Star Wars: The High Republic, There is no Fear by Cavan Scott and Ario Anindito

A comic panel, we see Keeve Trennis' hand extended to a young boy. She says, "Thanks. Can you hold this?" The boy replies, "You mean it?" Keeve answers, "Sure, I do. Can't keep it floating up there all day, can I?" The Snapchat caption reads, "Fuck yes. Getting to hold a lightsaber is a baller (and effective) way to console an upset child. It would 100% work on me."
I’m just saying, this is everything I would have wanted as a child.

I have found the Star Wars extended universe a fascinating place since childhood. I read every Star Wars book our library had and then I created my own Stars Wars encyclopedia out of the information contained within — the result of having access to a computer, but limited connection to the internet. The official Star Wars universe has changed a lot since then, and the new tie-in books don’t really interest me, so I thought, why not check out the comics. I picked up “There is no Fear” at my local comic shop primarily because it was volume one of a trade paperback. It promised good art and the beginning of a story and that was all I needed.

“There is no Fear” takes place during the High Republic, before any Skywalker nonsense, and follows Keeve Trennis as she becomes a new Jedi. It’s a good place to go if you are like me and wanting to avoid any of the canon-fuckery caused by the sequel trilogy. “There is no Fear” does a really good job of introducing you to new characters and helping you fall in love with them, which is a credit to both good writing and compelling art. I was deeply invested in Ceret and Terec from the moment of their introduction.

A comic panel. Two identical humanoids stand facing each other, they are bald and their skin is stark white, and both of them are fairly beat up. The one on the left, Terec, is holding out a deactivated lightsaber and the one on the right, Ceret, is reaching for it. Terec says, "Here" as he holds out the lightsaber. Ceret replies, "Terec... the things we have seen. that the drengir did to us." Terec answers, "That is in the past, Ceret. Now we are whole once more--" The Snapchat caption reads, "I am so glad my boys are okay" followed by the crying emoji.

The only place I really felt like I was missing something was in references to a “great disaster,” and just generally how the Jedi had reached the point of launching a space station outpost in the Outer Rim. I feel like there are probably storylines that precede “There is no Fear” that I’m going to have to seek out to get those answers. That’s more-or-less how comics work though, you pick a starting point and then, in reading, you find where you want to go next to learn more, and this story is a super interesting one that brings a lot of new and exciting things to the greater Star Wars universe. It’s definitely going to be one I pick up as it continues weekly (it also doesn’t help that volume one ends on a cliffhanger that I must find out the resolution to).

The story feels, to me, very much like a classic EU Jedi story, where the emphasis is that, above all, the Jedi help, though that is something that provides resolution and conflict alike as characters struggle with being, maybe not human, but people with complex emotions. All of the characters, even the side characters, are incredibly well presented both in terms of writing and art. I greatly enjoyed the expressiveness given to the alien faces. I won’t spoil too much about the new antagonists introduced by this story, but I will say that they are a particular flavor of eldritch abomination that I greatly enjoy. It’s a similar kind of horror as found in “Bountiful Garden,” so if that interested you, this may too, though as this is Star Wars, it’s going to have more action alongside the creeping eldritch horror.

As always, I highly recommend going to your local comic shop to buy comics, and the book’s retail page even has a comic store locator option right there.

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School for Extraterrestrial Girls: Girl on Fire by Jeremy Whitley and Jamie Noguchi

[Image ID: A panel of Tara, a 15 year old Black girl, adjusting a bracelet on her wrist. The text boxes of internal monologue read: "I eve have this bracelet. I'm not really sure how it works, but my parents say it's vital to my health to keep it on. So, I do. It's important to do as you're told." The Snapchat caption reads "That's not sus at all." End ID]

To start with a quick summary: Tara Smith was raised with her identity as a an alien hidden from her, a tall task considering she is a species of lizard that catches on fire. A morning of missed “allergy” meds and a cracked “health” bracelet leads to her powers emerging and The Government getting involved. All is not lost, however, as aliens are normal apparently, they just stay hidden from the every day human for reasons. Tara can just go to a school, where she will learn how to control her powers, simple right? Wrong. This is high school, nothing is simple or easy about high school.

