The Freeze-Frame Revolution: mutineers unstuck in time, strung out across an aeon

Peter Watts (previously) is a brilliant bastard of a science fiction writer, whose grim scenarios are matched by their scientific speculation; in his latest, a novella called The Freeze-Frame Revolution, Watts imagines a mutiny that stretches out across aeons, fought against a seemingly omnipotent AI.

Actually, Solo is good

Solo: A Star Wars Story, the latest Star Wars feature film and Disney's fourth, offers something new even as it stays connected to the old. I have a few gripes, but Solo is a nice side chapter to the ongoing Star Wars mythos.

Set roughly a decade before A New Hope, the original Star Wars film, Solo chronicles the journey of a 20-something Han Solo from an orphan looking for a brighter future to the swaggering but lovable scoundrel originally portrayed by Harrison Ford.

Standard backstory fare includes Solo meeting the Wookiee Chewbacca and fellow miscreant Lando Calrissian. We find out where he grew up and how he came by his surname. He acquires the Millenium Falcon and his biggest claim to fame: making the Kessel Run in a record-breaking twelve parsecs. Solo brims with action and humor—I think it's a great stand-alone film.

Read the rest

Bandwidth: science fiction thriller about networks of power and the power of networks

Eliot Peper's novel Bandwidth is a global technothriller that pits the barons of a world-spanning networking monopoly against the hydrocarbon barons who've manipulated the world's politics to let them go on boiling the world in its own emissions, and the lobbyists and shadowy resistance fighters who play them off against each other.

All Rights Reserved: a YA dystopia where every word is copyrighted

In Gregory Scott Katsoulis's All Rights Reserved, we get all the traditional trappings of a first-rate YA dystopia: grotesque wealth disparity leading to a modern caste system, draconian surveillance to effect social control in an inherently unstable state, ad-driven ubiquitous entertainment as the only distraction from environmental collapse -- but with an important difference.

John Hodgman's outstanding Vacationland: now in paperback!

I found John Hodgman's Vacationland to be a genuinely moving and hilarious read; and it has stuck with me in the year since its hardcover release -- now it's out in paperback, and Hodgman is touring with it. Read the rest

84K: A grim meathook future novel of exterminism, with a theory of change and a glimmer of hope in its centre

UK writer Claire North's 84K is a grim tale of a near-future Britain in which Toryism has come to its logical extreme, with all functions of the state assumed by a single massive corporation, and with all human life weighed and priced by how "socially useful" it is.

Exit West: beautifully wrought novel about refugees, mobility and borders

Mohsin Hamid's Exit West is a science fiction novel with a simple, allegorical premise: what if the poor, oppressed, and alienated could simply vanish through mysterious doorways and emerge somewhere else?

Hope Larson's "All Summer Long," lively YA graphic novel about tween friendships, rock and roll, and being yourself

Hope Larson's All Summer Long is an incredibly charming, subtly complex story about friendship and coming of age, the story of Bina and her lifelong friend Austin, who, as far back as they can remember have spent every summer playing a game where they award themselves "Fun Points" for petting cats, finding change on the sidewalk, going swimming, and otherwise making the most of a long, wonderful summer. Until now.

Paper Girls 4: duelling invisible megabots, time travel and the prime directive, now with more Hugo nominations!

Paper Girls is the outstanding Stranger-Things-esque graphic novel series by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, a tale of time-travel, meddling, war and coming of age whose mind-bending twists and turns earned it a Hugo nomination this year. Now Paper Girls 4 is on shelves, and it's time to party like it's 1999.

Book review: Melancholy Accidents

With guns on the public mind, now might be a good time to read Melancholy Accidents: Three Centuries of Stray Bullets and Bad Luck, an anthology of newspaper accounts of accidental shootings, mostly fatal, compiled by Peter Manseau. Spanning 1739 to 1916, they’re brief, only a half-page on average, but their old-fashioned diction, formal as a wing collar, and the ironic distance between their deadpan recitation of the facts and the mayhem they recount gives them a prosaic poetry. They uncover the matter-of-fact madness of what Manseau calls “a nation that fancies itself created and sustained by guns, yet remains resigned to being culled by them with unnerving frequency.”

