Louis J. Prosperi – Creatures of Barsaive

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30th – 31st August 2014

I continue in my endless quest to acquire Earthdawn sourcebooks. The roleplaying game never took off, and yet the premise still fascinates me. I bought for small money the “Creatures of Earthdawn” sourcebook.

Published in 1994 by FASA (all long gone), it lists approximately 50 deadly creatures of the Earthdawn universe with the typical description and attributes.

Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, Sara Pichelli – Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers

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25th – 28th August 2014

Yeah, yeah, yeah. With the film coming out, I did some research on the comic origins of Guardians of the Galaxy. There was a first series back in 1969, a second in 2008 and finally the new Marvel Now Version from 2013. And – as I learned, everything goes back to Annihilation Conquest and the Infinity Gauntlet.

I know almost nothing about this entire universe and so became intrigued. I wanted to start at the very beginning, but the first two series are very hard to come by. So I read the first Marvel Now volume.

It is not really something new, or something we have not seen before. A team of superheroes fighting for the good. But the characters are just great, the story is well paced, very well drawn and just fun to read.

The volume starts with the backstory of the main character, Peter Quilli’s youth on earth. He is the offspring of his human mother Meredith and the King of Spartax, a galactic empire. He leaves her and Peter behind.

Ten years later, Spartax is at war with the Badoon, a reptilian species. Because Peter is the next in line to the throne, a small command tries to kill him. They believe him dead and leave Earth. But Peter survived. Twenty years later, he formed the guardians of the Galaxy to take the fight back.

He is joined by the deadly assassin Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, the only member with brains in the group, Groot (“I am Groot”), a tree creature and Drax, yet another brawler. Together they fight to protect Earth and the Galaxy.

The story is full of clichés and very predictable. Still, it reads fresh and is a great past-time.

Ann Leckie – Ancillary Justice

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16th – 27th August 2014

Ancillary Justice is a fascinating book. It has been on my radar ever since it was mentioned in episode 179 of the Incomparable podcast.

This is a book you cannot really spoil. Even if you know the story, you have to read it to experience it. The way the story is told cannot be conveyed by talking about it. I think it actually helps being told what the book is about since it is not an easy read. Still, at the very end you have to read it – and you should!

Ancillary Justice is a ship. Or more precisely it is the AI of the ship, but to her, it is all the same. The ship is in the service of the Radch, a galactic empire, under the dictatorship of the all powerful ruler Anaander Mianaai. The Radch use so-called Ancillaries as extensions of their ships, and actually as crew. Whenever the Radch conquer a new planet, they take prisoners as Ancillaries. They are mind-wiped, get implants and are integrated as ancillaries of the ships. Thus the ship becomes a hive mind with many biological extensions. The Ancillaries are the ship.

That idea as such is not new. But Ann Leckie is remarkable in how she tells the story. The problem is that the ship can see everything one of her extensions can see, but that you can easily confuse the reader. On the other hand, you cannot tell the story from the point-of-view of one ancillary since she does not exist. There is no single individual. The author just found the right balance, and this is what makes this novel so great. She uses sentences such as “One of me”, or she very carefully switches only between few different places so that you can follow along.

If that were not difficult enough, there is another challenge. The Radch cannot very easily distinguish genders. In their language, there is only the female form. Hence they call everyone “she” or “her”. In some instances, they switch to other languages and the reader learns that a person is actually male. At times that is a bit confusing, for example when you know a character is male, but is referred to in the female form. But I enjoyed it very much as a twist. Great idea.

The book won both the Nebula and the Hugo award this year – very well earned. The sequel is coming out in October and I can’t wait.

Till Müller-Klug – Sprachlabor Babylon

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24. August 2014

Ich las von Sprachlabor Babylon in einer der letzten Phantastisch Ausgaben. Es hat mich natürlich sofort fasziniert. Allerdings hat es etwas gedauert, bis ich das Hörspiel dann doch kaufte.

Das Buch ist der Text des Hörspiels, und dazu bekommt man die Aufnahme auf CD.

Es geht um eine fiktive, aber nicht ganz so ferne Zukunft, in der die Benutzung von Wörtern Geld kostet. Je seltener und ausgefallener, desto teurer. Also wird das Sprachlabor Babylon beauftragt, eine Sparsprache zu designen, damit jeder kostengünstig sprechen kann. Natürlich wollen die Menschen dann über einen sehr kargen Grundwortschatz hinaus Wörter benutzen, und für diese müssen sie eben zahlen.

