the plot was more or less a repetition of the last book. Felt a bit like Alten plagiarizing himself. Copy-and-paste-a-lot…. I wish that Alten had just stayed with the main plot — chasing the megs and capturing that Liopleurodon. Adding another monster and the character from the other books with his own brand of crazy… what‘s next, sharks in space? 

Sorry, I stole this pic somewhere, but didn‘t keep track…

And for the characters — I didn‘t have many expectations, but even those are completely interchangeable. David is Jonas, Monty is Mac… Never mind David‘s squeeze of the day. That romance/friendship-with-benefits was implausible at best. The way Alten writes the female characters is just atrocious. Again. Hoping for an improvement on that front was probably naive.

Why did I think picking up this book was a good idea? And why on Earth did I finish it? Embarrassingly enough I quite enjoyed the action in Part 3 and 4, despite there being too may different monsters. I didn‘t mind all the new monsters in the last book, they worked within the setting of that book. Here it read like a hodgepode of (more) crazy. *head desk*

And you know what? Apparently there will be only one more book. I can‘t not read that one, even it it will be another 2 start rating. Oh boy.

Driller is back!

Ascender #11 by Jeff Lemire (author), Dustin Nguyen (cover art, artist)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The cover gives it away, so I am happy to say without spoiler… Driller is back! And Driller is a real vamp killer! Yay!

Mother is facing some serious challenges. Which is ok, because we don‘t like her. Right?

Aaaand…. Have I mentioned it yet? Driller is back! Personalities clash…

Some of the frames are a little hard to decipher in this one, but the artwork is still exceptionally good.

Bad guys were young once, too.

Ascender #9 by  Jeff Lemire  (author), Dustin Nguyen (cover art, artist)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Backstory for Mother, the leader of the vampires…

The evil “Mother” may rule the universe with an iron hand, but even mothers were young once—and after growing up on an ice-covered planet, it’s easy to see why she might have an ice-covered heart, too.

Mostly in shades of gray and black with only a few splashes of colour for the important bits. Interesting. I wonder where this is going to lead us…

Finally ascending again…

Ascender #8
by Jeff Lemire (author), Dustin Nguyen (art)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Finally continuing with Ascender. We still have the watercolour artwork that has also defined Descender. A lot of images give vague impressions…

Others are more detailed…

I am still in love with the art, even though the story hasn‘t grabbed me as much as in Descender. I seriously dislike the vampires. I don‘t get the point of them. I think I will have to re-read all of this back to back at some point.

If this world is new to you, please start with the previous series: Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire,  Dustin Nguyen (Illustrator). So good!