Some of the book’s entries have a Fortean absurdity that splits the difference between tragic and comic, like the February 13, 1739 item from The New England Weekly Journal about some men trying out a new firearm on the broad side of a barn. As fate would have it, “one of the Bullets struck upon some piece of Iron and split it (the Bullet) in two, one piece of which flew to a considerable Distance from the Barn.” A Doctor Rice was traveling along the road; it cut him down. The other half came to rest near a cluster of people but “did no Hurt.” One of them, the Reverend Mr. Sterns, “sent the piece to the Men who were firing, with a desire that they would take more Care for the future.”

Other reports are contenders for the Darwin Award, testimonials to the stupidity of the species. Read the rest

Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths

Peter & Ernesto have a good life: the two sloths sit in their Amazon treetop and make up songs about the animal shapes they see in the clouds. But one day, Ernesto gets it into his head to see the whole sky, from every place on Earth, and sets out through the jungle.

Review: Black Panther

I thought it was funny how they kept having Erik Killmonger do irrationally psychopathic things, just in case the audience starts wondering why they're supposed to side with a moderate CIA-backed autocrat.

★★★★★ Read the rest

Lumberjanes 8: families, they f*ck you up

Lumberjanes is the longrunning, justly beloved kids' graphic novel series about an all-girl summer camp where the campers fight magic monsters, sometimes are magic monsters, and swear oaths on feminist icons from history; it keeps going from strength to strength, and Stone Cold, the eighth collection in the series, is no exception!

Make your Keurig as messy as a French press and as tasty as motel drip coffee with this reusable plastic k-cup

After several attempts to get something drinkable out of the Ekobrew Classic Reusable Filter, I figured it out: just grind it finer than the normal stuff in a k-cup and tamp it down a bit. The results were everything I dreamed of and was promised: a k-cup that must be laboriously cleaned after every use, a return to the messy and time-consuming rituals of coffee production that Keurig machines otherwise obviate, and a brew that somehow makes a $20-a-bag Kona blend taste like Maxwell House.

I'd say it's the worst of every world, but the the resulting coffee is still better than a lot of k-cup brews. I suppose the appeal is that I'm not putting k-cups into the trash every day. But that seems a trifling greenwashy thing to begin with that surely has no impact on the general environmental failings associated with coffee consumption. I admit this is a half-brewed thought but in any case I'm going to suggest you just get an Aeropress [Amazon].

BEFORE: I found the worst K-Cup coffee Read the rest

Sara Varon's New Shoes: a kids' buddy story about the jungles of Guyana and redemption

Sara Varon is co-creator, with Cecil Castellucci, of Odd Duck, the 2013 outstanding kids' picture book, and her latest solo venture, New Shoes is a brilliant reprisal of the themes from Odd Duck: camaraderie among eccentric animals, charming small-town life, fascinating technical details, humor, and beautiful, engaging illustrations.

Steven Brust's "Good Guys," a hardboiled noir urban fantasy, with everything great about Brust on proud display

Steven Brust is a literary treasure and his longrunning Vlad Taltos series, now nearing its final volume, is a good example of where his strengths lie: hardboiled plotting, snappy dialog, weirdly realistic and plausible depictions of magic, and a sensitive eye for power relationships and their depiction, all of which are on display in his latest, outstanding novel, Good Guys, about the minimum-wage sorcerers who investigate magical crimes on behalf of a secret society.

Monsters Beware! is the long-awaited sequel to Giants Beware! and Dragons Beware! and it is AAAAAAMAZING!

Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre's middle-grades graphic novels Giants Beware! and Dragons Beware! are two of my family's favorite books: Rosado and Aguirre's character design, comedic dialog, plotting, and scenarios are so charming, so funny, so overwhelmingly, compulsively great that we've re-read these dozens of times; now we've got Monsters Beware, the third volume in the series, where the mysteries of Mont Petit Pierre and the intertwined lives of the huge cast of characters from the previous volumes come together.

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