“The Long Earth” and Brits Writing America

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Outsiders, so the theory goes, have the best perspective. They can never belong, but that makes them the best observers, the viewers of detail, the people who can really understand.

That’s why you get some great novels by Brits about America, and some great books by Americans about Britain. Take “Notes on a Small Island,” which was selected by Brits as the best representation of Modern Britain, and which was written by an Iowa cornboy. Or “American Gods,” a gorgeous dive into America’s mythological soul written by a British transplant.

“The Long Earth” is theoretically a science fiction novel, and the scifi elements are fantastic. It takes the basic idea that there are an infinite number of copies of Earth, with an infinite evolutionary variety, and that people can easily move from one to another, and it explores the various implications and permutations of that idea.

But really, “The Long Earth” is about America’s frontier mentality. It’s about the need to find out what’s beyond the horizon. It’s about starting over, discovering, learning. It’s about the quest for quiet in a world that–no matter what time you live in–always seems too loud.

Redshirts by John Scalzi

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We’re all the hero of our own story. That’s just how each of us operates.

But what if we weren’t? What if we were just a background character, our complex web of history and motivation all designed solely so that we could dramatically be killed off by random craziness? And our death would have no meaning, save the effect it had on the overall narrative, a narrative that made little sense and had little emotional impact?

That’s what “Redshirts” is about: those background characters in all your favorite TV shows. The intersection between fiction and reality. What would happen if the creative process of TV shows was replicated in real life.

And it’s bloody awesome. The characters have just enough snark and sense of humor about the situation to make them believable and super-entertaining. They become freaking genre-savvy to their own plot over the course of the novel–it’s freaking amazing!

If you have ever watched a Star Trek movie or episode, or Stargate, or really television in general, you’ll adore this book. I know I did.

CLIFFHANGERS ARE PROOF OF TRUE EVIL

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Four days. FOUR DAYS AND OVER A THOUSAND PAGES OF COMIC. And what happens? It ends PRACTICALLY IN MIDSENTENCE.

No, I sort of knew something like this was coming. Girl Genius is a webcomic now, so the story comes out in fragments. But I’ve been reading the stories constantly for days, so I was only theoretically prepared.

Cliffhangers are HORRIBLE. Especially when I HAVE NO WAY TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS EXCEPT TO WAIT. I just have to SIT and be PATIENT and not be INSANE and write posts in all caps.

EVERYONE READ THIS IT IS AWESOME:

http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20021104

It’s the definition of charm, and if you’re not a lunatic like yours truly you can draw the happy out.

Adventure! Romance! Mad Science!

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I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this much fun.

I’ve been reading nonstop for most of the day, and I’m not bored yet. Even the fact that I’m reading digital versions isn’t hurting–which, for me, is unusual.

Why are these comics so wonderful? Because they’ve got a multilayered plot, interesting and evolving characters, and an endless supply of original and brilliant jokes. The story’s complicated but easy to follow, the cast is huge but it’s almost impossible to mix anyone up. And it’s FUN.

It’s a good story, and I’m enjoying the ride with the great storytellers.

The Debt We All Owe To Comic Books

mainpage_L_1600x1200Sometimes, I’ll be reading something, and I’ll think “this is really a comic book.”

And then I’ll watch a movie, like 300 or Watchmen, and the images will flash across the screen and I think “this reminds me of a comic book.”

I’m not a big comic reader. I follow one or two series, and that’s it. I occasionally work my way through different Graphic Novel series, like the Sandman. But really, the debt readers and moviegoers owe to comic books goes way beyond superhero movies.

Comic books give us easter eggs, jokes hidden in the background, long-term plotting, gorgeous visuals, and tactile worlds that can be mad, wonderful, and terrifying all at the same time.

The novel I just finished was called “Agatha H and the Airship City.” It was a novelization of three graphic novels. And it was a decent enough book, but when I put it down I picked up the graphic novel, which is SO DAMN FUN. It’s got everything I said above.

Don’t sneer at comics. They’re too much fun.

This novel’s main mystery is spoiled in the title. Seriously.

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So, here’s the basic mystery of the book:

the POV keeps changing.

No, wait, sorry: that’ the biggest mystery to me. The biggest mystery is the true identity of the protagonist, Agatha Clay.

Here’s the problem: The novel is called “Agatha H and the Airship City.”

And the novel is full of stories about this famous family whose surname starts with an H and whose abilities match Agatha’s.

Gee, I wonder what her identity is.

But aside from that snafu, the novel’s wonderful fun. A well-realized steampunk world, some fun characters, and a scene in which people argue about whether a girl’s “the sensitive daughter of the evil man” or “the easily tricked and quickly killed minion”: what more can you ask?

Damnation for Beginners

Damnation for Beginners by Alan Campbell

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Sometimes a book gets picked up just because it has a cool title. And that’s why I picked up this book. “Damnation for Beginners”: what on earth?

And the book was as odd and interesting as its title. It’s a story or corporate greed, of damnation, and of choice. Agency’s a funny thing, and the degree of control we have in life is, unfortunately, never certain.

The book had good twists and turns, memorable characters, and the most important thing of all: a good story. What more can I ask?