Friday, September 28, 2018

6 Books with Lauren Teffeau

Lauren C. Teffeau was born and raised on the East Coast, educated in the South, and employed in the Midwest. Lauren now lives and dreams in the Southwest. When she was younger, she poked around in the back of wardrobes, tried to walk through mirrors, and always kept an eye out for secret passages, fairy rings, and messages from aliens. Now, she writes to cope with her ordinary existence. Besides the obligatory bachelor’s degree in English, she also holds a master’s degree in Mass Communication and spent a few years toiling as a researcher in academia. Her short fiction can be found in a variety of speculative fiction magazines and anthologies. Implanted from Angry Robot Books is her first novel. To learn more, please visit

Today she shares her "6 Books" with us...

1. What book are you currently reading?

On the recommendation of a friend, I’m reading the short story collection Lost Objects by Marian Womack which is full of new weird stories meditating on the anthropocene. Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver is next in my TBR pile.

2. What upcoming book you are really excited about?

I’m excited about Mike Chen’s Here and Now and Then and Caitlin Starling’s The Luminous Dead. I met both these fine folks at Worldcon, and their debuts sound amazing. Time travel and haunted caves, respectively. What’s not to like?

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

Hmm. I read a lot of books when I was younger that probably deserve to be revisited. I’m a much more discerning reader these days, and I'm afraid the analytical tools I bring to any book now might destroy the magic from those first breathless read-throughs. I did read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini multiple times in middle school, so I’m probably most curious to see how they hold up now. You know, whenever I get my free time back.

4. How about a book you've changed your mind about over time--either                                              positively or negatively?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I remember enjoying it very much when I first read it, but now I cannot think about the book without thinking of the sexual harassment allegations that came to light earlier this year. I won’t throw my copy of the book out or donate it, so now it sits on my shelf with the spine facing inward as a warning.

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

Besides the two books mentioned above, I’d say Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea. The idea of names granting power is something I've never forgotten, having read it at a formative age. I think that must be why whenever I’m writing it takes so long for me to put a name to my characters and places because it’s so important to get right.

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

Implanted, my debut from Angry Robot, is a cyberpunk adventure featuring light espionage, high-tech gadgets, romance, and hard questions about the future. The main character is a young woman named Emery Driscoll who's blackmailed into working as a courier for a shadowy organization, and the book explores what happens when the life she was forced to leave behind comes back to haunt her after she’s left holding the bag on a job gone wrong.

Not convinced? How about this? Take Johnny Mnemonic, add a dash of Person of Interest, mix with Logan’s Run, and wrap it all up in a Blade Runner-meets-solarpunk aesthetic. If that’s not awesome, well, that's on you ;)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Thursday Morning Superhero

Pick of the Week:
Cold Spots #2 - The latest issue in this horror offering from Cullen Bunn and Mark Torres gave me chills.  Sorry about that, but what started as a creepy story with people frozen and ghosts quickly developed into an interesting story about a man, Dan Kerr, and his attempt to find his daughter who he has never met. It has been years since her birth, but her mother and her ended up living with a mysterious family who lives on a solitary island.  The Quarrels, who live on the island, have death looming all around them and have to deal with people making offerings to long lost loved ones outside of their house. The icy weather that impacts the surrounding area seems to originate from the Quarrels or perhaps from Kerr's daughter. Bunn does a masterful job developing his characters quickly in this second issue and the ambiance set by Torres makes you feel chilly as you read this book and see the looming ghosts all around. Very excited about where this is headed and always thrilled to have a new spooky story to read around Halloween.

The Rest:
Stranger Things #1 - I was a bit worried that this would simply be a retelling of season one of the Emmy Award winning series on Netflix, but was pleasantly surprised to see this issue gave us the change to experience the upside down through Will's perspective. It works well for the first issue as Will takes a bit of time to understand what is really happening around him. While I wasn't blown away by this issue, I am a fan of Stranger Things and am looking forward to see where this series takes the reader. At a minimum it is good filler until season three.

