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“Book” Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Finally, another book review! I decided to have a change and write about a comic/graphic novel, since I have been reading a LOT of these recently.

Nimona-350x524

Before I get into the main review, I should say that I’m a huge comic fan. Web comics, paper comics, Image, Marvel (a tiny amount of DC). I’ve become almost as addicted to them as normal books. Which is impressive, as I haven’t been into them for nearly as long. I have noticed that there are few women involved in the comic world so when I found something that sounded right up my street in terms of genre and humour, the fact that it was written and illustrated by a woman gave it an extra boost for me.

Apologies. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Nimona is a standalone (for now) book based on the web comic Noelle Stevenson made of the same name. It’s rare I find many standalone comics that really grab me as they usually need to be a series to build up the character background to pull me in. This isn’t the case with this book, and the characters have stayed with me long after finishing.

To sum up the story quickly, without giving the plot away: Nimona is about a young woman of that name who declares herself side-kick to an evil villain Lord Ballister Blackheart. She wasn’t exactly what he had in mind for a side-kick but considering she can shapeshift, he decides to give her a chance. I mean…who wouldn’t? Their mission: to cause havoc and show the secrets of Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and the Institution he works for.

Nimona is completely (perhaps overly?) enthused about his vendetta, and is always trying to push his schemes further than he actually ever planned. Both characters have interesting pasts that have led them to where they are, and neither of them expects what they find out about the other.

The story is compelling, funny, gripping and incredibly silly but has the ability to pull hard at your heartstrings when you least expect it. I’m reluctant to say too much more about the plot itself as a lot of the magic of the story is in the surprises. But the things I particularly enjoyed are:

  • Nimona herself. She’s loveable, unpredictable, unnerving, all at the same time.
  • The combination of magic and sci-fi makes for an interesting story as it can combine devices and tropes from both genres, whilst adding some new ideas to them too.
  • The morality of the characters. It’s fairly common now to have characters that are various shades of grey (forgive the phrase, I’m in no way endorsing that book) and this is something that Noelle manages here. The question of who is evil, what is evil, who is good and how do you tell the difference is explored in the characters of the story.
  • The art of the comic. The art style is typical of Noelle if you are familiar with the Lumberjanes (which if you aren’t familiar with, go! Seek it out! You won’t be disappointed). It’s almost sketch-like in style, but it is clear and distinctive.

I have to include part of the blurb on the back of the book, as I don’t think I can describe it any better (which is terrible for a writer to admit):

“Nemeses!
Dragons!
Science!
Symbolism!”

Hopefully, I’ve given you enough detail to convince you to read this fabulous graphic novel, you absolutely won’t regret it. If you read it and are desperate for more, as mentioned above, read her Lumberjanes series, and I can also recommend a series by Kurtis J. Wiebe called Rat Queens. I am attempting to work on a similar review for that but as you might have noticed, I’m somewhat erratic with my posts, so go read it now if you like humour, battles, women being kick-ass, and mercenaries.

Next post is going to be another ‘serious’ one, so I hope this has made a nice change of pace.

Write soon 🙂

Molecules at an Exhibition: The Science of Everyday Life by John Emsley

So I promised to do a popular science book review and it’s been in the pipeline for long enough have also started working on my next post, which requires a lot more research but I’m hoping to have it up by the weekend. It is something that is close to my heart so I want to do it to the best of my ability.

Also, as it is Mental Health Awareness Week, I’d just like to point out Time to Change, a UK charity that is aiming to end the stigma surrounding mental health and make the services easier to understand and access. This is especially important as the rates of suicide have been rising year on year, dramatically so in men. So any male readers, please know you aren’t alone and that it doesn’t make you any ‘less of a man’ to have this illness. Just get help if you need it, please.

Back to the topic at hand!

The book I’ve reviewed, Molecules at an Exhibition, first came to my attention almost 4 years ago now. A group of friends and I went on holiday and of course we never bring enough books so we got around to swapping. It is only a small book, at 240 pages and it is split into 8 ‘Galleries’, where the author has grouped certain molecules together depending on their actions and descriptions.

The book begins with a light introduction outlining the why’s of the book (he is particularly interested in these molecules) and a quick guide to some chemical terms and measurements so all readers are at a level pegging.

The galleries are:

  •  Nearly as Nature Intended: food and drink
  • Testing Your Metal: essential metals for the body
  • Starting Lives, Saving Lives, Screwing Up Lives: helping and harming the young
  • Home Sweet Home: detergents, dangers, delights and delusions
  • Material Progress and Immaterial Observations: molecules that make life a little easier
  • Environmental Cons, Concerns and Comments: molecules that stalk the world
  • We’re on the Road to Nowhere: molecules that transport us
  • Elements From Hell: mainly malevolent molecules

The food and drink section was probably my favourite purely because of the two sections on garlic and caffeine, which I think was a brilliant start to the book as it sets the tone of the book and eases the reader in easily. It is not a serious, sluggish read, the author writes with an irreverent tone throughout. For example, when talking about garlic:

“Uncooked garlic in salads can be enjoyable to the eater but not to those they come into contact with afterwards”
“Some people [who] eat it regularly…protects them against illness because it keeps others at a distance”

There is a hint of Ben Goldacre about his style although a lot more subdued in how he disagrees with certain lifestyle choices and supplements; he holds something back but makes it very clear what he thinks on the matters.

