Chew/ John Layman & Rob Guillory

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Had to borrow these since the title sported my family name!

It did not disappoint.

Tony Chu is a “cibopath” investigator for the US Food and Drug Administration, one who can get psychic impressions (past sequence of events) by taking a bite into things. Some things include corpses.

What a oddly different class of super powers.

Plus a really weird storyline that’s so quirky and somehow believable, in a comic book way.

The FDA is a powerful agency namely because if the Avian Flu outbreak, resulting in a global enforcement of a chicken and poultry ban.

Add some high-powered (money and/ or similar new superpowers) characters — baddies and sidekicks — in a unfolding conspiracy, plus Alien writing in the sky.

So very X-files.

Chew. [Volume 3]: Just desserts

Chew. [Volume 4]: Flambé


Runaways: homeschooling/ Immonen & Pichelli

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Issues 11-14.

Military craft crashes to their home. Some mysterious and probably dangerous package that’s hinted. The Runaways have a casualty. Then an uncle shows up.


Includes a short story: what if the Runaways became be Young Avengers.

The iron dragon’s daughter/ Michael Swanwick

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First published 1993. Definitely an evergreen classic.

You could say this was also a coming-of-age story about the protagonist – Jane.

She’s a changeling, of unknown parentage. Her type has iron in her blood, and hence is the only species able to become dragon pilots. Something about being immune to the iron corrupting fey-blood.

The dragons in Swanwick’s fantasy realm are technological wonders, sentient war machines that require human pilots to fly. And maliciously evil too, such is their purpose.

Basically she ends up with a dragon and they both have an axe to grind with the status quo.

That’s super over-simplification of the plot but share anymore and you’d blame me for tainting Swanwick’s magic touch.

OK I’ll add that the end has that Sophie’s World twist to it. Right. Hate me.

Swanwick’s fey-steam punk world holds up a lot stronger than what I’ve revealed (which honestly isn’t much).

It’s a smooth ride, for every line — every backstory — seems such an intricately coherent thread to the whole telling. There doesn’t seem to be any frivolous bits. I found myself revisiting sentences just to replay the mental imagery over. Yet, I still managed to finish this work in days.

You get the assortment of creatures vile and fantastic. His magic is in telling them as if you’ve known them all that while. And the species and characters are there

The only readers who should avoid this novel are those who take offence at depiction of sex. Plus, the faerie-sex scenes can sometimes come across as rather deviant. Certainly much, much more sex than in Dragons of Babel (don’t make a beeline for the book now, y’all)

I’ve mentioned how every line in this book seems to be intricately woven, haven’t I? It’s all relevant to the fey-world and mood that Swanwick is trying to create, IMO.

This novel doesn’t delve as deep into the Babel or the Fey-world backstory (see “Dragons of Babel”) though one is quickly absorbed into the whole Dickensian steam punk-lord of the ringish-faerie tech realm.

Fantastic stuff.

Astro City: the dark age 1 – brothers & other strangers/ Busik, Anderson, Ross, Sinclair

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Set in the 70s US, with the Watergate political scandal and involvement in the Vietnam conflict as backdrop.

Storyline revolves around two brothers, who ended up pursuing different paths on life after the tragic deaths of their parents. One is a cop and the other involved in crime.

The interesting thing about Busik’s style is that the whole superhero thing develops in parallel, often anchored to the two brother’s individual narratives. Like the controversy over the superhero vigilantes, the superpowered battles. The Silver Agent has a central role in all that is happening but we are left with hints and curiosity.

Gotta look for book 2!

The dragons of Babel/ Michael Swanwick

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I recognised the author’s name from previous Scifi Best Of anthologies and magazine stories in Analog (or Azimov?)

Then the blurb made me take the literary hook.

Check this out:

“A war-dragon of Babel crashes in the idyllic fields of a postindustralized Faerie and, dragging himself into the nearest village, declares himself king and makes young Will his lieutenant. Nightly he invades the young fey’s mind to get a measure of what his subjects think.