Star Wars Adventures #14 - This book continues to remain one of my favorite all-ages books. Chewbacca gets a rare day off in part one of this book and enjoys some time at a resort. I will add that there is something odd about seeing Chewbacca without his bandolier that makes him look naked and it was a bit uncomfortable watching him throughout this story without it.  Due to Han's sketchy past, the resort ended up being a setup that saw Chewie caught up between competing factions trying to kill him. An entertaining one-shot that sets up the first part of "Flight of the Falcon", a short story centered around a mysterious woman who has reached out to IG-88 in order to track the Falcon. Interesting set-up that has me intrigued for the next issue.

Doctor Aphra #24 - Doctor Aphra just took a sharp turn in the right direction. The past few issues had me close to taking it off of my pull list, but this issue redeems itself and charts a course in the right direction. When we left Aphra, she was stuck on a prison that was minutes away from a deadly collision. Her love, Tolva, messes up her plans when she decides to leave the escape pod and stay with Aphra. Through a series of entertaining attempts at escape, which take place over the time period of five minutes, Tolva makes a last ditch attempt that shakes Aphra to her core. She realizes that she hurts all of those who surround her and is faced with a difficult decision. Even when this series wasn't as entertaining as I would prefer, the relationship between Aphra and Tolva has proven to be central to character development and shines a light on some of the foolhardy decisions that Aphra makes. I also want to add that Triple-0 needs his own series or his own Netflix series. His brief appearance in this issue is terrifying and unforgettable.

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Eco-Speculation #3: Animals Become Us

In the second half of some musings on nonhumans in speculative literature, I’m switching from the traditional anthropomorphized version—such as Redwall and Narnia—to different portrayals, particularly in Watership Down by Richard Adams and Mort(e) by Robert Repino. While they may seem unconnected, they each contain a key tension—humans.

In Watership Down, Adams attempts to move away from anthropomorphizing the rabbit main characters (though they still contain the human fantasy elements of prophecy) and instills his narrative with rabbit facts at the beginning of each chapter. Never do the rabbits hold a sword or living in an abbey. Instead, their lives are watched through a human lens, so we see their interactions in our own terms—as prophecy, friendship, love, myth. The story follows Hazel and his prophetic brother Fiver, who has a vision of their home warren’s destruction. They seek a safe place to build a new warren away from the human activity, which is of course, how their warren is destroyed—even in pastoral England. While my memory of the novel isn’t focused around the horror of human expansion (it’s very rich in worldbuilding, the main reason I love it), that’s the motivating force of the novel. Human destruction starts Fiver and Hazel on this epic journey.

(Aside: I will point out that my only surviving memory of the 1978 cartoon version is the bulldozers destroying the warren, which FREAKIN’ TERRIFIED me.)

Now, for Mort(e). Originally, it caught my attention as the first novel in a wave of anthropomorphic books that started appearing in the early twenty-teens (more on that in a future post). While many of these books were published as literary fiction, Mort(e) walked the line between speculative and literary, enjoyed in both areas. Without giving away spoilers, basically animals gain “sentience” and also become bipedal, so they can use guns and drive cars. They overthrow humanity though some “pets” are still on the lookout for their former “owners” and some animals do ally with the humans. My description doesn’t do the series justice since it’s one of those books that sounds like a mess when you try to describe it.

These novels are on different ends of the anthropomorphic spectrum, but they differ from Redwall or another classic, The Wind in the Willows, due to the tension around how humans and nonhumans interact. One could argue that Watership Down encourages us to see the natural world differently, particularly something as common as a rabbit, by giving this nonhuman its own mythology, language, customs, culture, etc. Meanwhile, Mort(e) asks the reader to consider, what if the nonhumans could hold a gun and judge us? What would the factory farmed turkeys do? What about the abused fighting dogs? In both cases, the power of anthropomorphic novels becomes clear, but the question is, why do we need to see nonhumans as ourselves in order to respect them? As human writers continue to write about nonhumans, I’m looking forward to watching the genre develop.

Previous Essays
Eco-Speculation #1: Blame Tolkien
Eco-Speculation #2: Animals Among Us

Posted by Phoebe Wagner, a writer living in the high desert with her husband and cats. She can be found on Twitter @pheebs_w

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Microreview [Book]: The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken

The Quantum Magician is a grim but enjoyable heist, though it never quite builds its post-human worldbuilding elements to their full potential.

