One of the issues with religion is which one is right? Many of them don’t really work if the others are correct. Perhaps they are all right and there are a bunch of Gods and Demigods that walk amongst us. What would an ancient power do in the modern world? I imagine that they would just want to get on with a normal life and every now and again pull off a miracle or two. In Michael Boatman’s ‘Last God Standing’, God is back, but is keeping a low profile as a wannabe stand-up comedian Lando.
God just wants his time on Earth to go unnoticed and enjoy some of the pleasures of being human, but his absence from the heavens has been noticed by some of the other deities whose power has waned over the millennia. The likes of Odin have seen an opportunity to become top dog again. Can God juggle being a rising star in the comedy scene whilst having to fight increasingly confident other Gods?
As a premise ‘Last’ is one that should work; a comedy about a very human feeling God who has to deal with other worldly powers. At its best the book is about Lando himself, his family and his love. There is enough material in the book just trying to juggle saving the world from natural disaster, whilst remembering to turn up for dinner. However, like so many fantasy novels in recent years it appears that the author was a little scared to keep things simple. The rest of the Urban Fantasy genre is full of action packed books, shouldn’t this one follow?
The simple answer is no, but this did not stop Boatman. For all the enjoyable family drama on offer, there is also far too much empty headed action. Lando/God goes up against several other deities in the book, normally in the form of a supernatural fight amongst men. These battles are the usual empty headed nonsense seen in the genre and although epic in scale are just a bit dull. It is not helped that in most cases Lando also manages to heal the rip in the space-time continuum and it’s as if the fight never happened. What is the point of them at all then?
There are some interesting ideas in the book; suppose that the Gods did decide not to get involved in human business anymore and set up shop on Earth? The book could easily have worked as a pure comedy book of errors as the Gods juggle the simple and the divine. Instead the book is dominated more by the bland action sequences.
Most right minded people have had enough of politics in recent years so the last thing that you want to read to your child is a book all about an election. At least this election is set on a farm, but anyone familiar with a certain George Orwell novel will know that this does not always turn out for the best. Surely a kid’s book is not going to reflect modern politics? I mean, when have we recently seen turkeys voting for Christmas?
Every year Christmas comes and goes on Pear Tree Farm with nary a celebration because it is put to a vote. With a sizable turkey population they always block vote against it, but this time a pugnacious turkey called Timmy has taken it upon himself to get the vote passed. What can possible go wrong for a turkey at Christmas? It is not like they are the mainstay of many a Christmas lunch.
‘‘The Turkey That Voted For Christmas’’ by Madeleine Cook and Samara Hardy is a book with a strong idea at its centre, but confusingly executed. The premise requires the reader to know from the offset what the phrase turkey voting for Christmas means. To most adults this is not a problem, but to a child could easily be confused. On a basic level it means that the turkeys are voting to get themselves eaten. At a deeper level it is whether the animals are aware of what they are voting for or not. The book also lacks any real Christmas spirit, politics does not often instil a sense of goodwill to all men.
It appears that most turkeys are aware, but why did no one bothers to tell Timmy? Ten seconds explaining what giblets are and the wonders of sage stuffing would soon have got him back on track. However, for the book to work Cook had to ignore this obvious solution and instead have an ambivalent Timmy carrying on regardless. To add tension to the book it appears that the farmer is ready to take Timmy to the chopping block. Therefore, the reader assumes that things will turn out badly for the animal population, but there is a twist. It is safe to say that nobody dies, but the turnaround in the book comes from nowhere. I was left confused as to why a farmer would bother to raise these animals except for slaughter.
‘‘Turkey’’ is meant to come across as a cutesy look at politics, but it really just highlights some of the worst pig-headed elements of it and then when the party you want comes to power they don’t deliver what they promised anyway. Thankfully Hardy’s illustrations are bright and colourful giving you some of the Christmas cheer back stolen from you by the story. I can forgive a book for children being about politics, but children will just be confused with the concepts and the fact that the conclusion is a little jumbled. Hidden within this book is a good idea, it just got lost – remind you of politics at all?
