Friday, May 17, 2019

Microreview [book]: The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders

The City in the Middle of the Night proves an intriguingly interested canvas to tell a story of survival, contact, social issues and much more.

The planet January is a tidally locked planet of ferocious extremes. On the day side, there is heat that can boil oceans and kill life. The dark side, for humans anyway, is almost impossibly cold. The terminator line, where the world always hangs on the edge of night and day, is the place where human colonists have settled. Like the badly programmed space probes of Niven’s Known Space, the colonists have found a habitable area, rather than a completely habitable world.

On this world , the author focuses on two characters. First is Sophie, a young woman of the city of Xiosphant whose early choice to protect someone she loves leads to her exile and an amazing encounter with the indigenous inhabitants of the world that changes her life forever. And then there is Mouth, whose darker history as a itinerant traveler along the terminator only slowly emerges in the narrative. Sophie and  Mouth’s stories, and the story of the ultimate fate of a world,  is the story of Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night.

The novel’s strength is the worldbulding and the canvas on which the author places the human characters. Tidally locked planets can be tricky depict in a realistic fashion. The author has put a lot of thought, however, into how you could have a human-habitable zone between two very inhospitable extremes and the science feels solid and real, although perhaps it is a mite exaggerated for narrative effect, especially the sea where you have boiling on the day side, and implacable glaciers on the other.  . A question I had about some of the climatological consequences of a tidally locked planet, it turns out, get answered later in the novel, showing the depth of thought she has put into her work.

Anders uses the base geographical facts and builds societies, both human and alien, that make it work The cities of Xiosphant and Argela are painted in brush strokes both large and small, the tyrannical and autocratic Xiosphant contrasting with the anarchic rule-by-mob families Argela, with explorations of the varying cuisines, fashions, societal customs and social pressures. Both are very flawed societies, both are backsliding from previous highs as a planet not really suited to humans constricts and erodes their way of life. That erosion is a constant societal pressure that gives room for the protagonists not only to change their own life, but the fate of a world.

The aliens also come in for a deep dive into aliens that are far from rubber forehead aliens, or even aliens with a vastly different biology and physiology, but still act and communicate in very human ways. The “Crocodiles” (who get rechristened by Sophie as the Gelet as the novel progresses) have to build a society, right from the base of how do they communicate on such an inhospitable world where speech would be difficult if not impossible in many areas outside the Terminator zone.

And for all their alienness, they still have relatable goals,ideas, wishes, and histories as well. There is a real sense of histories to this world, not only for the human societies, but the Gelet as well. And the novel is very interested in the social history and future development of the aliens as much as it is concerned with the humans. There is a real sociological and anthropological exploration of the various societies we see here, both in their internal workings and weaknesses as well as their external relations with each other.

For me, however, I found myself far more invested in the story of Sophie than of our other point of view character, Mouth. While the characters do eventually braid their stories together, particularly in the middle and later portions of the novel, I found myself wanting to return to Sophie and her journey again and again. It is through her eyes and her experience that the rich development of cities, of geography and of course the aliens comes through the clearest. I can see why, in the tradition of “viewpoint solves everything” why the author chose and even needed to break Sophie’s point of view in order to tell the entire scope of the story. It is that I was much more invested in Sophie’s eyes and perspective. But I do note that the author is very interested in flawed characters who often make impulsive, bad decisions, and feel extremely human and real for their strengths, flaws, and character traits.

I should note that the novel begins rather tellingly and interestingly with a mention that the document is a translation into “Peak English” which is used “Across several worlds and space nodes”. It is a very subtle way to suggest where this story might be going, especially given the sliding backward paradigm that we see throughout the novel. Both of the major polities are flawed and slowly failing cities on a planet that does not reward weakness in the least. But this translator’s note implies a happy ending for the planet right off the bat. This is therefore a novel where, if one reads carefully,  the balance of the anticipation lies in the “how” rather than the “if” this world can be saved. But yet, in the reading of the novel, it is easy to put that translator’s note out of mind and wonder if the world can indeed be saved. For, like its protagonists, this world is “broken, but still good.”.

While the denouement and the ending of the book is a bit weak and doesn’t quite connect the dots and complete the “Frame” that starts the book, I walked away from the planet of January, Sophie, , and the rest of the inhabitants quite satisfied with the world that Charlie Jane has made here. Tidally locked planets provide an amazing place to set stories, the kinds of planets that might really be out there, and the author has shown that amazing stories, intriguing aliens and interesting societies might develop on such a world. 

