Kelly Sue Deconnick, Emma Rios – Pretty Deadly: The Shrike (vol. 1)

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23rd – 26th September 2014

I read the first issue of Pretty Deadly digitally somewhen last year. It fascinated me, but for some reason I did not follow the story. Now the first volume has been published, and of course I picked it up.

Pretty deadly is a strange tale where I am not yet sure where it will go. It is set in a weird western world that reminded me somewhat of the Dark Tower.

The main characters are Ginny, who is Death’s rebelling daughter, a mean gunfighter, not dead, but also not living (“You are not dead. You are something else”). Then there is Sissy, a girl who wears a vulture cloak and has a blue and a brown eye. She travels with Fox, an older man, who has been blinded by Death.

They are being hunted down by Alice, another gunfighter created by Death. Like Ginny, she is a mean fighter. She tries to get hold of Sissy. Fox and Sissy are first fleeing from Alice, but then Ginny comes in to help.

The whole story is framed by Bunny, a dead skeleton rabbit telling it to Butterfly, well, a butterfly.

Very strange and weird, but also very great. I really like it very much. At present, the story is up to issue #5 (2nd April) and I surely will follow along.

Oh, and the title of course. Anything that has a Shrike in it I must read!

Daniel Way, Alejandro Aragon, Tomm Coker and Federico Dalloccchio

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21st-22nd September 2014

I bought this book on a whim. I have heard a lot about Eve Online, but never played it. While it fascinated me, I was drawn away by the time commitment.

This book was a recommendation in the last issue of c’t magazine. They clearly said that you can only really enjoy it if you know the game and follow the major factions. The story is based on real events within the game. That means the basis for the story are two factions, two groups of players fighting one another. It also means, only those few players really experienced the story themselves. The vast majority maybe heard of it or read it on some message board.

I always had a weak spot for such things. This whole idea fascinates me. So I bought it anyways. And I did not really understand the story. But that does not matter. The feeling of greatness does.

Dan Simmons – The Abominable

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31st August – 20th September 2014

Dan Simmons talked about this book when he was on as interview guest in Geeks Guide to Galaxy. It is the story of an 1925 Everest summit attempt.

I had read “On K2 with Kanakaredes” from Dan’s anthology “Worlds Enough & Time”, which is on the outside about climbing K2 with an alien, but really just about mountaineering. Dan is marvelous to write about climbing and mountaineering. I had liked that story very much, so the book was a natural next step.

The story is a mix between fact and fiction, sometimes too much of the later, but still a very compelling thriller, and in wide stretches true to climbing.

In June 1924, George Mallory and Andy Irvine vanished while trying to summit Mt Everest (which is true). But there were also two other climbers, Percy Bromley and Kurt Meyer (which is fiction).

The main characters, Richard Deacon (a British war veteran), Jean-Claude (JC, a French mountain-guide from Chamonix), and Jake (an American climber and the narrator of the story) were friends since the end of the first World War and climbing together in the Alps. The Deacon, as everyone calls him, comes up with the plan to persuade Lady Bromley to find the remains of her son Percy, as a way to finance the summit of Everest. She is very emotional and agrees to the mission under the condition that Reggie Bromley, responsible for their tee plantation in Darjeeling accompanies them.

The three get prepared, really prepared. The technology of that time did not really allow to climb Everest. You need the right equipment to protect yourself against the cold and loss of air pressure, and to be able to climb in these heights. The Deacon provides goose feather filled jackets and a new light-weight air apparatus. JC developed with his father 12-spike crampons – the front spikes for vertical ascent were a novelty back then.

Then they travel to India. In these days, the only route to Everest was from Tibet. Nepal, which is the easier route was closed. Today, it is the other way around and Everest is usually climbed from Nepal.

Reggie Bromley they soon find out is in fact Lady Bromley. Grudgingly they have to accept that she comes with them. In those times, women climbers were unheard of. However, she provides for the logistics such as food and the Sherpa porters, so they can’t continue without her. She lived all her life in the region, speaks the local languages and is a master of organisation. It soon turns out that this is not her first Everest tour, and that she has already climbed well above 8.000 meters.

From then on the story is very much about the slow ascent, from establishing the base-camp and the six high-camps. It is here where Dan Simmons excels in his story telling mastership. He perfectly transports the climbing process to the reader. If you have ever climbed yourself, you enjoy it all the more.

After two-thirds of the book they are close to make a summit attempt. But that have to forge it because of a sudden Yeti attack (yes, that’s right). From then on the book is more fiction than factual, more thriller and suspense novel. I was initially turned off by the Yeti thing, but that is soon clarified (of course, there are no Yetis). The story keeps being great, but our heroes do the impossible at the mountain and we drift over to fictional spheres. That is good from a story-telling and suspense point-of-view, but you have the thought in your had that they do the seemingly impossible.

But all is clarified in the end, and I felt the book had a satisfactory conclusion.

Eilon Paz – THE DUST & GROOVES – ADVENTURES IN RECORD COLLECTING

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21st August – 7th September 2014

I heard late about this book and missed-out on the kickstarter. I am sure I would have funded it, but then of course I support the artist and bought the book.

Dust & Grooves is the bible for all crazy record collectors. Eilon Paz, a photographer travelled around the world and made wonderful photos of people with their record collections, and he conducted interviews with them.

This is huge and heavy 400 page book, very nicely designed. It is just so beautiful to look at.

The book starts out with a short introduction and background to its history and coming to life. This is followed by more than 250 pages with the photographs of people showing off their collection or favorite records. Most of them with a short explanation. There are even some fold-outs! Eilon has a keen eye for unusual perspectives, and he assembles several of the photos as collages. An interesting touch.

The third part of the book contains 130 pages of interviews with collectors. The selection is very varied with very different people from all backgrounds and collection intentions. I very much enjoyed reading them. The only trouble now is that I have to go off and buy more records.

There was some delay with my shipment, and I was in contact with Eilon directly. He is such a nice and humble person, who did everything to get the book in my hands.

I fondly think back of the time I spend with this book. The experience makes me happy. I hope there will be more in the future.

Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli – Guardians of the Galaxy – The trial of Jean Grey

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2nd – 4th September 2014

Volume three of the Guardians is a cross-over volume with the All New X Men. Herein Jean Grey is on trail for going to destroy the Galaxy under the influence of the Phoenix Force (which she has not done yet). She should be trailed to prevent the destruction.

Like the previous volume, you need to have the context to really enjoy it. Since I read “Days of Future Past” I knew what happened to Jean Grey, but I had not read the Dark Phoenix Saga. Again, time to catch up.

As for volume two, the art and the story telling is fine, I just wish I had the context.

Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli, Francesco Francavilla – Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2: Angela

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30th August – 1st September 2014

Alright! On to volume two of Bendis’ Guardians of the Galaxy. The volume contains issues #4-#10 wherein the Guardians meet the strange alien Angela. She looks like an avenging angel or goddess from the pagan period.

I am very much missing the context to this issue. Bendis draws back to Age of Ultron and to the Infinity Gauntlet, which I have not read yet. I enjoyed the issue and the story, but I missed the wider context. That is a bit sad, since the series can’t really stand on its own. On the other hand, I figure if you know the context it is more awesome.

The art and the story telling is fine, I just wish I had the context.

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.