Crisis on Infinite Earths

It has been a very long time since I read through the 1985 DC Comics event, but last year Marv Wolfman decided to write a novelization of the comic. Crisis on Infinite Earths tells the same tale of the original comic, only this time largely from the point of view of Barry Allen, The Flash.

If you’ve read the original, or if you read the first chapter of this book, you know from the get-go that Barry Allen dies. If you have followed The Flash comics since the original Crisis series, you also know that Barry didn’t really die so much as join the Speed Force (well, first he skipped off into the future, had a couple kids with his wife, Iris, and then permanently joined with the Speed Force, but that’s not really important right now). So from the first pages you know Barry is dead, but somehow and for some reason, the Monitor and the Speed Force are keeping him around in some sort of super accellerated ghost state. Appearantly he has something important to do.

The story is fairly confusing as it leaps from Earth to Earth and through time all over the place telling you things out of order and upside-down. But the snippets are still interesting, and the end of the book ties everything together nicely, adding a new dimension to the old comic book without destroying it.

If you liked the original Crisis, then I recommend this book.

However, I do have one complaint. The original series was published in 1985. This book was published in 2005. Twenty years. Alot has changed in those twenty years, and Marv lets slip in a number of current and recent pop culture references that simply didn’t exist then. Then again, comics have always been a very weird art form since their characters tend not to age while their world usually stays fairly up to date with the times, so I can overlook it a bit but I strongly feel that every one of those references could have been removed form the book and it would have worked just fine. It didn’t need pop culture. Still, it was a good read.

Sharper Than A Serpent`s Tooth

My guilty pleasure returned with Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth, another book in the Nightside series by Simon Green. As always, it was a fun little escape with interesting characters and plenty of action. I’ve reviewed this series before, so check out those if you want more details on the books.

As a side note to this review and something someone brought up on a message board I frequent… its a shame that books are getting really huge these days. Even kids books like Harry Potter and the Artemis Fowl books are clocking in at over 300 pages, with many books screaming past 500. There is nothing wrong with long books, in fact sometimes good long book like one of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books is exactly what I need. But its also nice to sit down and blow through a 200 page or less book, get in, get down to the story, and get out. The Nightside books drew me in because they were well written and short. One book, a half dozen hours of reading. Is it because there is less of a market for shorter books? Is it editors demanding thick novels? Or is it authors running wild? No answers here, except that I think one of the ideas I’m working on will be a series of short books, not huge bricks.

Artemis Fowl

I had heard good things about the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, so I put them on my birthday wish list last year. As it happens, I got one. I actually read Artemis Fowl, the first book in the series, a couple of months ago. And it was good enough that I bought the next two, The Arctic Incident and The Eternity Code. This series is fun, extremely well written, and if not for the lack of real violence or dead and the repeated appearance by a character who uses flatualance to get things done you might mistake them for “adult” books.

The recommended reader level of these books is grades 5-7, but I’d recommend them to just about anyone. The plot runs like this… Artemis Fowl is an eleven year old boy genius, son to the head of a long standing crime family. His father, trying to do some legit business may have gotten himself killed, at the very least he’s gone missing in action. In the meantime, Artemis has been running the family business, along with the help of his bodyguard, Butler. Artemis stumbles upon fairies. It turns out they exist, but its not exactly like the story books. There are no leprechauns… instead, you’ve got the Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance, LEP Recon. And other things are different too, but one thing remains, if you can trick them out of their gold, its yours to keep. The family funds have dried up, and Artemis puts into action a plan to win himself some fairy gold. The first book goes from there, and later books deal with Artemis and the People (as the fairies call themselves) and their ever crossing paths.

This series gets my gold seal of approval. Its a good, fast, fun read.

Simon Green`s Nightside

While skimming through the Fantasy & Science Fiction section at my local Books-A-Million one day, searching for new stuff to read, I stumbled across and interesting series of books. At least insteresting in their cover are and book jacket description, and by an author I hadn’t heard of, so I thought I’d give it a shot. That book was Something from the Nightside. It was a fun little noirish detective novel type tale with a bit of magic and demons thrown in to the mix. The first book was good enough that I picked up the next two (Agents of Light and Darkness and Nightingale’s Lament), both of which have been better than the first and good enough that I’m going to keep picking up the rest of the series, of which there are two or three and more on the way.

They make good short reads, and I definately recommend them. Now, stop reading unless you want spoilers…
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‘Bone’ is a comic written by Jeff Smith. It ran for a number of years… ten I think. Not so long ago a 1300 page ‘Bone: One Volume’ edition was released, containing the entire run of the series for about $25. It would be worth it at twice the price.

What’s it about? The Bones, cousins, have been run out of Boneville. Fone Bone is the nice one with an overwhelming love for the book Moby Dick. Smiley Bone is a little bit lazy, a little bit crazy, and possibly a little bit stupid, but not in a dumb way. Phoney Bone is the reason they were run out of town, he’s greedy and sly, always with something up his sleeve. The three of them wind up in the Valley, and end up hip deep in a war between the valley folk, the dragons, and the rat creatures.