There are some overarching Big Plot things going on, but they happen mostly in the background of the story, though that’s not to say they aren’t important or don’t impact it. This is primarily a story about acceptance, finding friends, and learning to love yourself, and also everyone is an alien. It’s pretty great. It takes a step beyond your traditional high school story, grappling with difficult topics and loss in various forms and allowing the characters to be messy. It is absolutely a funny and heartfelt story, but mistakes are make and their repercussions born out. This messiness feels important in an age where I’ve been seeing increasingly black-and-white takes about media.

Image ID: A comic panel of Agent Stone, an older butch woman in a suit, leading Tara, who is now green skinned and lizard like in appearance, through a hallway. Agent Stone's first speech bubble reads: "And as silly as this part is, our treaties with other worlds mandate that in a closed environment like this, we're not allowed to have co-ed housing, so..." Tara interrupts with: "Wait, alien races also freak out about the gender binary?" To which Stone replies, "Binary? There's one very conservative race out there with seven different genders. But that is a headache for another time. Now, let me introduce you to--" The Snapchat caption reads: "I'm wheezing. This is so fantastic. I was not expecting anything like this to be touched on at all." End ID.}

Furthermore, there is something very queer about loving the monstrous and learning to love yourself when your perception of yourself is monstrous. As a queer person I found it very appealing as a coming of age story because of how the story dealt with perceptions of monstrosity and the self as monstrous. I don’t know if the intention was there to use aliens as a queer allegory, but the story as a whole certainly doesn’t shy away from queerness.

For example, our lead agent, Agent Stone, is very classically butch, and we also learn from Agent Stone that the reason the schools are split into boys and girls schools isn’t because of some gender binary hang up on the part of aliens, it’s because of the treaties they have with various governments, on Earth and elsewhere, which makes so much sense it’s hilarious. To cap it all off, one girl who Tara makes friends with, soap opera obsessed Kat, is very much rooting for Tara to fall in love with another friend Misako.

Image ID: Tara, Kat and Summer are standing in a hallway, all wearing simple grey and white school uniforms. Kat, an orange cat-like alien is saying: "Next weel on interstellar BFFs. Will Tara finally be reunited with her one true love?" Tara interjects with: "I told you, Kat. We're just friends." Kat replies, "This is my fan fiction, you stay out of it!" Summer, a dark skinned girl with long pink hair and an undercut, is laughing next to them with a speech bubble that says "Ha ha ha ha." The Snapchat caption reads, "There's nothing wrong with a bit of friend fiction XD." End ID.

“Girl on Fire” manages to do so many things in such a limited amount of space and it does all of those things well. I am eagerly awaiting volume two, which is slated to come out in October 2023.

Right now, you can order volume one here and pre-order volume two here.

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The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe

[Image ID: The cover of Janelle Monáe's "The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer" Janelle Monáe is front and center as Jane dressed as a Torch as she is in "Dirty Computer - An Emotion Picture." The Snapchat caption reads: "Fully forgot I preordered this XD" End ID]

“The Memory Librarian” is a fantastic dive back into the world of Janelle Monáe’s 2018 concept album “Dirty Computer.” In addition to giving us more of Jane, Zen and Ché, we get to see what the rest of the world is like, from impoverished children to the people at the very top who monitor society. If it’s been a while since you last watched “Dirty Computer – An Emotion Picture,” I highly recommend doing so before jumping in to read to refresh yourself on the world. Now let’s look at the stories:

The Memory Librarian feat. Alaya Dawn Johnson: This story introduces us to Seshet, the director librarian of Little Delta, who wanted to better the world through her work within the system of New Dawn, but not in the typical sense that New Dawn wants to better the world. A Black woman, with a number of opinions and feature that could  see her labeled a dirty computer, she keeps her eyes away from areas known to be congregating spaces for dirty computers as she monitors the memories of people in the city and this story sees her juggling her personal desires with the careful line she has to tread with her superiors. 

[Image ID: A snap of the text. The highlighted segment reads "Well, don't they fucking know? Is it possible that they haven't even realized? What has she done, wise Seshet, compassionate Seshet, even while precarious in power? She has not looked." The Snapchat captions reads: "The rebellion of not watching in a surveillance state" End ID]

This story introduces us to the system of New Dawn that is in place and digs into an idea introduced in “Dirty Computer – An Emotion Picture” of things that get caught up in memory collectors that aren’t memories, like dreams. 