For me, watches are like any type of clothing or jewellery, they are about taste. One thing may appeal to you, but someone else may find it horrible. I normally find all silver watches a little blingy for my tastes and scream too much “look at me”. The ‘M-Watch Women’s Quartz Watch’ could be just this as there is a lot of silver metal on show. Added to this is the face itself that also has silver elements. However, it works well as it is a dainty watch. The ‘M-Watch’ has a traditional women’s watch look and feel to it; a little smaller. This means that you can almost wear it as a slightly chunky bracelet, more than a watch.
For a stainless steel watch, it is surprisingly light and the band does not weigh the hand down. It has a good quality to it and although light, there is a feel of good build to it. This is a basic watch with simple features such as the ability to tell the time, but no date. This is a watch as it’s most simple, but there is an elegance to that. The double edged sword is the silver numbering; it makes the watch look chic, but it does make it a little hard to read. The small size of the watch and the silver numbers (on an already very silver watch) means that it won’t be suitable for those with poorer eyesight. I actually see this watch almost as an accessory for an outfit, than just a watch itself. It may not be the easiest to read on the fly, but it certainly has a nice look to it and will be a good extra for a night out.
The world is an exciting place, although it may not seem like it when you live in a grey town. Simon Chapman is an explorer and nature lover who has travelled the globe looking for excitement and some of the world’s most majestic creatures. He has several books that cover different countries and biomes and in the case of ‘Indian Lowlands’ he starts off in New Delhi and goes out on the search for animals including the elusive Bengal Tiger.
Chapman is part of the modern safari lover that is more likely to shoot with a camera than a gun. Chapman goes beyond this as he is an illustrator, so he draws what he sees, this gives the book a vibrant feel as he draws animals as he sees them. There is a quality to the drawings, but also a speed; he has just that moment to get the image on paper. The book takes the form of a diary and is full of factoids, but it also details his adventures. The main thrust is the search for a Bengal Tiger, but that does not stop Chapman from seeing many other animals as well and capturing them using pen and paper.
There is an earnest feel to ‘Indian Lowlands’ that portrays Chapman’s passion well, but it is a book for the animal loving child only. There is no pandering to the very short attention span – poo jokes or gross out moments. This is a real adventure written and illustrated in a way that a 9-12 year old can understand. Those tweens that love animals and geography will get a lot from this book, whilst others may not. The book itself is a quality hardback with colour imagery throughout. It is Chapman’s on the fly drawings and passion for the subject matter that makes the book stand out.
Science Fiction can be the best of all the genres; there are so many opportunities to explore. You can set a book in an alternative present, or on a distant planet far unlike our own. The main problem with an infinite world of possibilities is that Science Fiction can sometimes be impenetrable. Crazy uses of language or concepts that only a Mensa member can get their head’s round. Many authors like to keep things simple; perhaps setting their book in our own world with a tweak or two. Geoff Ryman sought to do this in ‘Air’, but rather than creating a coherent alternative history book, he has produced something that is both bland and confusing.
Karzistan is finally ready to get itself noticed by introducing the concept of Air across the country; a sort of internet that pushes itself into everybody’s mind. The village of Kizuldah is not really ready for these developments as it is so remote that it has existed in a similar manner for centuries. Only Mae Chung sees the opportunities that Air could bring, but when the first experiments leaves her with a dual personality, will the villagers listen to her?
‘Air’ is an odd book and one that I found hard to read. It looks like it is going to be a slice of hard Science Fiction, but it soon becomes obvious that it is more a melodrama set around the petty politics of a remote village in a far flung country. This was not what I signed up for when starting the book, but was willing to give it a chance, after all the idea of futuristic technology effecting a backwards community is an interesting one.
The issue I had was that the rather interesting tech is really only a catalyst to the rather dull family drama story. We get glimpses of what Air is meant to be, but Ryman is constantly dragging us back to the problems of the village. A lot of the story could have been identical if the concept of internet of the mind was replaced with the villages arguing over the idea of a new well. It felt like the Science Fiction elements was all smoke and mirrors. Is Ryman a frustrated modern fiction writer who has found himself only signed to a Science Fiction contract?
Two separate books would have made for better reads; one about a bunch of villagers talking amongst each other, the other an actual Science Fiction book that explored the concept of Air. Instead you get a very boring book about family ties and then to top it all of an increasingly confusing Sci Fi element and bizarre body horror section that entangles the end. Neither part of the book was satisfying, but both together made it borderline unreadable.
