Continuing Adventures: Sovereign by April Daniels

April Daniels’ debut novel, Dreadnought, opened a fresh new young adult superhero series. I don’t normally like superhero series, but I really liked this one—it grabbed you by the throat and didn’t let go.

Sovereign is Dreadnought’s sequel. It has the same verve and energy as Dreadnought, but instead of being, essentially, Danny Tozer’s origin story as the superhero Dreadnought, it shows her facing the difficulties of working as a superhero with limited support—either physical or emotional. She’s protecting her home city of New Port pretty much on her own even though she’s still a minor; her parents are transphobic assholes who kicked her out of their house; her mentor, Doc Impossible, is an android who is also an alcoholic; she’s grown apart from her friend Calamity; she has had to retain a lawyer and publicist; and New Port’s only other resident superhero, Graywytch, is a transphobic gender essentialist “radical feminist” who really hates Danny for being trans and wants Danny either dead or no longer a superhero—preferably both.

[That’s just where Danny’s problems begin.]

The One Book That Taught Me There’s More to Life Than Sniffing Unicorn Poo: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Though many years have passed since I first laid my eyes on The One Book, I still remember the gray October afternoon as if it were but yesterday. When I cradled The One Book in my trembling hands, a part of me might have sensed that my life was about to change for good. But did I anticipate what I was up for?

No, I really didn’t. Had I chosen differently if I’d known what reading that novel would do to me? Absolutely not.

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Midnight, Texas Is Magical Trash

Midnight, Texas, is a small town in the middle of nowhere. It’s a safe haven for people (or “people”) who can’t live anywhere else or don’t want to. It also may be sitting on top of a hellmouth, if that ominous glowing red light coming up through Manfred Bernardo’s (François Arnaud) floorboards is any indication. Speaking of the possibly-fake-but-probably-real psychic, Manfred flees Dallas for Midnight at the behest of his dead grandmother Xylda (Joanne Camp) to escape her determined creditors. He couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Within a few hours of Manfred’s arrival he encounters the corpse of Bobo Winthrop’s (Dylan Bruce) missing fiance, hits on Creek (Sarah Ramos) the daughter of a very overprotective father, has his life force sucked out by vampire Lemuel (Peter Mensah), steals holy water from a creepy reverend (Yul Vazquez), witnesses Fiji (Parisa Fitz-Henley) go all The Craft on a couple of cops, is beaten up by Olivia the hitwoman (Arielle Kebbel), and summons a host of very pissed off ghosts and maybe a demon. At least he doesn’t see Joe (Jason Lewis) sprout wings or hear Fiji’s cat Mr. Snuggly (Joe Smith) talk. Gotta save something for the second episode…

[“You’ll be safe in Midnight.”]

Valerian is Supposed to Be About Love — Why is it So Unromantic?

It has been 20 years since the debut of Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. That windup rainbow world of artifice and hodgepodge captured many viewers and left the world wondering why Besson refused to make more space opera movies when he clearly had am incredible knack for the genre. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was to be an answer to that silence, and a pointed one too; the decades-running comics series that the movie sprang from is one that Besson drew heavily from in creating Fifth Element.

Safe to say, when Besson said in interviews that he rewrote the entire script after seeing Avatar, we should have known what we were in for. (Avatar, for all its visual innovation didn’t exactly deliver on expert dialogue or intricate story subtleties.) As a result, despite the gorgeous settings and architectural hodgepodge that Besson excels at, Valerian fails utterly where it needs most to fly. How the story fails still manages to be an interesting exercise, particularly looking back at Fifth Element, which Valerian is so inextricably tied to.

[Spoilers for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets]

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Pull List: The Body-Swapping, Fantasyland, Awesomeness of Crosswind and Moonstruck

Oh Image, how I’ve missed you! It’s been ages since the biggest name in indie publishing has released something new that really excited me. Sure, a lot of their ongoings are permanent staples on my shelves, but I was more ready for something brand spanking new than I realized. That drought is at long last over. This summer, Image Comics has delivered two fantastic new ongoing series, Crosswind and Moonstruck.

Within moments of hearing about these two series, I had an order into my local independent comic book shop. Now that I have them in my grabby little hands, I can assure you my untameable eagerness was well worth it. Both take new tacks on old tropes, both are gorgeous to look at and wickedly fun to read, and both will leave you begging for the next issue.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Brothers in Arms, Chapters 13-16

We’re approaching the end of Brothers in Arms here, which means it’s time for the dramatic rescue sequence! Miles rescues Mark from the Komarran Underground, the Barrayarans, the Cetagandans, and the London police, then rescues Ivan from the high tide and Elli from a closet (actually a closet, not a metaphorical closet).