Nevermind feat. Danny Lore: Here we meet Jane and Zen again and learn what they (and Ché) have been up to. Jane and Zen are living at the Pynk Hotel (as seen in “Pynk”) while also helping to rescue others from New Dawn. Jane shares the protagonist with a nonbinary individual named Neer, and we see, through the events of the story and an attack on the hotel, the importance of fighting for radical acceptance as well as showcasing, incredibly cleverly, how willing exclusionists are to get chummy with the oppressor, but also how important it is to show compassion to people who maybe are only reacting out of ignorance or lack of options. 

On that note, this story introduces us to blushounds, genetically augmented humans who can smell emotions. Used by New Dawn to track dissidents, they are themselves victims of New Dawn as we learned from one of them, Bat, who goes on to stay and heal at the Pynk Hotel. 

Save Changes feat. Yohanca Delgado: This story follows the daughters of Diana Morel, a woman who had rebelled and been caught alongside Jane, but had been caught and unable to escape the same way. Now she’s not fully there, canning Twinkies in Windex, and under the care of her daughters, because, apparently, something went wrong in her cleaning. Her daughters also have to deal with the stigma of being related to a noted rebel. 

[Image ID: A snap of the text. The highlighted portion reads: "...the promise of a fresh start at school had shriveled up on Amber's first day at City College, when one by one, each of her professors made her sit in the front row of each class and read a statement from New Dawn, informing her classmates who she was and warning them that any decision to fraternize with her was one they made at their own risk." The snapchat caption is a row of four grimace emojis. End ID]

This story also asks us, what if you had a single opportunity to change the past? While this is a sci-fi world overall, there are specific moments of magic throughout. It’s not explained it just is. In this story, it’s a stone that purports to be able to turn back time passed down to Amber by their father before he died. 

Timebox feat. Eve L. Ewing and Timbox Altar(ed) feat. Sheree Renée Thomas: I’ve put these two together, even though they aren’t next to each other in the book (they frame “Save Changes”) because they are similar in several ways, while they are opposites in others. 

 In “Timebox” a young couple getting their first apartment together find that time stops when they are in their pantry and a disagreement erupts about how to use it, which also brings to the surfaces differing opinions on activism and community aid based on the class differences they experienced growing up.  Between the disagreements and their own uses of the box, they fall apart and the story ends painfully unresolved with more questions than there are answers. I was genuinely startled when I hit the end and realized there wasn’t any more. 

“Timebox Altar(ed)” on the other hand, revolved around a group of children, living in an incredibly impoverished area, outside of a larger New Dawn-monitored city, mostly forgotten unless someone is flagged to be taken away for cleaning. Stumbling into an abandoned railroad crossing full of junk, they build an ark and, after a kind stranger instructs them on working with intention it turns out that when an individual sits inside the ark, they are transported somewhere that gives them a glimpse of a beautiful, hopeful future and “The Power of Yet.” As the last story in the collection, the message of a healed future ushered in by the youngest generations was a powerful note to end on. 

This is so much longer than I usually go, but I really wanted to talk a bit about each story, because they all have so much to offer, and are incredible as a whole. If you enjoy sci-fi, Afrofuturism and/or urban fantasy, this is definitely a book for you.

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Bountiful Garden by Ivy Noelle Weir with art by Kelly Williams

[Image ID: The five issues of Bountiful Garden splayed out on a bed. The first issue is on top and the only one fully visible and is notable for being a Free Comic Book Day copy. The Snapchat captions reads "Spooky space time." End ID]

“Bountiful Garden” is a horror story about space and terraforming other planets, but not quite in a way you might expect. 

Our cast is a crew of children, most of whom appear to be teenagers at maximum. Jane appears to be the youngest, probably no more than preteen in age. They are woken from cryostasis 10 years early because something has gone wrong with the ship. 

Their mission is make a new planet habitable, they have two engineers, a botanist, an architect, a biologist and a military personnel member. Their ship has been stopped above a planet with no notable human inhabitants but traces of an old civilization, and lots and lots of plants. 

From issue one of the five issues mini-series, you get the impression that something wasn’t quite right with the mission from the outset. They aren’t the first terraforming mission that’s been sent out, and none of the others have ever been heard from again. “The signal’s too weak,” according to the government. Our military boy has complete faith, which makes a lot of sense, but the others aren’t so sure. It’s one of several things that sparks conflict between our crew.