Further, the author seems invested in telling stories about worlds having to change to survive, a theme that her All the Birds in the Sky used for Earth, as a pair of protagonists tackle the problems of Earth in completely different ways. The City in the Middle of the Night continues that tradition, although the framing and the process is very different. The tone is very much darker than the prior novel, those looking for the breeziness of the first novel are going to have expectations dashed picking up this book. Overall, though, I look forward to more exploration of a theme that is clearly an abiding concern of the author, in her subsequent novels.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 8/10

Bonuses: +1 for strong and interesting worldbuilding on a tidally locked planet!
+1 for intriguing and non-rubber-forehead aliens

Penalties: -1  for a somewhat imbalanced set of protagonists
-1 for a somewhat wet firecracker of an ending

Nerd Coefficient: 8/10 well worth your time and attention

Reference:  Anders, Charlie Jane, The City in the Middle of the Night, Tor, 2019

POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday Morning Superhero

Thanks to a work trip I managed to work on my New Years Resolutions.  On my flight to the Boston area I managed to watch Aquaman and it was delightful. It was definitely a new tone that was much needed in the DC Universe. It is clear that James Wan had a lot of fun with the character and I thought that Jason Momoa was brilliant as the titular character. It invoked a lot of the tongue in cheek humor that Chris Hemsworth breathes into Thor and I look forward to watching it with the family in the near future.

Pick of the Week:
Daredevil #5 - Daredevil has reached his breaking point and there is something incredibly humbling watching the Man without Fear struggle with his own identity. Following his skirmish with the Punisher, Matt unknowingly dons a Punisher t-shirt as he attempts a suicide mission trying to take down a gang on his own.  Whiskey is his go to pain medicine and he is in desperate need of an intervention to get him on the right track. He still is struggling to deal with his internal demons after he accidentally killed someone.  Watching him struggle with what is right and wrong and what role superheros play in the big picture paints him as someone overtly human. This introspective arc has been extremely rewarding and I am looking forward to how he can get his groove back.

The Rest:
Gideon Falls #13 - We are learning more and more about the power of the Black Barn and the entity that possessed Norton Sinclair.  The Black Barn has opened up a connection between alternate realities, and the priest is attempting to track Sinclair to kill whatever it is that has possessed him. The change in pacing in this series has really ramped up the fear factor in this series and the shift is welcomed. Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino spent the first arc building up to a climax and have delivered in a big way.

Captain America #10 - Cap remains behind bars after being framed for a crime he didn't commit. There is a certain novelty of Steve Rogers imprisoned with those he put behind bars, and the humor is not lost on the creative team of Ta-Nehsi Coates, Adam Kubert, and Frank Martin as we are treated to Steve playing poker in jail with the likes of Bane. I will admit that I don't know anything about Thunderball, but apparently he used to be a bad dude that is looking to atone. This makes him a good candidate to hatch a scheme from the inside to help bust Rogers out of jail. Unfortunately this is likely to free some other individuals as well.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Reading the Hugos: Novel

Welcome to the first article in our Reading the Hugos series, 2019 edition! I often joke that the Hugo Award Season is eternal and that is only half of a joke because there is only a small breath between the announcement of the winners in August and the end of the year when we start thinking about what the best books of the year may have been, and that leads directly into submitting our nominating ballots and the cycle begins anew.

Today we are going to take a look at the six finalists for Best Novel. This year three of the finalists were on my nominating ballot and I had named The Calculating Stars my top novel of 2018.  This is also a rare year in which I have already read all of the novels on the ballot before the finalists were announced, which is awfully convenient for me to put together my own Hugo ballot.

In a sense, this year's Hugo race is wide open because after N.K. Jemisin's Best Novel trifecta, she does not have a novel on the ballot, though everyone except Mary Robinette Kowal and Rebecca Roanhorse have been Best Novel finalists before. Kowal, of course, has three Hugo Awards in other categories, Roanhorse has one, and both Kowal and Roanhorse are previous winners of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Suffice it to say that this category is stacked.

Let's take a look at the finalists, shall we?