It's funny that, despite listing "found families" among my favourite tropes, this doesn't often translate into found family's grouchy, backstab-prone cousin, the heist story. It might be the much higher trust deficit and that's usually present in a team put together explicitly to do a single job, or the fact that characters trend towards chaotic neutral and don't tend to smooth out each other's rough edges in the same way. Or, maybe I just don't like the actual heist-y part of a heist, which sort of functions as a reverse mystery: by definition, we know in advance who did it, we're just not sure about the how. It's quite rare for the goal in a heist to be something an audience a priori cares about, so it's down to the author to invest us in some combination of characters, mechanics or worldbuilding so we want to follow our not-heroes through the inevitable failures, double-crosses and eleventh-hour plan revisions to get their job done.

The Quantum Magician goes in hard on many elements of its worldbuilding, putting us in a far future spacefaring society with some recognisable but unusual political powers. Bel's client, Iekanjika, works for the Sub-Saharan Union, a small player in galactic terms, approaching him to move 12 warships through a puppet-controlled wormhole. Bel very quickly realises there's something "off" about these ships, which shouldn't exist in the first place and employ highly advanced technology beyond what most of the major players in the galaxy are using at this point. The first ten percent of the book puts us through some early sleuthing and action scenes which showcase Belasarius' abilities as a homo quantus: a member of a post human species able to enter mentally altered states known as savant - where the individual maintains their identity but has significantly higher data processing capacity, at the expense of interpersonal abilities - and fugue, which suppresses their identity entirely. These different brain states take a great deal of additional energy and there are clear physiological tolls to entering it, with fugue state in particular inducing levels of internal heat which homo quantus are only partially adapted to cope with. Bel, we learn, is a highly unusual Homo Quantus, both in terms of his abilities, which don't function as intended, and because he has left the rest of his people and struck out on his own in the galaxy, turning his back on the knowledge-seeking purpose his species were created for.

This sense of manufactured purpose also plays a part in the stories of the other two post human species introduced in The Quantum Magician. There's homo eridanus, a species adapted to live in a high pressure underwater environment after a terraforming accident, but whose racial psyche involves a lot of deep self-deprecation and disgust for their own position. And then there's homo pupa, known as "Puppets", who have a rather larger role to play in the book. Half the size of most baseline humans and genetically engineered to be perfectly servile to another race, homo pupa have channelled that biologically motivated religious awe into a culture which has murdered or enslaved their former owners and now maintains a deeply disturbing relationship to freedom, bondage and torture in general. The sections of the book involving the Puppets - and there are many, as they control the territory Bel is trying to heist is way through - were by far my least favourite elements of the book, veering quickly into gratuitous torture and gore with little narrative payoff. It doesn't help that two of the least compelling characters in the heist team get assigned to this subplot, meaning I was already starting from a position of indifference when it came to all the grim escapades in this plot thread.

As you might expect, all three post-human species are represented in Bel's heist team, alongside an AI which believes it is the reincarnation of Saint Matthew (to the complete despair of the bank which programmed it), and a couple of baseline humans. Despite having fairly interesting backstories by virtue of the unconventional worldbuilding, the personalities here were pretty classic for the genre: there's the leader, the war-weary veteran on his last job, the amiable arsonist, the unemotional, technical one, the highly-strung one, the naive one who is doing it for love, the sweary one... you get the idea.

Kunsken also builds a very dude-heavy team, made more frustrating by the fact that 50% of the team's women are Bel's love interest (note: he only has one love interest); despite having multiple post-humans and an AI, there is also no non-binary representation. Once again, I have to own my personal biases here: having such a huge majority of men inevitably limits my interest in the characters as a whole. In addition, having so many characters with biologically defined quirks ironically makes it harder for an author to sell them on their personality quirks, and if you don't find yourself intrinsically invested in the tragic post-human condition in general, there's not much going on at the character level that's going to improve your connection. The exception, for me, was Stills the homo eridanus, whose contributions to the team come with a boatload of swearing and self-loathing and some classic but charming bonding with Marie, the amiable but morally adrift demolitions expert. I might consider a sequel if it were just Stills and Marie flying a dual pressure ship while swearing at each other and blowing things up, like some kind of literary version of the FTL video game? That might be a long shot though.