Luzinda, die für das Sprachlabor arbeitet trifft im Kontaktkarussel den Sprachkünstler Max. Er mag nicht für Babylon arbeiten, also beschließt sie, sein Sprachmuster klonen zu lassen und in die Sparsprache einzupflegen. Sie hat gar keine Ahnung, was sie sich damit einfängt…

Die Idee des Hörspiels ist neu und frisch, obwohl an Orwell angelehnt. Die Dialoge sind meist sehr kurz, Sparsprache eben. Mit Wortkreationen wird versucht komplexe Sachverhalte extrem zu vereinfachen. Ein schnelles hin und her der Sprecher.

Hat mir sehr gefallen, obwohl es leider sehr kurz ist.

Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russel – The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel: Volume 1

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12th – 19th August 2014

This is the graphic novel version to Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book, which I enjoyed reading back in June 2009, and which Neil wrote in 2008.

The graphic novel is very close to the prose version. It takes plenty of time and space to draw out the story. The book has almost 190 pages. The panels are very detailed and the colouration perfectly fits the tone of the grey and home of the dead graveyard.

I still love the story very much and had a great time to read it now from this perspective.

This is volume one, volume two is due in September. I can’t wait.

Frank G. Gerigk – Perry Rhodan-Illustrator Johnny Bruck – Der meist publizierte Künstler des Universums

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5. – 13. August 2014

Dieses Buch stellt Leben und Werk von Johnny Bruck dar, dem Perry Rhodan Titelbildzeichner bis Band 1999. Es ist schlicht bemerkenswert, daß er seit Beginn der Serie Woche für Woche das Coverbild der Erstauflage gemalt hat. Und darüber hinaus hat er während dieser Zeit noch unzählige weitere Titelbilder gestaltet, sowohl für den PR-Kosmos als auch für andere Serien dieser Zeit. Sein Output war phänomenal.

Im ersten Teil des Buches werden Johnnys Lebensgeschichte und seine Maltechniken beschrieben. Dies fand ich am interessantesten. Johnny fuhr nie in Urlaub, trank wohl (Un)mengen von Whiskey, arbeitete bis spät in die Nacht und schlief nur sehr wenig. Die meisten Hefte las er und machte sogar Korrekturvorschläge. Die Bilder paßten so gewöhnlich zum Inhalt. Oftmals nahm er sich jedoch künstlerische Freiheit und brachte seine eigene Note an. Auch hat er sehr viele Kompositionen wiederverwendet und sich frei bei anderen Künstlern bedient. Anders wäre es auch gar nicht möglich gewesen, soviel Output zu produzieren.

Dann folgt im Buch ein Teil mit Statistik über welche Elemente und Schauplätze Johnny in seinen Bildern verwendet hat. Das ist zwar wissenschaftlich interessant und muß eine unglaubliche Arbeit gewesen sein zu recherchieren, fand ich aber nicht unbedingt so bedeutend. Wenn ich darüber nachdenke, ich hätte es vermutlich auch getan.

Sehr interessant ist dann die Besprechung ausgesuchter Hefte von 1-100. Hier kann man schon sehr schön Johnnys Motive herausarbeiten. Sie kehren dann im Lauf der Serie immer wieder. Mal abgesehen von der Zeitersparnis sich zu wiederholen, ich denke über die Jahre vergißt man einfach, was man schon mal so ähnlich gemalt hat. Und es gibt wohl auch nur eine endliche Zahl an Motiven. Ausnahme bleiben natürlich die hunderter Bände mit umlaufendem Motiv.

Ein sehr schönes Buch und sehr beeindruckend. Hut ab vor dem größten Maler der SF Geschichte.

Clark Darlton – Planetenroman 30: SOS aus dem Weltall

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10th – 12th August 2014

Dies ist das Buch zur Perry Rhodan Verfilmung aus den 60er Jahren. Der Film gilt gemeinhin als wirklich schlecht, so daß er schon wieder Kultstatus hat. Ich glaube, ich habe ihn mal irgendwann gesehen. In dem Roman müht sich Clark Darlton die haarsträubende Geschichte einigermaßen nachzuerzählen und etwas zu glätten. Trotzdem, wenn die Vorgabe so seltsam ist, holt man nicht mehr viel raus.

Diese Version ist mehr eine simplistische an Pulp angelehnte Heldengeschichte denn SF. Rhodan, Bully, Flipper und Dr Manoli fliegen zum Mond und treffen dort auf die Arkoniden Crest und Thora. Sie brauchen Hilfe, da Crest an Leukämie erkrankt ist. Ab hier weicht die Geschichte vollkommen von der Vorlage ab. Mit einem Beiboot landet man auf der Erde, der Unterweltschurke Arkin. schleust einen falschen Doktor ein, der eigentlich Crest hätte heilen sollen. Flipper stellt sich als Verräter heraus, und entführt dann Thora. Perry verliebt sich natürlich unsterblich in sie und setzt alles daran sie zu befreien, was wiederum selbstverständlich gelingt. Happy End.

