What a Strange Trip: THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir

I finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir today, and man, what a terrific novel. I know I'm a little late to jump on this bandwagon, but sometimes such is my lot in life. As my brother once said, I may show up late, but I show up.

Back to The Martian. I had picked up this book at some point last year when people at work had been talking it up, and I read the opening chapter and was very impressed. What happened next, a side effect of my past-life of being a book club acquiring editor: I soon after picked up another book, then another. I do this a lot, I start new books before finishing others. Sacrilege to purists, I know. It's a feeling that I need to read some of a lot of books instead of all of a few of them. It's a symptom of those many years with manuscripts and advance reader copies from various publishers stacked on my desk. Even though I've moved on in my publishing career, old habits...

Recently while out with some sf/f publishing friends, The Martian came up again in conversation. I went back to it and I'm so glad I did. I immediately fell right back into the plight of Mark Watney: abandoned on Mars, calculating each step of whether or not he can survive.

I'm not looking to give anything away, but the book is filled with twists and turns, insane surprises and high a level of dramatic tension that keep you flipping the pages. I will say I was enthralled, totally enveloped in the science of it all, the calculations, the fine line between survival and death, and the isolation Mark felt. It was a gripping novel that I can't stop talking about and I highly recommend.

Also, I can't wait to see Ridley Scott's film adaptation which will be releasing around Thanksgiving time this year. That will be epic and something to look forward to as we approach the end of the year.

So you see, sometimes you can go back. 

[This last line added for a friend, he'll know what I mean. Let's see if he's following along...]


12 MONKEYS, episode 1 on Syfy and the Art of Adaptation

I caught the first episode of the Syfy channel new series debut, 12 MONKEYS. The pilot episode evoked the ghost of the 1995 film, Twelve Monkeys, on which the series is based. I was intrigued, especially being that the film is one of my favorites of the 90s.

Packed with details, little things from the original film, like the scrambled phone message, the archaic yet futuristic time machine not fully explained, and the cabal of future scientists that emerge underground to lead the charge to take the planet back. It was nice to see little details, many of them a clear nod to the film, the series' inspiration, which I thought was handled well. The acting was very good, a nice debut with strong numbers from what I've read.

Also in promotion for this new series I read that Syfy planned to use the film as a jumping off point and plans to digress, which I'm okay with, depending on how it goes. Some adaptations such as Under the Dome and The Walking Dead have diverged from the the source material a great deal and have been incredibly successful. 

Some people don't like remakes or new adaptations and the like. I don't mind the idea if it is done right, or as long as it is done with a flair different enough yet reverent to the original. I like to think of a new generation, younger fans coming to the material, then searching out all that came before. It may bring them to the Terry Gilliam film, and the films that inspired him, as well as the books that have inspired all of this. If it brings more people to read science fiction, then it's a win in my book.

Admittedly, I have still not seen the French film, La Jetee, which is  the inspiration of the original film, but I will enlist Netflix to remedy that. And maybe have another post. Up until this point I haven't written about television and film much, but that might change. Especially if 12 Monkeys continues to impress.

Thought I'd end with one image of Bruce Willis from the film, a favorite shot of that very steampunk-y surface research suit made by the scientists. Stay tuned. 


Comics That Rock: SING NO EVIL by JP Ahonen & KP Alare

This comic book (or graphic novel, if you prefer) is a collection that mixes art, music and fantasy into a story of a bunch of friends trying to make it to the next level as a band. And it takes place in Finland...cool.

A story of pure rock angst, SING NO EVIL follows the band, Perkeros, and their frontman, Aksel, on a quest to tame the rock n' roll beast. Can he control and become a conduit for the wild music he hears in his head.

JP Ahonen and KP Alare create an intoxicating comic about a band in search of that elusive sound that will bring them to the next level. It is also about the struggle to be a creative artist and struggle with job, school, relationships, etc. There is a lot of humor woven in, and a love of metal. 

If you're into comics and music, and want to experience both blended together in a mystical tale of searching for that perfect song, you'll want to pick up SING NO EVIL. The tale is told from the perspective of the bandmates, specifically lead crooner, Aksel, as he struggles to harness the musical visions he hears within.

I got a chance to meet JP Ahonen at an event at the Abrams office right before NY Comic Con in October, and he was cool, humble and a hell of a nice guy. I received a copy of SING NO EVIL that night, and was immediately drawn in by the terrific title as well as Ahonen's beautiful and fun art style. 

He somehow manages to capture the surreal experience of attending a live show: encompassed by a wall of blearing sound, struggling among the heated, claustrophobic crowd, and letting the music just sweep you away. To be able to do this in a comic, is an accomplishment in my book. And this book would make a great gift for someone interested in music, especially if that person likes heavy rock. The following image is just one example of the chaotic harmony that is experiencing live music and it's just spot on. 


The Art of Space by Ron Miller PLUS a giveaway

Do you remember the first science fiction book cover art that really struck you? Can you recall a stylized film or television show that hooked you on science fiction? Maybe it was a comic book cover from the Silver Age. I recall Star Wars having something to do with it for me as a little boy. I was hooked  at the pure imagination of it. Other worlds, magnificent spaceships, aliens; all of it drew me in.