I have read some hefty books in my time; usually they are in the fantasy genre, but when I picked up the ‘Star Trek: Day of Honor’ omnibus I was in for some carpal tunnel levels of reading. This is not one book, but 6 that span nearly all the Star Trek Universe that existed in its time of writing. Five can be considered adult novels and one is for tweens. The thread that connects them all is the Klingon Day of Honor, a ceremonial day that allows Klingons to reflect that even their enemies can have honour. With this central idea in mind, how come so many of the books only paid lip service to it?
‘Day of Honor’ is certainly a mixed bag of books in terms of quality; there are no must read books, but a couple offer some higher quality Star Trek action. However, some of them also suffer greatly because of the fundamental issue they all have – Klingons. This species is not my favourite in the series as they seem to use honour as they wish. One minute they could be cleaving an enemies head from their shoulders as this is the honourable thing to do. The next they are walking away because of … honour. There often seems little rhyme or reason for which path they choose. This is seen most in the worst of the books here, ‘Armageddon Sky’ a book in which some Klingons needlessly decide to die for no reason. Idiots. The TV episode suffers from being formulated for the small screen and does not work written down.
Other books are better, both ‘Her Klingon Soul’ and ‘Treaty’s Law’ are examples of better Trek novels. They are both pacy and just get on with things. ‘Soul’ does not overly concentrate on the idea of honour, but has a good prison based storyline. ‘Law’ is probably the best book of the lot as it shows the reader why the Day of Honor began. The book is action packed, but is also the one that discusses the idea of what makes Klingon’s tick the most. If you read this book you start to think perhaps they are not too bad, it is just a shame that other writers often treat Klingons are if they are schizophrenic.
The other books are reasonable, but oddities; both of them feature Worf and Alexander as main characters, but whilst one if for kids, the other is for adults. ‘Ancient Blood’ is the most violent Trek book that I have read and has some pretty grim scenes; a carpet soaked with blood and ripped off arms spring to mind. It has some great action and is almost like a detective story, but it suffers more than any other in the series from having daft Klingon actions. Worf’s attitude to honour essentially leads to unnecessary misery. ‘Honor Bound’ is a strange book to include as it is a tween story set in Alexander’s high school and has a gymnastics based fight off. Both of these outings are flawed, but ok overall.
As a collection of six books ‘Day of Honor’ just about works. They are all based around the one calendar day, but many of them only pay lip service to it. It is odd that in several cases the very ethos of the Day of Honor is ignored in the story. What you have are two good books, two average and two poor. Therefore, a reasonable set, but I would be happy just to read the decent ones and leave the worst as missing one story has no impact on any of the others.
Over the past few weeks I have been working my way through the Star Trek: Day of Honor books. I have visited the original series, Voyager, Generations and DS9, but none took me to the place that ‘Honor Bound’ by Dina G Gallagher did; the Tween novel. After every other book in the series was an ‘adult’ book, this one is set in a high school and even has images.
Puberty is hitting Alexander hard, he has all the usual worries of a teenager, but no one told him about the rage that comes with being a Klingon. With the Federation and Klingon Empire back at war, he is not the most popular student in school. When he is targeted by bullies, Alex finds it hard not to tear their arms out. Enter Worf, can he teach his son to rise above petty issues and use his honour to stay calm?
As a novel for the 8-10 year old market I have no real reason to enjoy ‘Honor Bound’, but it works because it is one of the few books in the ‘Day of Honor’ series that actually remembers to be about honour. Alexander is getting heavily bullied and rather than rising to it, he walks away. This does not stop him being persecuted by the school and it is only the intervention of Worf that can save the day. The solid centre of the book works; be honourable and things will work out.
This simplifies view of matters permeate the rest of the book and it does not work quite as well. The relationships are very teeny; glances and crushes. For the correct audience this should speak to them, but after five adult Honor books, it does feel a little odd. Also, the gymnastics part of the book is just odd!
The important thing is though that the book works for an emerging reader. The characters and plot is pedestrian, but simple enough to follow. I found the images a little embarrassing, but they do break up the text if your attention span is a little light. Despite the book being aimed at a younger audience and having a weird gymnastics subplot, I still found it entertaining enough as an adult. It was pacy and importantly remembered the central message of honour throughout.