The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Record of a Spaceborn Few: I dig that each of Becky Chambers' three novels have reasonably been standalone stories. Record of a Spaceborn Few focuses on that segment of humanity that took to the stars, but then never left the ships when so many then spread to new stars. A tightly contained story, Record of a Spaceborn Few deals with the responsibility of the individual to a community. This is slice-of-life science fiction. It could be set anywhere, but is far more interesting when in a more austere environment, especially one which failure for everyone to do meaningful work could cause the failure of a system.

I thought this was a much stronger novel than A Closed and Common Orbit (A Hugo Award finalist in 2016) and a pure delight to read. The only thing Record of a Spaceborn Few has working against it is that this is an incredibly stacked ballot.

Space Opera: Space Opera has been described as Eurovision in Space and as a spiritual successor to Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is a hell of a lot of expectation to live up to. For the most part, Catherynne Valente hits her mark. In some ways, I admired Space Opera more than I loved it. It's been a while, but I remember the opening of the novel to be a touch longer to get going than I was looking for. Once it does and we get to that Intergalactic Grand Prix, though, Space Opera is a pure delight through and through. (my review)

Revenant Gun: Yoon Ha Lee's Hexarchate novels are a looser trilogy than I would have expected. There is a larger story in play, but Revenant Gun picks up some nine years after the events of Raven Stratagem and shifts the viewpoint to Shuos Jedeo (the infamous dead general) reborn as a seventeen year old with no memories of who he would become - which is interesting because it raises a question about whether inherent genius is enough to accomplish a goal or whether it is the sum or later experiences that exploits and develops that genius.

Revenant Gun is a strong ending to a truly unique series. In some ways the closest comparison I have is Ann Leckie's Ancillary novels, but that doesn't line up exactly. This is a fascinating novel and extremely strong conclusion to the trilogy. I'd be curious how well Revenant Gun would stand on it's own. It's one of two third novels in a series, but the only one that is not a true standalone (Record of a Spaceborn Few is a standalone in a series). It may not fully standalone, but Revenant Gun is a standout. (Adri's review)

Trail of Lightning: I've mentioned this before, but if "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience" was the announcement of Roanhorse's emergence on the scene (it did win all of the awards after all), Trail of Lightning was the exclamation point confirming that she was a major talent. It also marks a rare appearance of urban fantasy on the Hugo ballot and a well deserved one.

Trail of Lightning is a badass novel, full of driving energy and it was a raw delight to discover Roanhorse's Sixth World. (Paul's review)

Spinning Silver: Despite being a fairy tale retelling written by Naomi Novik, Spinning Silver shares almost nothing in common with Uprooted. Tonally, thematically, and stylistically, these are distinct novels as different from each other as they can be. The one thing they truly share is that they are excellent and one of the best novels of their respective years.

As part of her review, Adri wrote "As a technical accomplishment, it's excellent (except for the awkwardly stereotyped autistic-presenting character), hitting a perfect fairytale tone that weaves multiple character's lives together in a compelling way. There's plenty of kindness and positive relationships, especially between women and across cultures, to keep a reader company even during the story's darker turns. I recommend picking up Spinning Silver with eyes open and critical faculties engaged: much like that dark forest at the edge of the town, its not a place to be taken lightly, no matter how lovely it may look from the outside." (Adri's review)

The Calculating Stars: When I wrote about The Calculating Stars last year, I said that "More than just achieving a sense of wonder, the science of The Calculating Stars is magic. Kowal brings the dream of spaceflight beyond the page and into readers' hearts." There were plenty of excellent novels published last year and every novel on this ballot is worthy of recognition and are among the best of the year. For me, for my money, The Calculating Stars is the class of the field.

Also from my review, "It's not just Elma overcoming everything stacked against her that makes The Calculating Stars such a fantastic read, it's the completely thrilling mundanity of a countdown towards a launch. It's the checklists and the waiting. It's tremendous and exhilarating. We've been on this journey with Elma for some four hundred pages and The Calculating Stars is beyond a sense of wonder. I'd say that it's magic, but it's science. It's near perfection." (my review)

My Vote:
1. The Calculating Stars
2. Spinning Silver
3. Trail of Lightning
4. Revenant Gun
5. Space Opera
6. Record of a Spaceborn Few

Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Microreview [Book]: Shadowblade by Anna Kashina

An action packed lost heir story with a refreshing focus on autonomy and consent.