I was recently sent by the good folks at the Zenith Press, a copy of The Art of Space: The History of Space Art, From the Earliest Visions to the Graphics of the Modern Era
from award-winning artist and best-selling author Ron Miller, and it is a collection that is out of this world.

Miller covers each era of space art, and how it was developed at the time with the resources, knowledge and vision of the artists of the day. He covers individual artists and movements from the decades, and brings to life over 350 incredible illustrations with informative discussion and background on each.

The book includes some of Miller's own incredible work such as Upsilon Andromedae [above] as part of section 2: Stars and Galaxies. Also covered are Planets & Moons, Spaceships & Space Stations, Space Colonies & Cities and lastly...Aliens. It is an inspiring collection, and offers a lot of history of space-themed art, and would make a great gift for any fan of space age artwork or fan of science fiction in general.

And Zenith Press send me a second copy TO GIVE AWAY to one lucky reader of my blog. All you have to do to be eligible is write in the comments section a favorite or memorable book cover or piece of SF art that hooked you. I will select a winner at random from the comments and contact you via email (or ask you to email me) so that I can send off the book.

*This contest will end November 30th, I'll pick a winner December 1st and make contact. Thanks for following along and now get back to whatever book you were reading.


Release day: STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel #Station11

STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel

This book isn't only about Shakespeare. Or the apocalypse. Or fortune and fame. Or celebrity. Or the value of friendship. Or the meaning of family. Or secrets. Or shared pasts. Or nostalgia. Or an uncertain future.

This book is not about survival. Or murder. Or loosing everyone you've ever loved. It is not about mad men. Or false communities. Or false prophets. Or going down the wrong path. Or disappearing forever.

It is not about performance art. Or facade. Or art for art's sake. Or art for personal pleasure. It is not about theater. Or about music. Or a last plane ride. Or that last cup of coffee. 

It is not about comic books. Or science fictional escape. It is not about fathers and sons. Or brothers and sisters.

It is not about a stranger trying to save a man's life. It is not about those who survive letting the past go. And this book is not about remembering it as well.

It is about all of those things, and more.

I really feel Station Eleven has something for everyone. It is a special book.

[Disclaimer: This book is published by Knopf, an imprint of Penguin Random House. I work for DK, also an imprint of Penguin Random House. I was not coerced into writing this review. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. I do work for the company who publishes this book, but I write about it here because it is terrific and you should read it, and not because I had to. That is all. I made the font size of the disclaimer smaller, because, isn't it always?]


Upcoming Comics Collaboration: Mike Allred and Warren Ellis on The Spirit of Bacardi

Every now and then a pretty amazing sounding comics collaboration comes around and when I heard about this new project from Bacardi Rum (yes, that is a new comic book coming from the makers of Bacardi rum), well I just had to share it. 

Bacardi assembled the dynamic team of legendary comics scribe, Warren Ellis, and Madman creator, Mike Allred, to collaborate and tell the story of the Bacardi family, through the plight of Emilio Bacardi, the revolutionary figure from the Bacardi family history.

Everything Warren Ellis writes is worth a gander as he's up there in that league of amazing talents that warrant a look whenever he puts pen to paper, or clicks at the keyboard, as that's the way it generally goes these days.

I received these terrific promotional photos, and Bacardi has a teaser trailer featuring some behind the scenes/interview type bits about the collaboration with the two wacky (and beloved) creators on their site. And here's the coolest part -- The Spirit of BACARDÍ will be available to download from BACARDI.COM on August 6th. 

That is a nice piece of promotion, and I am very much looking forward to reading what two of my favorite comics creators come up with based on the extraordinary life of Emilio Bacardi. If this photo of Senior Allred at his drafting table isn't enough to whet your appetite, I don't know what'll do it. I'm intrigued...

Check out the reference photo of Emilio Bacardi to Mike's left, underneath the plexiglass of his working desk. I read in an interview years ago that Mike likes to cover his desk with inspirational images as seen here, and work right on top of the plexiglass, letting the images below drive him in whatever project he's working on. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Now listen, I'll be the first to admit I've been known to be partial to a bit of the rum myself, so there's that (okay, I said it). I also happen to think as a publishing professional and lifelong lover of comics that when a company reaches out to tell their company/family story in an interesting way, WITH COMICS, and they reach out to two respected creators such as this, this looks to be a project worth my time. I hope to find out more soon and will report back, or check it out yourselves.

Disclaimer: I have NOT been paid or bribed with promises of endless supplies of rum to write this post (I just really like Mike Allred and Warren Ellis & comics) but I would not turn away an unexpected supply of the good stuff should it be delivered to my doorstep. Carry on.


Books and sunshine on my mind: THIS ONE SUMMER by Julian and Mariko Tamaki

Sometimes books find their way to me in funny ways. Call it serendipity. I look for books everywhere and try to read new and different things although there never seems to be enough time. As I was leaving work on a summer Friday, on a shelf where people place extra books you can take, I saw a copy of THIS ONE SUMMER and picked up this graphic novel to take home. It reminded me of summers spent at the Jersey Shore as a kid, and I wanted to follow the story of Rose and Windy, remembering what it was like to almost be a teen.

When I got home a few hours later, I opened the Sunday New York Times book review section, I saw a wonderful review praising the book. I was glad I picked it up and I can't wait to continue reading it. Just have to finish one or two things first, but I thought it was worth mentioning.