The Frugal Wizard's Handbook for Surviving Medieval EnglandGenres: Fantasy
, Science Fiction Pages:
A man awakens in a clearing in what appears to be medieval England with no memory of who he is, where he came from, or why he is there. Chased by a group from his own time, his sole hope for survival lies in regaining his missing memories, making allies among the locals, and perhaps even trusting in their superstitious boasts. His only help from the “real world” should have been a guidebook entitled "The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England", except his copy exploded during transit. The few fragments he managed to save provide clues to his situation, but can he figure them out in time to survive?
I wanted to have more fun with Brandon Sanderon’s The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England. I went into it already primed for the fact that it’s a bit silly, for a certain kind of humour, which isn’t always my thing — but I was prepared to go along with it and have a good time anyway. In the end, there was just a bit too much of it for me: too many cutesy inserts of the handbook, too many stabs at corporatespeak that were just a touch too predictable.
It might’ve been alright for me if the characters had really grabbed onto me, but they didn’t. The protagonist is a fuckup, in part because he’s been told he’s a fuckup and he’s just gone along with it because it seems obvious, but also because he’s not as clever as he sometimes seems to think he is when he’s not being down on himself. I didn’t appreciate one of the twists very much, and I was eyebrow-raisy about the love interest, and the ex-friend, and… gah, a bit too much of it, as you see.
I think there’s a lot of fun here for someone who is more into the humour of it, and it was certainly very readable… just a bit too silly for me. I had to put it down for a bit when the protagonist used the word “Nintendo” as part of fooling people into believing he was doing a magic spell. Just, ack, not for me.
Rogue PlanetGenres: Graphic Novels
, Science Fiction Pages:
Salvage vessel Cortes tracks the Lonely Orphan, a planet with no star system to call its own. Somewhere on this hostile rock is a payload fit for a king. To attain it, though, the crew of the Cortes must brave razor rock, poisonous vapors, treacherous footing, and... the most mind-numbing horrors imaginable. Struggling to stay alive, they are beset at every turn by horrors from their own nightmares. Now, they have discovered that they are not alone on the planet, and the other inhabitants welcome them... as sacrifices to an elder god.
Stranded on a vicious, murderous, seemingly intelligent planet, the crew of the Cortes must reevaluate what it truly means to survive, and what they are willing to do in order to spare their own lives.
Cullen Bunn’s Rogue Planet is a fairly predictable sci-fi/horror story: a group visit a planet where they should, in theory, be able to get rich quick, led in by a beacon… and of course things go messily wrong, with gore and horrors a-plenty.
I didn’t think it stood out among that sort of genre, with the characters having little to make them jump out; the art was okay, but didn’t particularly impress me with “hey, that looks really neat” or “that’s gorgeous” or even “that’s a whole new way to make something look gross”.
It wasn’t bad in any way, I don’t think, just… fairly run of the mill if you’re an SF/F reader. I’d been hoping for something a bit more innovative, I suppose! I think it could be fun if you’re less versed on the tropes of the genre, since it’ll come as a bit more of a surprise.
OgresGenres: Science Fiction Pages:
Ogres are bigger than you. Ogres are stronger than you. Ogres rule the world.
It’s always idyllic in the village until the landlord comes to call.
Because the landlord is an Ogre. And Ogres rule the world, with their size and strength and appetites. It’s always been that way. It’s the natural order of the world. And they only eat people sometimes.
But when the headman’s son, Torquell, dares lift his hand against the landlord’s son, he sets himself on a path to learn the terrible truth about the Ogres, and about the dark sciences that ensured their rule.
I found Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Ogres took me a surprising amount of time to read, despite the length of the book. It’s a pretty unpleasant place to be, in a very believably human way — one which I don’t always care to spend my leisure time dwelling on.
I did enjoy the sting in the tail of the story. I hadn’t worked out who the narrator was (if indeed it was anyone important), so that was interesting. I like second-person POV when it’s done well, though I know others hate it, and I think it was… okay, here. Sometimes it didn’t feel right, when it dug too much into the interior life of Torquell, but mostly I thought it worked. If it’s a pet peeve of yours, though, this won’t be for you.
It all feels a little simplified and fable-like — a political fable, told with serious bias (and intentionally so; I don’t mean that I’m accusing Tchaikovsky of anything here, I’m talking about it as an in-world object).
Altogether, enjoyably put together, but not something I entirely enjoyed the experience of reading.
Cover of Unto the Godless What Little RemainsGenres: Science Fiction Pages:
The internet is a lonesome god.
Liverloin is a fractured man, a collection of personas—artificial constructs of wants, fears and needs—created by underground science-artists to help him hide in a hyper-connected world. But he can’t hide from Big Momma.
She is the living internet, a benevolent AI who knows everything and everyone… and somehow is in love with Liverloin.
Agent Stevly works for DAIS, an AI on the other side of the internet: the darkness to Big Momma’s light. DAIS’s agents manipulate news, information and media and pull the strings behind world events, but DAIS cannot control Big Momma or understand why she loves Liverloin. Agent Stevly, bound body and soul to DAIS, will stop at nothing to find the answer.
Unto the Godless What Little Remains is very much designed to be a novella, and as such it gets away with things that would frustrate me otherwise, like the constantly switching point-of-view and time in the continuity of the story. It’s still a little frustrating, especially for the chapters with Stevly (which are in a horrible format with less punctuation and few capital letters), but it mostly gets away with it at this length.
The story itself isn’t too surprising to me: AI have learned to predict everything humans think, do, like or want, because everything is part of a chain of causes and effects. The AI Big Momma rules the world, and everybody lets her, because life’s easy that way. But Big Momma’s fascinated with a human, Liverloin, who acts and thinks in ways that she just cannot predict — and obviously others have a vested interest in stopping her getting obsessed with him. Liverloin flees both her and them, confused, and running from something in his past.
It all comes together pretty well; it doesn’t feel startling or surprising to me, but it was entertaining enough.