Monday, January 28, 2019

A space opera, a mystery and a comic book history

Three books for your consideration today.

Neptune’s Brood is a space opera by Charles Stross.  Perish Twice is a Sunny Randall mystery by Robert B. Parker.  The League of Regrettable Sidekicks by Jon Morris is an account of “heroic helpers and malicious minions from comic book history.”

Stross is a gleefully inventive writer.   He has two long-running series — the Family Trade, a meld of mafioso and the multiverse; and the Laundry, a mash-up of Ian Fleming and H.P. Lovecraft. James Bond vs. elder gods, tentacled horrors that regard man as an ambulatory Tootsie Pop.

Neptune’s Brood is a one-off.  Krina Alizond, a metahuman, has set out among the stars in pursuit of a her missing sister.   As she traipses from star system to star system, Krina is stalked by a mixed cast of characters. Some want her dead. Some want to locate the missing sister because of an excessively large insurance policy. 

Krina, and her sister, have have attracted this undue attention because they have stumbled on the secret behind the largest  Ponzi scheme in the universe.  A scheme that involves faster-than-light travel and which, if revealed, threatens to undermine several ill-gotten fortunes.

What separates Stross from the ranks of the run of the mill sci-fi writer is that he’s concocted an elaborate financial structure for star systems. A structure that involves “slow” money and “fast money” and which provides the novel with a certain gravitas.  

Ultimately, like his other books, Neptune’s Brood is fun. It’s a quick, enjoyable read from a sci-fi master.

Perish Twice is my introduction to Robert B. Parker.  Parker is a prolific writer, well-regarded by many, and I think it was inevitable that one day one of his novels would find its way to me.

This book ran to almost 300 pages, but I knocked it out in a day. Full disclosure: there was no football to distract me and the wife was out of town. Still, Parker’s an easy read. Perish Twice breezes along. I just had to turn the pages.

I liked the book. The characters were solid and the plot satisfactorily muddled and mysterious. I surmise a second book by Mr. Parker will find its way to me soon.

Jon Morris is having fun. First there was The League of Regrettable Superheroes, followed by The League of Regrettable Supervillains and now, naturally, The League of Regrettable Sidekicks take center stage.

All three books are best read a few pages each day. Each book ranges from the infancy of comics in the Golden Age through the Silver Age to the Modern Age. Generally, Morris devotes a page of text and a page of illustration to each superhero, supervillain and sidekick.

I was familiar with a few of the characters Morris introduces, others were new to me. 

Morris has done a splendid job in capturing a slice of comic book history.   Most of these characters will never be missed, but it seems fitting to acknowledge their presence and their passing.  

These three books by Morris are a must for comic book aficionados.

Book read -- January
1. Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2. Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3. Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert
4. Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman
5. A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
6. Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
7. Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross
8. Perish Twice, Robert B. Parker
9. The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, Jon Morris

Currently  Reading --
The Big Fella, Babe Ruth and the World He Created, Jane Leavy
Casino Royale, Ian Fleming

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