Another day, another book with a lady with a sword on the cover. In the case of Anna Kashina's new novel, we are treated to two swords! Winning a place in my heart over the "just a knife on its own (or maybe a snake)" cover trend, the promise of a lady with a sword, especially one striding so impactfully towards the reader, is one that's hard to resist even for an action-agnostic reader like me. Who is this lady in comfortable footwear and a practical haircut (and subtle but unmistakeable decorative boobplate, but let's gloss over that for a minute)? She's holding one of those swords like I would hold the one supermarket bag I'd accidentally put all the heavy tins into, but despite that she seems to know what she's doing, and I'm excited to learn exactly what she's got going on.

This, we soon learn, is Naia. Naia has been training to be a member of the Jaihar, a stratified order of elite warriors who are drawn from orphans and other children pledged to them at a young age, and trained from birth in various martial and mystical arts. Naia is uncannily good with a blade, but has apparently made a lot of enemies in the lower camp where she's been trained, and is on the verge of being kicked out for a mysterious insubordination incident: she's attacked an instructor and has curiously little defence for herself. Luckily, fate intervenes, as the head of the Daljeer, scholarly order shows up looking for a young woman at just the right age to impersonate a mythical princess from the murdered Challimar dynasty. After a few tests demonstrate that Naia's natural abilities significantly surpass the training she's been given so far, she's given a second chance in the upper camp with the Jai, and put on a path to engage in political machinations which, we note in an aside, she might actually be born to do...

Naia's training and her mission to impersonate Princess Xarimet divide Shadowblade neatly into two halves. The first half, in which Naia goes from near-outcast to prodigy of the upper camp, sets out an interesting and refreshing take on the concepts it is dealing with. Although Naia is set up as the only person who can set out on the particular mission she is being trained for, and that she could be more than the impersonator which the Jaihar officially want her to be, Shadowblade returns again and again to Naia's agency and her own desire to learn and train with the Jai. The Har section of the camp where she has come from is defined, at least in the limited views we get of it, by brutality and bad eggs, with the incident that almost led to Naia's expulsion soon revealed to involve her stepping in to protect a servant almost being beaten to death. The Jai, the elite warriors, instead come across as being defined by respect for each other and for their students. It's fascinating to watch Naia go from being beaten down and undervalued to training with people (mostly men - unfortunately this is a pretty dude-heavy story, with only two living women of particular note) who respect her, encourage her to reflect on her performance and identify her own weaknesses. There's a constant prioritisation of consent in Naia's narrative which could so easily be absent from a story like this, especially once the romantic tension with Jai master Karrim starts.

Naia's training goes by in a series of montage-like chapters which take us through multiple years of weapons training, understanding her own weaknesses, and learning more about her Chall heritage from Mehtab, a mysterious woman from the Daljeer order who quickly becomes one of Naia's most trusted tutors. She also introduces her to the magical in-universe reasons for decorative boobplate, which involve iron-calling properties that throw off everyone wielding conventional weapons, and... that bit is fine, I guess. The building up of trust and agency in the first half of the book plays right through into the political action of the second, where a fully trained Naia is sent off on her mission to challenge for the Empire's throne in the wake of the old Emperor's death, removing the unpredictable son who has seized it in favour of a more pliable - though uninspiring - candidate favoured by the Daljeer. The deeper threat to Naia comes from a slightly different angle and builds up into a climax which really pays off the themes of consent, autonomy and learning to trust one's own judgement and surround oneself with people who respect it. There's not much that's surprising about how this plays out - the twists are well signposted in the narrative and the general thrust of what's going to happen was fairly easy to see unfolding - but this is a narrative that's more about the "how" than the "what", and the unfolding of Naia's victory not just within the terms of her mission but against those in the background who are setting her up to be a pawn.

Shadowblade is a book which seems to know exactly what it's doing and what it wants to prioritise, and how to make the other elements of the story work towards that goal. The focus is on delivering an action-packed story true to its blade-twirling hero, and that means the political plot, the empire's history with the Chall and the betrayal of a generation before which led to Naia's coming into the Jaihar are all just fleshed out enough to carry her story. There are vaguely Asian, desert-culture trappings to Chall and Zeg which aren't really fleshed out, but there's honestly not much recognisable "culture" in Naia's sheltered corner of the world - we could be anywhere, and I'm fine with that. The lack of women in Naia's world outside Mehtab is odd and frustrating despite the narrative attempts to wave it away, but there's a core of central characters who, with the exception of a few interchangeable seniors, are all distinct and interesting with believable quirks and motivations. Shadowblade leaves itself open, though not in need of, a sequel and it will be interesting to see whether some of these worldbuilding aspect get explored further in future instalments.