There's a lot going on in The Quantum Magician, from individual character arcs of varying compexity to geopolitics to thematic elements about purpose and religious observances of such. Ultimately, none of the elements really rise above "solid": there are things in The Quantum Magician because they are necessary to set up the conditions for a heist, and other things that exist as background in a world that's bigger than the plot of just one heist, and there's just enough of both of those that everything basically works. I missed all those hard-to-define touches that make a secondary world "pop", and despite all the creativity in the mechanics of the worldbuilding, it all fell a bit flat for me.

And so, alas, The Quantum Magician didn't do much to overturn my scepticism about heists. Fans of the genre will likely find an readable adventure here, and there's some interesting ideas about the future of the human race and what we might evolve ourselves into, even if these possibilities are inevitably taken towards the grimmest outcomes possible by characters it's not easy to care about. If the premise appeals, and you don't mind reading yet another story about dudes, don't let me stop you. As for me, I'm going to go back to my found family space stories and keep waiting for the daring heist adventure that changes my mind.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 6/10

Bonuses: +1 The sweary one and the amiable arsonist are the actual greatest

Penalties: -1 Of all the intriguing places you could have gone with this post-baseline human society, you had to set it on that planet? -1 Outside the sweary one and the arsonist, characters are hard to connect with

Nerd Coefficient: 5/10 "problematic, but has redeeming qualities"

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: Künsken, Derek. The Quantum Magician [Solaris, 2018]

Monday, September 24, 2018

Reading the Deverry Cycle: Act Two: The Westlands

Welcome to the second installment in a series of four essays focused on Katharine Kerr's Deverry Cycle. This is similar to the work I'm doing on Kurtz's Deryni novels, except this is my first time reading / experiencing Deverry rather than revisiting my old Deryni friends. When I published the first essay in March of 2016 I was hopeful that I would be able to get this second essay up sometime the next year. Instead, it’s been two and a half years. I feel far more optimistic that my Act Three essay on the three books of The Dragon Mage Saga will be done in a much more timely manner, but such things are relative. It should be also noted that because I’m talking about and around the four Westlands books together, I may mention how events from A Time of Exiles play out in Days of Air and Darkness. If you missed reading my first essay, or have forgotten everything I wrote because it has been over two years, here’s a link back.

When I wrote about the first four Deverry novels, I mentioned that even knowing there was so much left to explore and eleven novels still to come that The Dragon Revenant felt like it was a true ending, that it completed the story. Knowing that in A Time of Exile it was Rhodry who would enter in that titular exile seemed to me to be a waste of the first four Deverry novels. He would gain his throne and lose Jill to the dweomer only to just as quickly abdicate and go off on the run with her again? Reading a description is a dangerous thing because that is nothing like what actually happened. We forget, even though it was a very important point, that Rhodry is half Elvish, which means that he's going to live a long, long time. So, after ruling for thirty years and fathering four sons...that's a different situation and his departure is to prevent a massacre if it ever got out that he and his family weren't quite human enough.

In some ways, the novels of The Westlands explores Rhodry’s Elvish heritage – but not entirely through Rhodry himself. Instead, what we’re given is a deeper dive into the culture of the Westlands and of the Elves. We get history from hundreds and thousands of years in the past and how the Elves had to leave their homes because of the invasion of “The Horde”, which is something we get into a bit more in the third and fourth novels of this sequence. We learn throughout these novels that the Elves had built wonderous cities and the conquering Horde of their legends were the ancestors of those now known as The Horsekin (I think I have this right). Readers less familiar with the work and timeline of Katharine Kerr will find echoes of the Horsekin with George R. R. Martin’s Dothraki from his A Song of Ice and Fire novels, though it is important to note that Kerr’s most of Kerr’s work was published first (A Game of Thrones was published in 1997, which is after Kerr had already published the first eight of her Deverry novels including all books in the Westlands sequence). As such, if you’re familiar with either the television show or the books, you can do worse for a reference point in mentally comparing the Horsekin to the Dothraki. It’s not exact, but that sort of all-conquering and nomadic horse culture is a fairly apt comparison. I do wonder what Martin may have been reading at the time, as there are similarities and echoes both to the novels of Katharine Kerr but also of Katherine Kurtz (the Deryni novels). This is, of course, beside the point.