Throughout the story we are teased about the planet, the strange plants growing on it, and the remnants of a religion, as well as about the backstory of the program on Earth that led to these six children being on this expedition. Something I really love was how seamless the backstory about the government program that was woven into the story through the characters. We learn so much about it through short moments of the characters ruminating and discussing why they’re even there. There’s a big pay out involved, but it goes to their parents instead of them, because they aren’t on Earth to collect it. For one person, this will help their parents escape poverty, for another, it inspires bitterness that their parents will be reaping the benefits of their work on an expedition that they were well aware had a high chance of them dying. 

The planet’s backstory is given in a different, but no less skillfully done, way, by the characters picking up clues within the text, glyphs found at ruins, strange dreams, and by clues presented directly to the readers that the characters don’t see. The most notable of these is an extra-textual fragment titled “Recording Found at Site 11A,” which appears at the end of issue four and tells the story of how the strange plants came and essentially terraformed the planet. 

The art really helps the haunting feelings come through too, the characters are so expressive and distinct, and the inkwash style allows it to be dark, yet vibrant at the same time.

Another thing of note that I enjoyed was how diverse the cast was. There was an even split of female and male characters as well as a diverse array of characters of different ethnicities, a breakdown that allowed for deaths without falling into racist and sexist tropes surrounding character death.

All in all, if you like horror, sci-fi and stories of how interpersonal relationships can fracture when people are isolated and trapped, “Bountiful Garden” is the mini series to check out. It’s newly available in trade paperback as of April 6th!  

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Not a lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

[Image ID: A Snapchat of the cover of "Not a lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough" by Kyle Tran Myhre with art by Casper Pham. The caption reads: Stories about stories, my favorite kind. End ID]

What can artists do in difficult times? That is the question this book grapples with. 

Dealing with challenging topics through allegory is a very hit or miss thing, with misses more likely than hits in my experience as a long time X-Men fan. Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre, on the other hand, hits and hits hard.

[Image ID: Snapchat of text, "How can I write about social justice issues via characters who do not move through the systems and structures that I move through, or that the people on my planet move through? How can that be done responsibly, in a way that doesn't sand the edges off of the issues that I normally write about?" The caption reads: Fuck, yes. what a mood! End ID.]

I actually don’t think I would want to read this book if the discussions within of authoritarianism, people who refuse to acknowledge trouble if it doesn’t impact them, or who willfully twist meaning, were just straight discussions of the world between 2018 and now. I, like so many, have lived through and been impacted by those things all too closely, but the distance created by the found fiction/quasi-epistolary sci-fi setting opens a door to exploring those topics in a way that feels cathartic rather than painful. 

[Image ID: Snapchat of the text: "Memo: What follows is a collection of poems, conversation transcripts, notebook entries, and sketches compiled by our team regarding the robot Gyre. Frustratingly, they are filtered through a secondary source, Gyre's traveling companion, a human Nar'ryzar "Nary" Crumbeaux. Whether Crumbeaux took extremely detailed notes during their travels across the moon, or Gyre's advanced memory capabilities are responsible for the existence of these writing, we do not know." The captain reads: Reconstructing history through fragmentary evidence my beloved. End ID]

The book opens with what is possibly my favorite framing device in existence: a faux-academic preface explaining what you are about to see: A collection of poems and transcripts that the robot Gyre and his human apprentice Nary, collected over their travels on the moon, which is home to a society that grew from a prison colony of political dissidents from a World that they can no longer remember. Now, generations later, they are struggling despite their founders’ best efforts to subvert what they could recall of their old world’s failings. 

So what are poets Gyre and Nary to do? They look for stories, they tell stories, they share and encourage others to share. Throughout the book I was reminded repeatedly of a line from “The Truth About Stories” by Thomas King, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.”

[Image ID: Snapchat of text: "1. Everyone has a story. No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone has a story, and every story matters. If we're going to survive, it will be because we listen to each other's stories." The caption reads: The truth about stories is that's all we are. End ID]

Stories are important. They are important to connection, they are important to memory, they are important to making sense of the world. At one point, in a conversation between Gyre and Nary, Nary grapples with doubt about the impact that what they’re doing has, because things seem to keep getting worse. That piece, “Do You Think We Have Been Talking About PoetryThis Whole Time?” reads to me an awful lot like grappling with activism burnout. There’s so much that needs to be done, you can’t do all of it yourself, but at the same time, sometimes it feels like you’re never doing enough. 

