Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fuzzy Nation and a Blood Red Baron

Back to a normal Tuesday here at the ‘o Stuff with a review by me and a review by Mark. For whatever reason I missed out on John Scalzi’s’s Fuzzy Nation when it published about a year ago. Shame on me, I know, but I’ve remedied that recently much to my reading joy:

In initial essence, Fuzzy Nation is a first contact story. Jack Holloway is former lawyer turned prospector for ZaraCorp on the planet Zarathustra where he’s searching out precious ore. His one companion, at the beginning of the novel, is his dog Carl when he finds a deposit of the sunstones, the most valuable mineral in the universe that will make him an ultra-billionaire. One of the rules a company like ZaraCorp must abide by is that any work they do on a new planet must not impact any intelligent life native to the planet. Upon his return from this amazing find of sunstones, Jack finds a small, fuzzy creature in his home. Fortunately, Jack once dated the planetary biologist Isabel Wangai whom he asks to ‘meet’ the Fuzzy, which soon turns into a small family of Fuzzys whose visits become more frequent.

I’ve been a fan of Scalzi’s writing since reading Old Man’s War a few years back and visiting his blog every day. His smart, snarky, and engaging style that I (and many, many readers) have come to enjoy is on full display here in Fuzzy Nation. The pacing is extremely brisk, making the 300 pages quite readably and consumable. I’ll admit to wishing there was more to the novel because reading Scalzi is lots of fun. He intersperses humor and thought-provoking ideas seamlessly, from the depiction of how the Fuzzys interact with Holloway’s dog Carl to the ethical pontifications and ramifications of alien life in a place where humans have begun to feel a sense of comfort.
Mark has been on a bit of a Kim Newman kick lately. The trend continues with the re-issue of Bloody Red Baron, the sequel to his landmark novel Anno Dracula:

In this second tale, the set up of Anno Dracula becomes international. We spend most of our time here not in England but in France, following the actions of heroic pilots, both vampire and human, as they struggle to cope with the stresses and slaughter of such desperate battles. When not flying, the pilots would live life almost as dangerously on the ground trying to make their sacrifices worth it. 
Kim here steps it up a notch. The story is as detailed and yet at the same time as much fun as ever. Anyone who has thrilled to stories of WW1 aerial combat and the heroic actions of aviators on both sides will love this, as such events are described in brilliant action sequences. We have dogfights, Zeppelin raids and trench battles which tell in thrilling detail how deadly such fighting must have been. Elsewhere, on the ground, the effect of the War on the French civilians and their towns and cities are told but with the added effect of the war being fought with some un-human elements.

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