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
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Chew. [Volume 4]: Flambé
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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.”

Wow.

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.

The Losers: book 1/ Andy Diggle & Jock

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This is like The A-team meets Mission Impossible.

You can expect guns, explosions, heists, stratagems within stratagems — that sort of thing.

The Losers are a group of ex-military Special Forces, trained in covert ops. Basically the agency sold them out and wanted them dead (part of the plot is in discovering the reason). The team faked their deaths and are now on their secret mission to uncover the truth of why the agency wanted them dead.

No wonder it’s been made into a Hollywood movie.

The graphic novel is great. Plot is interesting enough to make me curious about how the series will end. Nice gritty feel to the dialogue, pace and visuals.

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.

Halo: bloodline/ Van Lente & Portela

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Story unveils the relationships among a Spartan team (Team Black) and a Convenant warrior pair.

Both find themselves stranded and (here’s where I reveal a little more than what the blurb says) have to make a choice to team up to survive.

Well, won’t share more or else i’ll be giving the whole plot away.

But I can add there’s a sub-plot about some relationship angst among the Spartans.

Could be something that might be expanded to a novella, though expectedly this graphic novel version offers the surface-level Hollywood treatment.

Halo: Helljumper/ Peter David & Eric Nguyen

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Centers around a pair of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST). Not enhanced Spartans, btw.

Plot: best of buddies are part of a deployment to investigate a Convenant raid. Find themselves cut off; fight their way through and show more of the self-sacrificial buddy-hero stuff.

But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading it. It’s light leisurely clean stuff.

The Odyssey/ Roy Thomas & Greg Tocchini

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A Marvel graphic novel adaptation of the Greek classic. Covers the story of Odysseus after the sacking of Troy, to his another decade epic journey home, and the retaking of his home. There’s the usual meddling of the gods. I’m not sure how the original Greek poem was like; this version also splices the narrative of his wife’s Penelope’s and his son Telemachus.

An accessible and visual introduction to the epic poem. Also has endnotes on the origins of the Illiad and Odyssey.

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