As well as being an informal guide through some common molecules, it is also full of factual gobbets you can casually throw into conversation (eg. Smoking cigarettes reduces the time that caffeine has a stimulatory effect by two hours! And we need 14 different metal elements to function properly).

Add to this, the historical and cultural context of the discoveries of the molecules themselves and it makes for an absorbing read. Due to the fact that it is split up into Galleries means that the book is great as a pick up and go read, say on the commute to work or train to town.

However, nothing is ever perfect is it? Despite this book calling itself an exhibition, I feel that it would have benefitted from some pictures, even some diagrams throughout the book. I think it would be a nice start to the chapter and an interesting way to split up the text. This may sound a little childish but I think if you’re going to call it an exhibition of molecules, he may as well have gone the whole way!

Despite this, I think this is a good quality book, for readers wanting to get back into science, for students…for anyone really, who has an interest in the unseen world around them.

“The Genesis”- K. L. Kerr. A Review

No this is not a review of the start of the Bible, but the first in Kerr’s series the “Blood of Ages”

NB: apologies, I like long posts. You have been warned, but will endeavor to stay under 1000 words =]

I was given a Kindle copy of this book by the lovely author herself in return for a review so here it is!

“A Stolen Power. An Unstoppable Corporation. A Vampire God.

 The vampires of Dayson City are preparing for war. Having lived in constant fear of the Archway Corporation for decades, desperation has forced them into action. Their solution is to bring the First vampire, Alistair, back from the dead, a warrior famed for eradicating entire armies in the name of his kind.

 For fledgling vampire Catrina Malinka, the fabled return of some unknown deity falls low on her list of concerns. Between fending off strangers trying to kill her in her dreams, or trying to rein in an uncontrollable power that no one else even understands let alone shares, Catrina is forced to fight her assumed role in the war against Archway, which threatens to send her down a path she doesn’t want to travel.”

So. That’s the blurb. Now, I am not going to lie- when I see vampire books these days my eyes automatically role and my expectations drop. But I agreed to read this book hoping it wouldn’t be our now typical ‘vampire-angst-love fest’.

It did that and more.

What K L Kerr has managed to do is bring back the more horrific aspects of the creatures, the never-ending hunger and pain they live with. Yes the main clan of vamps in this don’t eat and kill but that’s purely a matter of logistics (eventually they’d die out PLUS we humans can be a pain when we find out (read: suspect) about supernatural forces living amongst us.)
The female protagonist is a hit-woman, so it’s nice that she’s not a limp useless woman, waiing for a man to come and take her away; she has a spark and knows her way around a gun and her opponents.

She meets her maker after a hit takes a turn for the worst, her gun jams and someone moves inhumanly fast and does save the day. This character Fox was a major concern for a cliché (attractive, sullen, grating and frankly quite annoying). The difference again in this book is that people call him out on being so rude and at times kind of creepy: there’s a scene where Catrina wakes up to see that Fox has been watching her while she’s been asleep and she makes it VERY clear that that is a pretty creepy thing for a person to do.

Anyway, to move away from what this book ISN’T to what it IS. It is a fast paced type of book, I finished it very quickly and it had a good cinematic quality to it which I really enjoyed. The idea of bringing back the first vampire hasn’t been looked at hugely (I can’t think of any other than in Queen of the Damned) and ‘Alistair’ and Rice’s Akasha share little in common other than their vampiric nature and being…well, evil). The fight scenes are written well, not too much fussing around, but written in good enough detail for a rich imaginative experience.

The humans we encounter in Kerr’s world are mainly the human ‘doners’ in special clubs for vampires who have to be monitored during their feedings, the humans unlucky enough to cross paths with the occasional desperate vampire and lastly, Archway. This is the multi-million company with a special area for eradicating the vampires. As is often the way, I ended up rooting for the vampires as the humans are just so hideous and want to wipe out a species just because they are slightly higher in the food chain. The relationship with Archway and the vampire clans is an interesting one of rules of who you can and can’t kill, for fear of the scale of retaliation.
It is these adversaries that lead the vampires to seek out the original vampire, as he meant to be their greatest warrior, with extra powers that have all but disappeared through the diluting of the blood over generations.

I don’t want to give too much away in regards to the Genesis and the return of their ancestor- suffice it to say, his homecoming isn’t quite what they expect. And Catrina isn’t quite the standard vampire fledgling.

The only negatives I can point out are, in my opinion, a lot of the characters don’t feel fleshed out to me, even Catrina- we know she works for a man who is like a foster father, but why? Who is he? Fox’s life is all mystery as is the presence of the demonic bar staff at a vampire can. However, this can almost be forgiven due to the fact that it is the first in a series so there is time to add the extra details teasingly along the way but it would be nice to be closer to the characters. Something I did like was how the perspectives changed throughout the book (all third person though) so you got to see the events through different eyes and understand their actions better.

Also, maybe it’s due to my love of Buffy and True Blood, but I like the traditions (crosses, silver) although at least Kerr’s vampires don’t sparkle, they blister and burn in sunlight, as they should. The vampires are also really quite young, the elders we meet (Jessie and Jacob) are both a few hundred years old. This isn’t actually a negative, just something I found slightly odd.

All in all, I found this book a lot of fun to read and most importantly, it had me wanting to read the next book! Highly recommend for people who like their vampires with a bit of violence and a lot of mystery and NO TEEN ANGST.

7/10

 

Next Time! Popular Science book review …maybe two! You’ll have to wait and see

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