If you have the time, the inclination, and a spare twenty-five bucks lying around, I highly recommend ‘Bone’. You won’t regret it.


Normally my Reviews articles are for movies or TV, but I decided today to hit a different frontier… Books.

I read alot of books, not as many as I would like, but alot none the less. And as you may notice from this site (and my subdomains), I also like to write. When I started playing City of Heroes, I got a jonesing for some spandex fiction. Sadly though, there only appears to be two kinds you can pick up at the local books store: Wild Cards by George R. R. Martin and books based on existing comic book characters.

Now, don’t get me wrong… the Martin edited shared world of Wild Cards is probably one of my favorite series of books, but I had read them before… twice… and was looking for something new. I wanted to avoid the books based on existing comic characters because a few of the ones I thumbed through relied too much on prior character knowledge, basically you needed to be a fan of the comic in order to enjoy the book. I asked around for books in a superhero setting that were neither Wild Cards nor existing comics… but all the recommendations I got we more Sci-Fi or Fantasy… lacking that element of the superhero, the comic book, that makes it unique. So finally, after coming to the conclusion that either none had been written or that none had been published, I caved in and bought some books from existing comic book heroes.

And I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

There is a series of books, four of them so far, for the Justice League of America. One book is about the JLA as a whole fighting the good fight, and the other three (of which I’ve only read one so far) take a single member off on his own, with the occasional backup of the JLA. The first book I read was the JLA book, The Exterminators. And when I got into it, I was very happy to see the author not rely on prior knowledge. He explained as he went the relative parts of each character’s background as it was touched on. His book read like a comic without pictures… well, in my head there were plenty of pictures. The book was very well done, all-in-all a two thumbs up review. The second I read was for the Flash, called Stop Motion. Like the other, this author too didn’t trust you to just know the character, but he also didn’t bog you down with 50 years of history in the lives of speedsters of the DC Universe. He told what he needed, that’s it. The story was tight, and exciting… but it did leave me wanting in the end. The finale was just a bit sub par… it was a mystery, and as sometimes happens, the resolution of the mystery, figuring out who done it and why, was much more satisfying than the final conflict between hero and villain. It was like pushing a boulder up hill, excited the whole way up to the top, not knowing what was on the other side, getting to the top, seeing the other side, heart pounding, pushing the rock over the edge… only to see it roll about ten feet and stop because the hill on that side levelled off. It was like a rollercoaster that took you up a huge climb only to have a pitiful drop off the other side. I enjoyed the book, but just was a little less than fulfilled with the resolution once the mystery was unfolded.

There are two more books in the series so far, Batman and Wonder Woman, with a fifth, the Green Lantern, coming soon. I look forward to them.

When I picked up the JLA books, I also decided to grab the two Hellboy books by Christopher Golden, the Lost Army and the Bones of Giants. The Lost Army was a good solid read, and felt like Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy) had done much of the writing himself. The sense of humor, the oddity of the situations, Christopher captured the essense of the Hellboy comics perfectly in his prose. And like the JLA books, he didn’t rely on the reader knowing Hellboy, not that Hellboy readers really know everything anyway. He would just hint at the past, and give you tastes of the world Hellboy belonged in that existed outside the scope of the story. Right now I’m about halfway through The Bones of Giants… and wow. It’s better than the first book. Christopher’s writing style and familiarity with the mythos now shines with a much deeper and provacative tale. I can’t wait to see how it end.

Anyway, that’s it for now… I’m glad I was wrong about at least some of these comic book novels. I hope more are on the way.

A Number of Reviews

Lets start with the beginning… Spider-man 2.

Oh my.

And I mean that, really. Its very rare… in fact, I’m not 100% I’ve ever encountered it… this sequel was better than the original. And when you consider how good the original was… damn. It was just simply awesome. I was amazed at the first film with how well they took Spidey from the comics to the screen, and with this film I’m just floored with how well they continued it. When Batman came out, one of the actors (I forget which) from the TV series said, "I would have gone to see Batman 2, and 3, and 4, and so on… but Batman Returns?" That’s how I felt about the Batman series, and when X2 came out, I had the same reservation. But X2 was as good as X-Men, so when hearing about Spidey 2, I thought "X-Men pulled it off… but…" I should never doubt Sam Raimi though. All my reservations vanished as the movie unfolded… I was literally on the edge of my seat at some points.

Rock on Sam Raimi… I’m in, Spider-man 3, and 4, and 5… I’m in.

Now, some quick NetFlix reviews…

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Not bad. It wasn’t like super totally mega awesome, and Jodi didn’t like the ending, but I’m satisfied. It ended how it had to end. Quality.

The School of Rock. Jack Black is god… a god of what, I’m not sure, but he’s got to be one. And the movie was good, but after seeing it, I don’t want to see it again. It wasn’t side-splittingly funny enough for me to want to own it. A thumbs up, but only one time.