[Image ID: Snapchat of text:
Nary: I'm tired.
Gyre: Drink more tea.
Nary: You know what I mean. It feels like everything is on fire, and we're still just writing poems, walking from one village to the next, going on and on about the importance of telling our stories and building community through art. And nothing changes. If anything, things are getting worse." The caption reads: That burn out feel, pensive emoji. End ID]

There is so much more to be said about this book, there is more than one theme, though stories are central. A few poems that stood out to me were “Blessing (Circles),” which deals in how stories are not always neat and tidy things and spoke to my experience dealing with purity culture surrounding media, and “Like We Live in a Bad Poem,” which digs into the world building and the repercussions of the original Exiles having had their memories wiped, eg. idioms remain, but their context is lost. It is a book worth taking your time with and revisiting. I am certain it will hit me differently six months from now. 

[Image ID: Snapchat of text: "Don't be angry at a story because it isn't a map." The caption reads: I wish more people understood this. End ID]

Additionally, there is some truly incredible art throughout the book, done by artist Casper Pham. My favorite piece is the one that has also been used for the cover art. 

[Image ID: Artwork of a robot leaning back against a pile of cable, it has a hand raised which appears to be damaged, some of the fingers are sparking and smoking. Below the image is the quote: "Just because you don't have the power to run outside and magically 'fix' everything, it doesn't mean that you don't have power." The Snapchat caption reads: The art in this book is stunning. End ID]

If you’re lucky, you might also still be able to get the limited edition postcard prints when you order the book. (The site says they’re for the pre-order, but I got them and didn’t pre-order, so I’m assuming it’s a “while supplies last” thing now.)

Anyway, go get yourselves a copy and I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lines from the very beginning of the book. “Please remember: This doesn’t end in a meaningful way. There’s no tidy conclusion waiting for you on the other side. Think of it more like a circle.”

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Opal Charm: Melody of Astronomical Dusk by Miri Castor

Snapchat of the cover of Opal Charm: Melody of Astronomical Dusk. Opal and her brother Jermaine are being attacked by pillars of blue ice shards. Opal, is controlling two glowing golden fists to punch the ice while Jermaine is wielding a rope of golden water.

Above the scene in soft blue outline is the figure of Samael, the novel's primary antagonist, arms raised like he's controlling the scene. 

A grey bar across the cover indicates the book is "Not for Resale" owing to the fact that it is an advanced reader copy.

The snapchat caption reads: Can we just talk about this cover art? Like... this series has always had top of the line cover art, but this is next level and I'm in love.

Not spoiler free.

This is my new favorite installment in the Opal Charm saga. Everything from cover to the final page left me absolutely thrilled. 

We pick up where we left off at the end of “Hope in Nautical Dusk.” Anza is gone—though she lives on in a way inside of Opal—and Opal is still working as a spy in Samael’s palace as Upala Valora. Our large cast of queer side characters returns, with my personal favorite, trans man Hinata, getting quite a bit of attention—we learn about his motivation and reasons for working for Samael and he gets a bit more sympathetic as far as a guy on the bad side of things goes. 

Now before we get into the plot I would just like to recommend that if it’s been a while since you read “Hope in Nautical Dusk” you should revisit it, because “Melody of Astronomical Dusk” drops you right back into the middle of the action, and oh boy the action.

Excerpt from the novel: "She found Iman standing in front of the band with a bejeweled blade pressed against her cheek. The man with the lump on his back had her pressed to his one side and Ngoc on the other, the smiling boy far too carefree despite being held hostage. His smile remained unchanged as the blade sliced across Iman's cheek."

The Snapchat caption: "Oh boy, page 5 and things are already popping off."

At the top of the page, the page number is circled in blue.

Opal’s relationships have always been in important throughout the series, but they carry particular weight in this book as they become more complicated. We see Opal struggling with her interactions with her co-workers as Valora, because while these people are working for the man who has tried to kill her and her family, working alongside them means that she is exposed to them as people with all the associated complexities as opposed to simply monsters complicit in a cruel and oppressive regime. 

We also see Opal’s personal life become more and more entangled in her work on Athre with JAEL. A mild reveal is that Opal’s grandmother inherited the family’s power of Twilight, which she uses to cultivate a luscious garden. A less mild reveal is that Opal and Jermaine’s cousin Gabriel, who has been mentioned throughout the books as having gone missing, is embroiled in Samael’s schemes. That reveal was absolutely stunning and had me gasping. I won’t spoil more there, as it’s far to delicious a reveal to spoil in its entirety. 