Action-driven novels are hit and miss for me but this one was satisfying on a level that I wasn't expecting it to be. While Naia's world is not the deepest or most fleshed out you're likely to visit this year, this entertaining, driven story does what it sets out to do while centring consent in a way which most narratives of this trope have no time or space to do. If the confident, blade wielding woman on the cover of Shadowblade is calling to you, I recommend you pick up her story and give it a try - it does what it says on the tin, in ways that I'd like to see a lot more of in future. Just, maybe we can go with plot relevant full body armour next time, please?

The Math
Baseline Assessment: 6/10

Bonuses: +1 Weaves consent and autonomy into a destiny driven story; +1 Satisfying action with a great payoff

Penalties: -1 Brilliant woman protagonist is surrounded almost entirely by men in, uh, plot relevant decorative boobplate...

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10

POSTED BY: Adri is a semi-aquatic migratory mammal most often found in the UK. She has many opinions about SFF books, and is also partial to gaming, baking, interacting with dogs, and Asian-style karaoke. Find her on Twitter at @adrijjy.

Reference: Kashina, Anna. Shadowblade [Angry Robot, 2019].

Monday, May 13, 2019

Nanoreviews: In the Shadow of Spindrift House, Middlegame, Assassin's Price

Grant, Mira. In the Shadow of Spindrift House [Subterranean Press]

In the Shadow of Spindrift House seems like a blending of the storytelling of Mira Grant and Seanan McGuire, not quite fitting the expectation of either persona. It is horror, though, and that says Mira Grant. Certain aspects of the novella reminds me of a weird unholy blend of Gormenghast (if I actually liked Gormenghast) and Lovecraft, with the storytelling touch that is all Mira Grant.

This isn't as easily accessible as a more traditional Mira Grant novella. There is an interstitial that feels like Grant is stretching what it means to tell a Mira Grant story (although, Into the Drowning Deep did that, too). The introduction of Harlowe, her friends, and the central mystery of the novel is pure Mira Grant, and then the creeping existential dread and horror hits.
Score: 7/10

McGuire, Seanan. Middlegame [ Publishing]

Middlegame is perhaps the most ambitious novels from Seanan McGuire and is a showcase for her skill at telling a good and complex story. Twins, math, alchemy, murder, time-bending, family, secret organizations, impossible powers, and just about everything McGuire can throw into this wonderous novel. Seanan McGuire has blended together as much as she possibly could stuff into one novel and she makes the whole thing work.

Middlegame is a novel about separated twins struggling to come together and the people that are keeping them apart in order to better build them into something that can open a road to an Impossible City that will grant unbelievable power. The novel is grounded in what seems like an almost normal reality of Roger and Dodger, the two incredible intelligent and gifted twins mentioned previously. It is that grounding that allows the rest of the novel's structure to work, the hints that there is more to the story than we're even seeing through the different viewpoint characters. Seanan McGuire goes big with Middlegame and she hits the mark.
Score: 8/10 

Modesitt, Jr, L.E. Assassin's Price [Tor]

Few of Modesitt's fantasy novels feature a non-magic-using protagonist, but this is one. Charyn, son of the Rex Lorien and tired of waiting for his father to give him responsibilities of a proper political education to prepare him for future rule, has taken it upon himself to get that education. Meanwhile, threats and attacks against Rex Lorien's family have begun and the political situation have worsened.

For all that Assassin's Price is the eleventh novel in Modesitt's Imager Portfolio series and the third in a subseries, it might actually be a reasonable place for a reader to pick up the series. Charyn is a new viewpoint character (the previous two books have featured Alaster, an incredibly powerful magic user) and while knowledge of the events of Madness in Solidar and Treachery's Tools might help for a richer background, Modesitt gives more than enough to fill in the blanks.