Der Roman ist unglaublich schnell, fast oberflächlich springt er von Schauplatz zu Schauplatz, Handlungen folgen aufeinander, ohne wirklichen Zusammenhang. Und das Frauenbild ist sehr sexistisch, was allerdings der Zeit geschuldet ist. Kurz: Trash. Und damit irgendwie faszinierend, wie die damals damit durchgekommen sind, sowohl was den Film, aber auch das Buch betrifft.

Im Anschluß gibt es die Geschichte wie Rhodan Thora den Heiratsantrag macht. Diese wurde nie in der Serie erzählt, sondern von Clark Darlton als Kurzgeschichte geschrieben. Auch sehr fragwürdig.

Zum Ende folgt noch ein sehr lesenswertes Nachwort von Rainer Nagel, der den Roman und die Kurzgeschichte in den Kontext einordnet.

Ich weiß am Ende nicht, was ich von dem Buch halten soll. Ist es so trashig, daß es wieder gut ist, oder einfach nur schlecht.                

Iain Broome – A is for Angelica

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4th – 8th August 2014

I have been an avid listener to the “Write for your life” Podcast since episode 100. Having read Donna’s poem collection, of course I also had to read Iain’s novel A is for Angelica.

The novel takes place in a small English midland town. Gordon Kingdom, the main character is a retired former clerk in his mid 50s who stays mostly at home and keeps track of what his neighbours do. He has a huge pile of notebooks. He methodically watches them behind his curtains and then records their activities. He writes is all down – when they come, when they go, what they do, what they buy. Everyone is a bit strange and weird. There is a boy, who paints with his eyes closed. There is a 90 year old lady, who throws footballs over the fence. There is his stealing best friend since childhood neighbour Don.

But Gordon has a terrible secret on his own, who no one is allowed to know. He kept it well until the day when his new neigbour Angelica arrives and enters into his life. Throughout the book, Gordon and Angelica’s relationship enfolds and slowly his secret comes out.

Gordon’s story is very sad and made me melancholic. I can imagine what he is going through. I was always wondering if he himself is slowly getting demented, since he neglects some obvious realities. In that way, the book is not an easy read – Gordon is suffering. That is countered by the story’s compactness. It is very down to the point, no lengthly backstories or descriptions. Hence, Gordon does not have to suffer for long. But still, it is haunting. It leaves you with the question what you would do in Gordon’s position?

Mike Carey, Peter Gross and Mark Buckingham – The Unwritten Vol. 9: The Unwritten Fables

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2nd – 5th August 2014

Unwritten volume 9 is a cross-over between the Unwritten and the Fables universe. I guess, in some way it was a very obvious possibility that this might happen one day. I haven’t read up sufficiently on Fables to fully appreciate it, but still – it is just awesome! On the other hand, it does not really progress the Unwritten story. The plot is rather straight forward. Tommy, Lizzy and Peter appear as fables in Fables in the midst of a war between good and evil. They join up with the good side, fight, and of course win. But still, it is the small references and the storytelling which makes this book very enjoyable. Nice!

Steambot Studios – Steampainting: Spark

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20th July – 1st August 2014

This was for a very long time the missing book in my steambot collection. It is very hard to come by. The official steambot shop does not ship to Germany. Then I spotted it by chance on the website of a UK bookshop. It probably cost me a fortune, but it was still worth it.

Spark is all about speed painting. In the first part of the book, the artists go through their process. You see on the right side of the page the finished painting, and on the left side the steps to get there, along with explanations from the artist. It is interesting to see through which steps and thoughts they went. Often times it is as simple as just rotating the image, leaving something out, adding something completely different, or (my most famous) take a break and think about it.

The book comes with an inlay showing a legend of symbols to explain what the artist did (e.g. create selection, erase, distort image…). Very nice!

The second part of the book shows images from 3CH. The artist created a random sentence generator, which they ran once a day. They then tried to paint whatever the generator spew out. It is still online (www.steambotstudios.com/3CH).

Finally, there is a bonus gallery with various images from speed painting sessions, as well as a Q&A.

I especially liked the packaging of the book. Besides the inlay, it comes with a plastic cover. It is just gorgeous to look at. I am really glad I got it.