Novel quote: "Pebbles rained from beneath the chunk of the ground Mira stood on. She leaned up and plucked the ripe mangos from the branches, dropping them into her basket. When the tree was free of ripe mangos, she brought her golden platform to the ground, gently shaking the earth again. 'We have a lot to talk about, don't we?'"

Snapchat captain: "GRANDMA'S GOT MAGIC POWERS"

Crucially to Opal’s development with her powers of Twlight, she learns more and finally figures out how to connect with Philomenos, her great-great-grandfather and the source of their powers, after she, Jermaine and Addy travel to Philomenos’ home country of Thesan to determine if the leaders of Thesan have sided with Samael and get a much more complicated and detailed answer than they bargained for (in a good way though). It’s an important step for Opal, who has been struggling for a while with how the revelation of Twilight and her family’s legacy has impacted her sense of identity. 

“Melody of Astronomical Dusk” was released on April 2nd and can be purchased in ebook and paperback format through Amazon. 

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The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth

The cover of The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth. It has a black background and a grayscale drawing of an anatomical drawing of a winged human.

If you like fictional science, Victorian fantasy, great art and a creeping sense of horror, then “The Resurrectionist” by E.B. Hudspeth is the book for you. 

The book comes in two parts. The first is the fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black that takes your through Black’s early education and career as a surgeon, the development of his strange evolutionary theories, and the experiments he makes later. 

So what is all this fake science? Through his early surgical work, Dr. Black comes to believe that birth defects and other abnormalities are caused by the human body trying to grow limbs that humans once had but no longer have, like wings, or a mermaid’s tail… and ergo mythical creatures were once real and also we should try to bring them back.

Snapchat of text, the highlighted quote reads, "Among the paper's most controversial claims was the idea that many so-called mythological creatures were in fact real species that once walked the earth. Black further argued that remnants of these creatures sometimes manifested themselves in latent trails, that is, genetic mutations."

The caption reads "You'd be surprised how realistic this is in terms of shit people got up to in the 1800s. There was real historical discourse about whether or not the mermaid was a missing evolutionary link."

So armed with the obstinate belief of many a Victorian scientist with bad theories, he sets about trying to prove this in the worst possible way. First he cobbles together fakes a la the Feejee mermaid, but then he decides to take it a step further and experiment on living creatures. He starts with animals… but doesn’t stop there.

Snapchat of text, the quote reads "Unhappy with the success of the anatomy show and grieving the loss of his son, Victor,

The thing I really enjoyed about this first part being presented as a biography are the questions and mysteries that arise, but due to the restraints of the genre and structure of the story, cannot be solved. He transplants wings onto a dog and then a young woman, and we are lead to believe that these wings work, but logically we also know that shouldn’t be possible, so then we wonder, maybe Dr. Black was onto something

Additionally, when dealing with late Victorian evolutionary theory, especially when discussing disability and birth defects, you always, always run the risk of running into eugenics. To my pleasant surprise, Dr. Black is never affiliated with the eugenics movement, in fact, they denounce him and his work.

This is rather a double edge sword of an endorsement, however. Like, yay, he’s not involved with the eugenics movement, but the denouncement also serves as a moment of “the people doing really fucked up shit think the shit you’re doing is worse” and let’s not forget Dr. Black was experimenting on living human beings by the end. 

Which brings me to my next point and major warning; there is a not insignificant amount of medical ableism in this book. Much of it is typical for the time period and field in which Dr. Black worked, but it’s still there and there were a small handful of things that I thought could have been done better from the perspective of the modern biographer of Dr. Black, but they weren’t enough to ruin the book for me. 

Two anatomical drawings a mermaid with each individual part labeled. The first is a skeleton and the skeleton with some minor musculature. Beneath the image is the label "Siren oceanus."

Part two of the book is a “reproduction” of Dr. Black’s seminal work, “The Codex of Extinct Animalia,” where he details his “discoveries” of various mythical creatures, from mermaids to dragons to centaurs. Each section includes beautifully detailed anatomical drawings of each creature, just like what might have been found in a regular anatomical text book of the time, accompanied by blurbs written by Dr. Black and a short explanation by the biographer. 

Ultimately, if you enjoy dark historical fantasy, science fiction and horror, such as Frankenstein, The Terror (tv show), or Dracula you might enjoy The Resurrectionist too. 

You can watch the trailer for the book as well as find links to purchase here.