Seabiscuit. I had no desire to see this movie in the theater. Horse racing? Bah! But there was buzz about it, Oscar nominations and stuff, so I was intrigued. Well, I finally saw it, and it was good. A very solid movie… a testament to the will of the person who will never give up, never quit. Two thumbs up.

Pieces of April. A good, oddly funny film about a disfunctional family at Thanksgiving. I enjoyed it. Oliver Platt is the man.

The Core. HA HA HA HA HA HA! Oh wait, its supposed to be an action thriller? … HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! Man, oh man.. I couldn’t stop laughing at this movie. It was ridiculous, but fun.

Honey. For a movie about a dancer who gets into the music biz while trying not to leave her roots behind and open a dance program "for the kids", it wasn’t too bad. It helps that Jessica Alba is hot.

The Missing. This was good. I remember the previews. It came out at a time when there were a few horror movies out, and the preview, in its attempt not to give anything away, made it sound like a monster or ghost movie. But its not. I liked it. Ron Howard doesn’t disappoint.

And that’s all I can remember for now…

The Lord of the Rings

I went last night to see the final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and…

This is, by far, the best trilogy of films ever made.  Ever.

The story is fantastic, the filming is beautiful, everything.  Its as close to perfection as a set of movies can be.  I doubt in my life I will ever see a set of films so good.

In a way, I am saddened.  When I was younger, I had dreams of creating films, and I still do.  I even dreamed of making films of this particular series of books.  And now that I have seen them, it saddens me to know that not only did I not make them, but that I know deep in my soul that I could never have done a job as good.

I will still dream of making films, but now I finally have both ends of the spectrum in mind… there are films that I know I could have done better, and now there are films that I know I’ll never surpass.

If you have not, go seem them.

5 October 1999

So tonight was the season premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the series premiere of Angel.
I am not disappointed. I still love Buffy, in my mind one of the best shows ever put on television. Nothing else can handle real issues that affect people (like loneliness, heartbreak, failure, fear, and everything else) in such an absurd setting and still get the point across. Plus its funny and fun to watch. And Angel looks like it will be the same, only a little more ‘adult’.
Seriously, even with the violence and ‘scariness’ of these shows, unlike trashy shows like Melrose Place and other such garbage, the good guys always win, people overcome their fears, they feel good about themselves, and they always have their friends. What isn’t to like? This is the kind of stuff that I hope is on when I have kids so they can watch it.
Well damn. Watching these shows just puts me in such a good mood… but not really in a writing mood, so I’ll write more later.

4 October 1999

First, let me say, no… she didn’t turn out to be some kind of psycho and kill me. I just missed a day.
Actually, she turned out to be quite nice… delightfully pleasant in fact. We saw a movie, Stir of Echoes, and I even put a short review of it up.
The movie is the real meat of this .plan. That and a conversation my new friend and I had.
Horror movies.
This year I’ve seen a bunch of them, The Haunting, The Sixth Sense, Stigmata, Stir of Echoes, and The Blair Witch Project. And I’m looking forward to End of Days, Lost Souls, The Bone Collector, and Sleepy Hollow.
Of the ones I’ve seen this year, only The Haunting left me unsatisfied. In my opinion it just didn’t have the weight that the others did. The story lacked, and it really never made you jump. Never really scared you.
The others, with the possible exception of Stigmata to a degree, all did make you jump and, more importantly, left you thinking. Now I’m not going to ruin any of those movies and tell their secrets, but I want to mention that almost without fail often the scariest parts of some of those movies were when they didn’t show you anything. No blood, no grizzly murder. I’ll admit there were a few things that were a little bloody or shocking, but the good ones knew how to build a story. How to keep you interested, on the edge of your seat while simultaneously making you squirm to the back your seat trying to hide. To make you want to slam your eyes shut, but you don’t because you don’t want to miss a single scene.
Someone obviously passed out the “How to write successful horror” handbook this year in Hollywood. And the year isn’t even over yet.
But we also talked about the movies of the past, Poltergeist and The Exorcist being the top two of course. Then the first Friday the 13th (which she had never seen any of, if you can believe that) and the second one too (the rest are funnier than they are scary). Then the first two Halloween movies, and even 4, 5, and 6 weren’t bad. And of course, the king of series bad guys, Freddy in the first Nightmare on Elm Street and the third. Each of those had a good story and in most of them the directors knew how to film a scene for suspense to tense you up before dropping the hammer.
The bad movies are too numerous to name… but we can start with Leprachaun, every movie of a series named above that wasn’t listed as a good one.
Even movies that I might consider ‘good’ movies, meaning that I enjoyed watching them, I wouldn’t really call good ‘horror’ movies. Maybe call them ‘splatter flicks’ or something, like the Hellraiser series, I like ’em, but they mostly shock, not scare.
Where am I going with this? I have no idea. Not a clue. But I like horror movies, so this year I’ve been a happy camper at the theater… it’s when I get home and try to go to sleep that I’m a little uneasy. But that’s what good horror movies do.