The Encounter Log

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The Flat Earth/Exchange volumes 1-2 by Yoshimi Nigoshi: Checking out one more highly recommended manga for the Best Graphic Story category. Promising, but it's too early to see where the story's really going; I'll keep an eye on it.

Mushishi volume 6 by Yuki Urushibara: Excellent in all ways once again. This volume starts with the story that was adapted to make the TV episode "String From the Sky", and all the others are unadapted.

Girl Genius volume 8 (read online): I've actually been reading this for a while, and forgetting to mention it at volume breaks. This was the first thing I thought of for Best Graphic Story, but now, looking back at the whole of this particular volume, it doesn't stand on its own very well. We don't learn anything we didn't already know, and nothing big happens that we didn't expect. Next one's already looking like nominee material, though...

300: First movie I've ever seen where the end credits alone warrant an R rating. If you saw the trailers and thought it was just a bizarre melange of totally improbable slow-motion fantasy were actually right.

Empires of Flux & Anchor and Masters of Flux & Anchor by Jack Chalker: You can really see that Soul Rider was a one-book idea expanded to a series here, what with the endless settling and re-settling and total mind/body makeovers and wishing that PLEASE FOR GOD'S SAKE WOULD EVERYONE JUST PICK A SET OF GENITALIA AND STAY WITH IT ALREADY SO THE PLOT CAN GET MOVING AGAIN. Though things do get really interesting again in the second half of Master.

More Things in Heaven by John Brunner: For once, a cover picture showing the mother of all BEMs towering over the countryside is actually a faithful depiction of a scene in the book!

Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins: At its best when grappling with the practicalities of the superheroic existence, but at its worst pretty much all the rest of the time.

Dust by Elizabeth Bear: A fresh take on the generation-ship saga.

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold: Okay, I finally got hold of a Bujold book. Yes, by golly, she is a really good writer.

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold: I liked Curse so much I immediately wanted to read this. There's a touch of sequelitis here, of the sort where where the crisis has to be even bigger, and the divine intervention has to be even more awesome. It's still a really good book, but leaves me thinking, "If this can win a Hugo, why can't..."

Past Imperative by Dave Duncan: ...something like this, for instance, which coincidentally also features a fantasy world with five major deities. In this case, they're in a power struggle which mirrors the five major powers of World War I, only competing for spiritual rather than physical territory. First book in a trilogy; I've still got to find copies of the others.

The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland by "The Imagineers": If you're already interested in this sort of thing, you probably know most of the design facts presented here, and are not going to be impressed by, for instance, the claim that the Rocket Jets were "plussed" by being moved to ground level. On the other hand, it's really good at naming names involved with the design of the various rides, and there's a good bibliography.

The Tower of Druaga season 2, episodes 1-9, viewed mainly on YouTube: There are many anime series which take a few episodes to really get going-this one just took an entire season. The last one was mediocre overall, but now, the animation's been kicked up a notch (or else the upload quality has), Fatina's grown a backbone, Utu's turned out to be a hunk, things which were only hinted at last season have come out into the open to cause all sorts of complications, and it's an improvement in nearly every way. Okay, the new end credit sequence is inexplicable, but it's also beautiful, so I forgive them.

Kaleido Star episodes 1-6: This is part of a big wad of anime now available legally on Crunchyroll. It's essentially a magical girl show without magic (except of course for the perverted floating doll that only the heroine can see), centering around a Cirque-du-Soleil-like company.

The Gypsy Morph by Terry Brooks: Hugo reading season turns into Endeavour reading season again, and here is the last book for now of the Shannara prequel series. Starts with an evocative look at the last person left alive under Cheyenne Mountain, then turns back into an exercise in moving everyone and everything to where most readers already know they will have to go. People who have read more of the Shannara books will probably appreciate it more than I did.

Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson: Having written a pile of books filling in parts of Dune's history previously only seen at a distance, the authors now decide insert new events into the original series itself, with the explanation that Princess Irulan actually buried a lot of the real story when she wrote her biography of Muad'Dib.

Fathom by Cherie Priest: Gets off to an exciting start, then screeches to a halt for a hundred pages which various characters have monologues at each other. Then good again when it starts moving again.

Kris Longknife: Audacious by Mike Shepherd: The copyeditor made it almost to the end this time. Um, that's the only remotely positive thing I can find to say. For those of you who just want your war porn, there's not even that much shooting.

Escapement by Jay Lake: A big tour of more of the world of Mainspring. The author is trying a little too hard to show that he is a sensitive 21st-century guy who really understands the difficulties women face in a male-dominated society, but other than that, it's good.

Ill Met in the Arena by Dave Duncan: Now over to a fantasy world with a female-dominated society but absolutely no essays on gender politics, because the hero is too busy trying to track down a murderer before more crimes are committed. This is the first book I've read that has used a lot of present-tense narration without it being really distracting. In fact, this went on my Hugo nominating ballot.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson: This kept making me think of Always Coming Home. Unfortunately, it was mainly to appreciate that Ursula K. Le Guin faced many of the same challenges in assembling Always Coming Home and handled them rather better.

Long Walks, Last Flights, and Other Stories by Ken Scholes: I've heard of Mr. Scholes before but never read anything of his. Wow, can he tell a story.

The Divine Talisman by Eldon Thompson: This is noticeably improved from the last book of this series I've read, The Obsidian Key. Or I've toughened up. But it's still fat fantasy in a Tolkien-imitating world.

The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip: Lovely fantasy set in a town where the sound of a bell rings out from nowhere every sunset.

The Viper of Portello by James C. Glass: Sf set on planets strongly resembling Columbia and Brazil except that they speak Spanish on Brazil Planet, and where technology is right at the 21st-century level except for the odd android. In fact, the resemblance is so strong, I can't figure why this was written as sf at all.

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