RIVERS OF LONDON: Body Work by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel and Lee Sullivan collects one arc from a series based on Aaronovitch’s urban-fantasy novels about a Scotland Yard department that specializes in magic cases. I wasn’t blown away by the first novel and this arc pitting them against a haunted killer car didn’t become any more interesting.
MODESTY BLAISE by Peter O’Donnell and Neville Colvin is one of several 1980 collections of the newspaper strip from Eclipse Comics. In “Death in Slow Motion” a ganglord’s life condemns the cop who busted him to die in the desert; “The Alternative Man” entangles Modesty with drug-dealers and a split-personality boyfriend; and “Sweet Caroline” are a group of contract killers who’ve decided Pay Or We Kill You extortion is less risk for more profit. The third story is best, the second surprisingly poor, but as usual Modesty and right-hand man Willie Garvin are a great read.
SPIDER-GIRL: Turning Point by Tom DeFalco and Pat Auliffe (cover by Auliffe, all rights retained by current holder) was much more fun. “Mayday” Parker has to deal her father’s old nemesis Kaine, Norm Osborne’s (Harry’s son) return to Green Goblin-hood, and teams up with new super-heroes Buzz and Wild Thing (both of whom later spun off into their own brief series) in addition to the usual super-villain fights and teen angst. Enjoyable as usual, though May’s various romantic possibilities (Brad, JJ, Zane) tend to blur indistinguishably.
THE CORN MAIDEN AND OTHER NIGHTMARES by Joyce Carroll Oates is a collection of literary/psychological horror stories such as the title tale of a sociopath child who destroys multiple lives in trying to re-enact an ancient Native American ritual. “Beersheba,” by contrast, is well written, but ends completely pointlessly, and then we get three stories all of which revolve around Killer Siblings and are too much literary, too little anything else. Nothing I couldn’t have lived without reading.
THE LOST TIME ACCIDENTS by Jonathan Wray is an oddball literary SF novel about a family’s multi-generational obsession with deciphering the True Nature of Time, narrated by one member who’s wound up trapped in a null-time zone. Unfortunately the SF aspects are to routine to engage me, and the protagonist’s own romantic history (which he recounts at length during his confinement) is dull as dirt. The family obsession with time and with the “Jewish Patent Clerk” they believe stole their ideas is fun, but not enough
THE CITIZEN MACHINE: Government by Television in 1950s America by Anna McCarthy has an interesting premise—both corporate America and liberal NGOs saw TV as a tool for shaping Americans into citizens—but it’s a lot more specialized than I realized, focusing on only a few particular programs put on by various groups as influencers (the eclectic arts showcase Omnibus, for example, as a tool for raising popular taste). While interesting at times, for example, on how cautious TV was in tackling civil rights (both civil rights protesters and segregationists were regarded as “extremists”), the scope was simply too narrow for me to find this interesting.
I enjoyed Brian Sanderson’s Elantris but ALLOY OF LAW: A Mistborn Novel left me completely cold. The story concept is good—the old staple of Western Lawman Fights Crime in the Big City, but set in a fantasy world (I gather Sanderson advanced the technology to 19th century levels compared to his earlier Mistborn books), but Sanderson doesn’t write super-powered action scenes as well as Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles (I make the comparison because both books involve magic-powered metahumans), and the witty banter fell flat. Plus I really dislike elaborate magic systems—I almost never find one where the story needs that much complexity — so the book was swimming upstream from the get-go (if you do like them, YMMV).