Thursday, September 18, 2008


Book Report

Hey, internets! It's book report time again!

I just finished rereading all of Mike Mignola's Hellboy family of titles, but I'm still digesting it and probably won't be writing it up until next week at the earliest. In the meantime, here's a couple of other things I've read lately.

Shannon & Dean Hale and Nathan Hale's Rapunzel's Revenge

I read this one on the flight to Denver for WorldCon, and am just getting around to writing it up. Written by Newbury Honor-winning author Shannon Hale and her husband Dean Hale, and illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation), this is a graphic novel in the truest sense of the word, a done-in-one novel length comic book. It's intended for, and marketed to, the middle reader set (ages 9 to 12), but it's just as suitable for young adults and adults alike.

Rapunzel’s Revenge takes place in a fairy-tale-version of the American west, in which standard fairy tale tropes are recast in western idioms. The main character is Rapunzel, a young girl raised in a well-guarded villa by a woman she thinks is her mother. When Rapunzel learns that the woman is in fact an evil sorceress who rules the land with an iron fist, she tries to escape, only to end up imprisoned in a high tower, her hair cursed to grow endlessly. But rather than waiting for any handsome prince to come along and rescue her, Rapunzel simply braids her hair into two long rope-like braids, frees herself, and then using her braids as lariats and whips sets out to end the sorceress’s rule once and for all. She meets up with a young ne’er-do-well named Jack, who is down on his luck until his pet goose finally lays an egg, and together they travel across the deserts and forests, having adventures. Highly recommended.

Check out the authors' site for some nifty extras, including some spoilerific world notes and a nice view of the map of the setting.

Paul McAuley's Cowboy Angels

I've had this on my To Read pile for ages, but finally had a chance last week to dive into it. It was well worth the wait.

In Cowboy Angels, McAuley breathes new life into a fairly well worn idea. This is a story of alternate histories and parallel worlds, of people travelling through magic doors to worlds that are almost-but-not-quite their own. This was an idea that wasn't new when Andre Norton did it in The Crossroads of Time, much less when Keith Laumer tackled it in Worlds of the Imperium or when Harry Turtledove more recently dusted it off for Gunpowder Empire. But as Cowboy Angels shows, it's an idea still worth exploring, if an author can come up with a novel approach to the subject. McAuley's twist here is to view the interactions of different histories through the lens of American foreign policy, and in particular the CIA's "dirty tricks" in the mid-20C Cold War. The superpower in this particular multiverse is the "Real," a version of America that didn't experience our WWII, but in which physicists at a high-energy physics lab in Brookhaven in 1963 discovered the secret of creating "Turing gates," doorways to parallel worlds. The US government takes control of the technology, and uses it to "spread democracy" to the various alternate Americas it finds out in the multiverse. The various worldlines, or "sheaves," are known by the name of whomever was in charge of America when contact is first made, hence the designation "Nixon sheaf" for our own history. The structure of Cowboy Angels is part thriller, part murder mystery, with a fair number of pulse-pounding action scenes along the way. But it's really in the examination of the history of the 20th Century seen from a variety of angles, and the history of America and her foreign policy in particular, that Cowboy Angels shines. Highly recommended.

McAuley has made available online a short story, "A Brief Guide To Other Histories", set in the same multiverse as the novel, as well as a Q&A and sample chapters of Cowboy Angels.


So glad you read Cowboy Angels. I thought it was a tremendous book.
I remember you raving about it last year. It had been floating at the top of my To Read pile for too long!
Missed this review by you...

I loved this book, and have been a big McAuley fan for a long time. Though I liked his previous couple of books, I was really happy to see him deliver a more "sf" novel.

I'm eagerly waiting for "The Quiet War".
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