On an aesthetic level, I feel like two planetary governments, one resistance movement, a police force, and a mercenary company is a lot of moving parts to involve in a single rescue mission. In defense of Bujold’s work (though it doesn’t need defending), it’s a single night’s work, but not a single rescue. We’ve got four rescuees, three of whom are partially self-rescuing or who make major contributions to the rescue of others.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Five Books About Extreme Worlds

The essence of a great science fiction or fantasy novel is the world. There, I said it. Feel free to disagree. But I haven’t fallen in love with a novel without first falling deep into the author’s imaginary world. So naturally it was the most extreme worlds that became my favorites. And in the hands of the best authors those unique worlds produced not only memorable places and stories, but fertile ground for things like social and political commentary as well. There is something to be said for taking things to their limits. In each of these novels the author has taken ideas about our humdrum world and pushed them to the extreme (as if I hadn’t already overused that word). In doing this, in seeing these exaggerated versions of our world, we are allowed glimpses of possible futures or of alternate versions of the present or even the past.

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Series: Five Books About…

Five Murders: Adam Christopher’s Killing Is My Business

Ray Electromatic, the robot hitman, is back in the latest entry in Adam Christopher’s pulpy murder mystery series, Killing Is My Business. It’s been a while now since Ada, his former secretary now boss who also happens to be a room-sized super computer, reprogrammed Ray from a run-of-the-mill metallic detective to a murderer for hire. Business is booming and the cash is piling up. Ray is eerily good at what he does.

Ada sends Ray on a cryptic stakeout, which leads to an even more cryptic hit and a series of increasingly convoluted and seemingly counterproductive cons, schemes, and shenanigans. The less Ada reveals, the more Ray suspects something’s up, and the deeper he’s pulled into the tangled web of the Italian mafia, Hollywood high rollers, and conspiracy coverups.

[“We’ll make a detective out of you yet, chief.”]

Canadian Prairie Futurism: Looking at Tomorrow without Forgetting the Past

On a lazy evening in Regina, Saskatechwan, you can go to a bar called The Fat Badger, grab a beer, and put a little money into the jukebox if you want to hear an old country song about the prairies. Except the jukebox is my cousin, a soft-spoken guy named Marshall Burns, strumming guitar with his band The Alley Dawgs and singing as many classics as they know (and there are a lot). It’s the kind of thing you might have seen here 80 years ago. Or that you might see 180 years from now.

Two summers ago, when I was finishing the first draft of my novel Autonomous, I watched Marshall play and thought about the future. Back then he was at Leopold’s Tavern, and I’d come to the crowded bar with a bunch of family after a long dinner full of conversations about politics and art. This is the sort of thing we might do more often if there were an apocalypse, I mused. We’d gather in some communal shelter, after a day of hunting and gathering in the trashed wastes. Then somebody from our family would start to sing. We’d raise our voices too, to take our minds off the famine and plague and wildfires.

[But it’s also the exact kind of thing we’d do in a Utopian future.]

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 2: “Stormborn”

So, taking the Iron Throne isn’t going to be as easy as striding into King’s Landing and demanding it, now is it?

This week saw some hard lessons for the ladies of Game of Thrones, just when it seemed they were going to be on top. (Exempt from this turnabout: Missandei.) Littlefinger’s gonna leer, Spider’s gonna keep swimming, and Theon’s gonna… Reek.

Spoilers for the currently published George R. R. Martin novels are discussed in the review and fair game in the comments. We highly suggest not discussing early preview chapters, but if you must, white it out. Have courtesy for the patient among us who are waiting and waiting (and waiting) for The Winds of Winter. Play nice. Thanks.

[“You are a dragon. Be a dragon…”]

Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones

The Sacred and the Equinoid: Horses, Spirituality, and Space

This part of the thought experiment is going to be tough, because if it was hard to set aside human assumptions about sex and violence, the ones about religion can be downright intractable. Just as it’s a given that sex must be an obsession and mass violence must be inevitable in a sentient species, it may be argued from the (Western, patriarchal) human model that every sentient species must worship some sort of god.

But is it a given?

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Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time Optioned for Film

Summit Entertaiment and Lionsgate Pictures will bring Adrian Tchaikovsky’s science fiction novel Children of Time, with its Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning imagination and its shudder-inducing sentient-spiders premise, to the big screen. A recent press release from Pan Macmillan announces that the film rights have been optioned.

“I couldn’t be happier about this,” said Bella Pagan, Editorial Director at Pan Macmillan. “Adrian’s fabulous book has been optioned by a fabulous production company with an incredible reputation.”

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