Eventually forced from the village, Will travels with female centaur soldiers, witnesses the violent clash of giants, and acquires a surrogate daughter, Esme, who may be immortal. Evacuated to the Tower of Babel — infinitely high, infinitely vulgar — Will rises as an underling to a haint politician and meets his one true love — a high-elven woman to whom he dare not aspire.”


War-dragon. Centaur soldiers. Just conjures up fantastic visions and promises of action; the sort that guys stereotypically like. Which I believe we do.

Plus the hints and promise of romance and intrigue.

The main protagonist is a man-child called Will, whose origin was of a mystery even to himself. His life changes when he is forced to work for the war-dragon. From there till his meeting of the centaur soldiers is pretty slick and exciting stuff. You’ll hate me if I give the plot away.

Will meets Esme, a young child who seems to have exceptional luck. Along the way, Will finds himself a mentor by the name of Nat, who is a con-artist and has plans for a grand scam.

The trio ends up in Babel, which is like the main hub of high civilisation. Will finds work with a politician, learns to be city-smart. There’s an exciting side-adventure where Will finds himself leading a band of underground insurgents.

The conclusion is also coherently slick. All the seemingly hidden agendas and disparate plot lines come together into a final coherent reveal.

Gene Wolfe called this work a “machine-age fantasy universe”. I call this Steam Punk. But not quite, because there is an element of the fantastic: magics and elemental mythical beings.

Maybe its a universe where Faeries acquire technology. Or perhaps it’s a advanced industrial society that chose to shape itself along mythical lines, built to a level that technology is indistinguishable from magic.

It’s a refreshing concept for me, whatever the case.

Almost immediately into the first few pages of the novel, I was reminded of Gibson’s Neuromancer, McCaffery’s Dragons of Pern and Pratchet’s An Mor Pok. Or, World of Warcraft meets Halo, in the realm of electronic games.

Whatever I might call it, this novel was definitely unputdownable. I devoured this in three days. Less, if I had the entire day to read. Definitely one of those books that give reading fiction a great reputation.

Btw it’s a 2007 story first published in 2008 (paperback edition came out in 2011). I think this will be a timeless classic.

Winterworld/ Chuck Dixon & Jorge Zaffino

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A re-print of a series that ran in the 1980s. Includes a never published sequel, WinterSea.

WinterWorld is one vision of what post-mordern North American society, experiencing an ice-age, might be like. The protagonist, Scully, is a lone hunter-trader who survives by barter trading and on his wits. A badger is his pet/ side kick. He meets Wynn, a girl-child, who claims she is from a tribe who have flying machines.

Plot-spolier: Scully and Wynn gets captured by marauding bands, forced to work as slave labour, make their way out, find Wynn’s tribe, Scully gets kicked out, learns that Wynn and tribe are in danger, goes back to save them.

WinterWorld is a place where there is some functioning technology, where bands of humans live in a hunting-gathering and trading culture. No warm agriculture or industry. It’s like what remained of human society has moved to Antarctica. The generations of humans, living in bands or slugging it out and have forgotten a life before the ice-age.

Siege/ Brian Michael Bendis & Olivier Coipel

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The final instalment of a series in the Marvel Universe that reads like an All-Star play book. According to the blurb, the story arc began with Avengers Dissembled, then extending through House of M, Civil War and Secret Invasion — which I realised I’ve read them at different stages…

Asgard has mysteriously appeared over a US town. The Green Goblin, leader of a government quasi-military organisation of Superpowered beings, colludes with Loki to invade Asgard.

The fight begins, hell breaks loose, both gods and superpowered mortals die.

The Avengers — new and old guards (the latter like Captain America, Iron Man, Nick Fury, Spider-Man) essentially step in to stop the fight.

But the bad guys have a nasty ace up their sleeves in the form of… I’ll just say its a Super.

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