Sharks and fantasies, Frankenstein and Odysseus: books read

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SHARKS by Jeff Parker is a good basic guide to sharks, obviously not intended for hardcore shark buffs (but I’m not one, so that’s cool). This does an excellent job covering the basics, such as the variety of shark species, digestion, reproduction, food, environmental threats (if global warming opens up the polar regions to more sharks, their predation could wreck the current food chain) and so forth. Despite a couple of typos (the whale shark is the largest shark species but that’s not what the weight/height by its photo says) but it’s still worth the reading.

THE HOLLOW EARTH by Carole and John Barrowman is the kickoff of a juvenile fantasy series about Animares, sorcerers who can bring their artwork to life. The protagonists are tween Animares whose precocious abilities draw attention from both the council overseeing mages to the eponymous cult that believes the kids will offer a way to open a Hellmouth. This was enjoyable, but not so enjoyable that I’ll be rushing for Part Two.

SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo is a fantasy caper film set in alt.Holland (roughly seventeenth century) as a team of ragtag but dangerous outcasts (mechanic, marksman, mastermind, cat burglar, psi and witch hunter) attempt to rescue a scientist from an alt.Russian prison for fear one nation or another will use his psi-enhancing drug to create unstoppable psi-armies [Bardugo refers to it as magic, but that’s not how the Grishka powers seem to work]. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and Bardugo does a good job shifting between multiple POV characters. However the ending disappointed me — I would have preferred a temporary stopping place rather than a cliffhanger. And her word use often feels off — “fink” is an Americanism that feels out of place in this setting, for instance.

FRANKENSTEIN: How a Monster Became an Icon by Sidney Perkowitz is a bicentennial tribute to Mary Shelly’s 1818 novel, tackling such topics as what the themes of the book really are, why Universal’s design became “the” face of Frankenstein, how “franken” has become a prefix (frankenfood for instance) and various tributes and versions including a Eureka arc in the last season and Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (though much as I love that film, I’m annoyed the contributors brush off Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein instead of seeing it as a comparable comic triumph).

ODY-C: Off to Far Ithicaa by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward is a graphic novel that didn’t work for me at all. The premise is that Zeus has wiped out men to prevent any child usurping her throne as she did Cronos, but some biological superscience has provided a substitute third sex. Odyssia, having helped defeat the planetary fortress of Illia, now heads home to the planet Ithicaa, but the gods, of course, have other plans … The faux Homer writing style got annoying fast and the story never recovered.

#SFWApro. Cover by Rich Deas, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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