The success of Assassin's Price for a given reader lies entirely with how much the reader appreciates Modesitt's house style of slow burn, slow burn, slow burn, big reveal and action. The atmosphere is built and the story is told through the smallest of every day actions. Modesitt is a master of the form, but readers need to appreciate the form. If they do, Assassin's Price is a fully satisfying novel.
Score: 7/10

Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.

Friday, May 10, 2019

6 Books with David Quantick

David Quantick is an author, television writer and radio broadcaster. He wrote the surreal thriller The Mule and the comic scifi novel Sparks as well as the critically-acclaimed TV drama Snodgrass, currently being developed into a feature film, and he’s just written Dickens In Rome, a new play for Northern Stage. His new novel is from Titan Books, All My Colors

Today he shares his six books with us.

1. What book are you currently reading? 

Readymade Boddhisatva, which is a brilliant collection of Korean scifi stories by various writers. I’ve just finished writing a scifi novel set in Korea, so I thought I’d better see how it was done properly. Korean scifi is superb, and I can’t recommend this book highly enough: it’s introduced me to a whole world of new writers.

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about?

It’s been out for a bit, but it’s upcoming to me because I just ordered it - The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. I love the feeling of getting a new book by someone who’s new to me and this one sounds very exciting and interesting.

3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read? 

I think The Separation by Christopher Priest.  I love his work, but this particular book, with its themes of slipstream, World War Two and twins, is my favourite.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?

The one that comes to mind is Iain M Banks’ Walking On Glass. I didn’t exactly dismiss it first time round, but I was feeling very miserable at the time I first read it and that gloom affected my reading of the book. When I reread it, I realised what an amazing book it is. The title image is one of my all-time favourites.

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

Prince Caspian by C.S Lewis. I remember my primary school teacher, Miss Ashby, reading it out loud to the class, and the chapter where the Pevensies realise they’re in the ruins of Cair Paravel and that hundreds of years have elapsed since their last visit is probably the moment I realised what stories could do.

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome?

It is called All My Colors, and its awesomeness is mostly down to the songs playing in my head when I wrote it – Bat Out Of Hell by Meat Loaf, More Than A Feeling by Boston, Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult. It also has a scary story about a jerk called Todd Milstead who realises he’s the only person who’s heard of a very famous novel (called All My Colors) and decides to write it from memory – with terrifying consequences. It’s fun to write a book where the hero is a jerk because then you can hurt him more.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Thursday Morning Superhero

I cannot fathom that Free Comic Book Day is behind us and we are already well into May.  The San Diego Comic Con news has been steadily dripping and it sounds like Conan is officially confirmed for a return. With the new format of his show, fans were speculating that he might be ending his run at SDCC and it is a great day for SDCC attendees that he is returning to San Diego. Even before he brought his show to SDCC he has long had a memorable presence in various off-site ventures.

Pick of the Week:
Doctor Aphra #32 - We have a new arc for Aphra and it does a great job shining some light on her childhood and what is currently motivating her and her quest for ancient artifacts. We are also introduced to Vulaada, a young woman who Aphra has taken under her wings. The two are seeking an artifact that will fetch them 200,000 credits when Aphra discovers a rare Jedi weapon that is likely worth millions. This attracts a lot of attention and Aphra is confronted with someone she hasn't seen in a long time who thought Aphra is dead. I won't name names, but you can likely figure out who she meets that is going to make this arc a must read.

The Rest:
Star Wars Age of Rebellion: Boba Fett #1 - I don't envy anyone who has the responsibility of producing content on Boba Fett. The mysterious bounty hunter who captivated audiences in The Empire Strikes Back, has long been a fan favorite and some people who claim to be Star Wars fans are a bit critical of content they don't like. It brings me joy to report that this is a fun title that features Boba Fett riding in on a robot horse, tracking down fellow bounty hunters, and reminding us why he is so freaking cool.  I definitely look forward to watching Boba Fett track down additional bounties in what will hopefully lead up to his capture of Han Solo.

Star Wars Adventures #21 - This week we are treated to another delightful pair of stories.  The first story features Han, Luke and Chewy when they are dispatched on an important mission to purchase supplies.  Tempted by an opportunity to gamble some of the credits, Han puts the entire mission at risk. The second story features the cutest little alien and her attempt to pulling off a heist after hearing about an impossible mission.  I hope you managed to pick up the FCBD issue of Star Wars Adventures and enjoy these fun little stories set in the Star Wars Universe.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.