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“Murder on the Einstein Express” from Murder on the Einstein Express and Other Stories by Harun Siljak

image

[Edit: Originally published  October 29, 2016]

This really is the “Science” part of Science Fiction. I feel like I kind of got a crash course in theoretical physics, if that’s even the right term. I’m certainly no scientist. But if you are a scientist or simply enjoy science this seems like a collection that would be right up your alley. 

“Murder on the Einstein Express” is a very clever story. The story takes place at a university, some teachers have constructed a new experimental class for students to take. It’s segmented into 10 mini chapters, an introduction and then the nine lectures that comprise the course. 

What’s being taught is a thought experiment. The analysis of a physics laden short story, “Murder on the Einstein Express.” Where protagonists A. and N. are trying to solve the murder of Laplace’s demon. Every lecture the Professor reads a bit of the story to the students and then they discuss the elements that come up in that section.

There were some parts, particularly the math parts, that had me reading sections over and over because I was struggling to wrap my head around it and I wanted to. This ended up being detrimental to my reading and I had to resign myself to fact that I wouldn’t understand everything, and indeed you’re not supposed to. Plenty of the students in the story are confused as well and there are also places where the Professor tells the students that if they want to learn more/better understand, to seek outside materials. After that I didn’t feel so bad about not knowing. 

It was a very good story and I greatly enjoyed it despite not having a science background. Though if you’re looking for science fiction of the “easy to read space adventure” type this isn’t the place you’re going to find that. This is like I said before, very science heavy science fiction. It’s stuff I think my dad, who is a scientist, would enjoy greatly. 

You can find the book here.

Related Reviews: Freudian Slipstream, Questioning the Tree

Snaps:

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“Though Hell Should Bar the Way” written by Greg Cox from Star Trek: Enterprise Logs

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[Edit:  Originally published October 8, 2016]

Enterprise Logs is a short story collection, each story is from a different Captain, starting all the way back with the two very real Enterprise ships that existed during the Revolutionary War and World War Two. However, they story I’m looking at is the first Star Trek Captain of the Enterprise. Captain Robert April. 

Captain Robert April’s story deals with my absolute favorite part of Star Trek lore, Tarsus IV. The Enterprise, being the fastest ship in the fleet, is on route to deliver relief aid.

In a relatively unsurprising turn of events, the Klingons are trying to stop the Enterprise from reaching Tarsus IV, motivation is speculated but never explicitly given. A space battle ensues, with the Enterprise ultimately victorious, though the Klingons are merely disabled, not destroyed. The Enterprise then continues to Tarsus IV, only to arrive too late. Kodos has already wiped out half of the population. 

It’s very interesting to see a story about Tarsus IV that isn’t from Kirk’s perspective. All the Star Trek media I’ve consumed about Tarsus IV so far has been. Jim does get a mention in this story, as Captain April is friends with George Kirk, Jim’s father. But it’s only at the very end. 

Like any good Star Trek story there’s an emphasis on peace and hope. Captain April is not fond of Starfleet needing military capacity, but he also does understand necessity for it. Space is dangerous, and the Klingons give a prime example of that.

The whole collection is quite excellent, and I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Related Reviews:  Star Trek Academy: Collision Course

“Freudian Slipstream” from Small Doses of the Future by Brad Aiken

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[Edit: Originally published September 30, 2016]

“Freudian Slipstream” is the third story in the collection Small Doses of the Future and it’s definitely a fun one. 

It starts on a beach and immediately something feels off. As you keep reading, that offness becomes more and more apparent, until you get some key information about the scenario. Spoilers, it’s not real. It’s a mental construct designed to keep a person’s brain active while they’re in stasis. This particular man, a scientist, is working on a cure/antidote for a toxin that is produced by an alien life form on a planet that humans have a colony on. 

Many of the other short stories in the book have some sort of social commentary tied into them. Not to say that that’s a detriment to those stories, because it definitely isn’t, but this story in particular has less of that. It’s more the “shit, something is going down in space and we have to fix it” kind of story than the “should highly developed AIs be considered people” kind of story. Both kinds of stories are equally good, but they’re different kinds of stories. 

I really don’t want to spoil too much because part of the joy of the story is discovering what’s going on as the story moves forward. It has a very excellent surreal feeling to it that leaves you feeling, at times, like you’re grasping at straws just as much as the main character is. 

If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining science fiction read, “Freudian Slipstream” is definitely a good story to check out.

You can find the collection Small Doses of the Future here.

Related Reviews: Questioning the Tree, Murder on the Einstein Express