Monday, July 02, 2012

Reviews of Stuff

I finished Alex Grecian's The Yard over the weekend.  Taking place in London in 1890, it's premise is that Jack the Ripper's reign of terror is over but the overworked 'murder squad' at Scotland Yard has a new devil on its hands. Inspector Walter Day must find a killer who's murdering policemen, and he must do it quickly.

There are similarities between this book and Caleb Carr's The Alienist from twenty years ago and that's not a bad thing. Forensic science is in its infancy and Grecian's meticulously-researched details stand out alongside such memorable characters as The Dancing Man and Dr. Kingsley. This is an entertaining, pretty quick read that is satisfying in its conclusion and has set the stage for further adventures. With short chapters, he's used his skills as a comic book writer (the excellent series Proof from Image Comics) to set a pace which sometimes feels choppy but is actually a deft change in point of view that contributes to the chaos the murder squad is experiencing.

It's a great ride and if you're looking for an interesting thriller that will submerge you completely into its world, The Yard is well worth the money you'll spend on it.

The book I'm reading now is the Year's Best SF 17 edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer and I've told you guys before that this is the BEST SF anthology out on the market and this volume continues that tradition. I'm only a quarter of the way into it, but each story is dynamic, interesting, and compelling. There are a couple of authors whose names you'll recognize when you look at it, and that's a great reason to buy it, but you'll be treated to work by authors whose names you aren't familiar with, too. Those are the stories that tend to stick with me from year to year. You can get a copy here.

Before I move on, a word about anthologies. If an anthology - whether it's a comic book, prose or even television show - fails, it's inevitably because the vision of the anthology was lost somewhere. Sometimes that's the fault of the holders of the purse strings and sometimes it's the fault of the editor(s), but it's never the fault of the writers. No one sets out to fail and anthologies are famous (especially in comics and TV) for 'not catching on' with their potential audiences. Don't let that fear keep you from trying this series. This is my fourth year reading Hartwell and Cramer's work and Year's Best SF has not disappointed me once. It truly lives up to the title. 

HBO's The Newsroom is in its second week and continues to be interesting, if a little trite. Last night's episode was all angsty about the reasons why McAvoy and McHale broke up three years ago but the subplot about building a new news show carried on underneath the emotional component quite well. One thing that was evident was that managing people is the same whether it's in a newsroom (as in this show) or a food service operation (my particular personal experience) or even a gang of killers and thieves (as in The Sopranos). More on that another time, but I bring it up now to say that I was allowed an 'in' to this world through the way the characters (particularly Senior Producer Jim Harper) interacted with their co-workers and I recognized more than a few personality types and behaviors. 

But back to the show. As I said last week, I'm not the biggest Aaron Sorkin fan for any reason other than I tend not to watch commercial TV and haven't for probably fifteen years or so. I've read elsewhere that there's misogyny running rampant through the scripts and that was certainly a subtext of the first episode. However, what I saw last night was a management team working together to support one another during the difficult birthing of a Changed Environment. I'll wait until the end of the season to see if the misogyny is inherent in character behaviors, but for now I'm seeing The Newsroom as something else and I don't know if that's how Sorkin intended it or not. Stay tuned.

Finally, Happy Birthday a day late to my old friend Rob Schamberger who is having the time of his life lately. We met long ago when we were both trying to break into comics and Rob has kept on as much as I have in telling stories. His big break has come this year as he's now painting every single wrestling world champion ever. And he's getting recognized and paid to do it. You think I'm kidding? Check out his website

Now it's time for me to dive back into my own writing.