Though this quartet does dive back and forth into Deverry, both in the flashbacks as well as in the “present” era, the emotional core of the novels is very much outside the concerns of Deverry. One of the most important characters introduced is that of Evandar. Evandar is a Guardian, which mostly means that he presents as a demi-god who can pop up at will, make cryptic utterances, and make a mess of the plans of the various viewpoint characters. It is also revealed during this quartet that Evandar and the Guardians are actually the souls of unborn Elves, souls which have refused to be born into the real world. There’s a lot more to that aspect of the series, but since I read the four Westlands novels over a period of two years, I’m a little fuzzier on more of the details revealed in the first two novels (A Time of Exiles, A Time of Omens) than I am of the events of the last two (Days of Blood and Fire, Days of Air and Darkness).

"For three hundred years, he'd been braiding a complex net of schemes to do just that"

Where this all matters is twofold. First, Evandar (a surprisingly uninteresting character for all his growing importance to the story) has been apparently been plotting and scheming and subtly making shifts amongst the living mortals and Elves to further his own aims. In this case, to restore the long lost Elven cities (the ones destroyed by The Horde). This revelation comes a bit late into Days of Air and Darkness, and I don’t recall if there were any hints about that earlier in the series, so it came as a fairly big surprise to me. It was definitely a moment of the realization of the larger game Kerr is playing here with the novels, regardless of whether we will see that come to fruition in the subsequent seven books.

I almost noted there were three ways the Guardian storylines matter, but two of them really combine to this one larger aspect. One of those unborn Guardian souls is to be born and it is part of a major schism between Evandar and Alshandra, another Guardian who was the wife of Evandar and the mother (of sorts) to that unborn soul / Guardian. Like many of the Guardians, Alshandra cannot accept being born and will do anything to get Elessario (that unborn soul in question, it’s getting a little tedious to continue to write “unborn soul”) back. Any by “anything” Katharine Kerr means that she’ll pose as a Goddess to the Horsekin and prompt an invasion into Deverry in order to capture / kill Carramaena, the woman pregnant with the baby Elessario will be born as.

There are hints throughout Days of Air and Darkness that regardless of the outcome of this particular invasion, it is likely only going to put Deverry on notice that the Horsekin exist and they’re probably going to come back and invade again.

One of my favorite aspects of the first four Deverry novels was how tightly constructed the wyrds (fates) of the souls of Rhodry and Jill and Nevyn and Cullyn were tied up. As I noted, that felt like a complete story and it was clear how Kerr was constructing and unraveling the knots of their incarnations over centuries, building them to a place where resolution could occur. That’s not the case here in the four Westlands novels. This four novel sequence is not that sort of a story, which it absolutely does not have to be, but is a little jarring coming into this sequence because everything feels looser. Rhodry and Jill are geographically (and emotionally) separated, so that relationship is no longer at the heart of the narrative. That it takes a little bit to reset the expectations and the feel for the story is what I’m saying.

"When tears sprang to his eyes, he was shocked at himself, that he, a noble-born man no matter how far he'd fallen in the world, would be so proud of saving the lives of farmers, crude peasants all of them"

That’s from Rhodry, the nominal hero of this four book sequence, but it’s also been a common theme running through the series as a whole about how only the “noble born” truly matter. More often than not it is apparent than the speaker isn’t a reliable and authoritative voice on the suject, and given the number of heroes coming through more “common” lines of birth in this series, it is not necessarily a viewpoint that should be taken seriously. But, this is Rhodry, one of our primary viewpoint characters not just of this four book sequence but of the full eight books published thus far. He has frequently been portrayed as being somewhat absurd in his views, especially when contrasted directly with Jill, but this is still something that grates.

Something else raised in that quote is that I’m not sure what to make of Rhodry’s “how far he’d fallen in the world” given that he deliberately gave up his throne (so that he wouldn’t be discovered as a long lived half elf and potentially result in his family being massacred) and chose to return to his life of a “Silver Dagger” mercenary. I fully expect a man as competent and long lived as Rhodry is could find a different life that doesn’t have a falsified “dishonor” tied to it or require Rhodry embrace that dishonor. 

"Of course not! What a silly tale that is! Why, if we could breathe fire, we'd burn our mouths, We'd bake our teeth and turn them brittle. Disgusting thought, really!"

A major turning point in the series is the introduction of dragons. Days of Blood and Fire is Rhodry’s quest to locate a particular dragon and bend it to his will through the use of a magical ring and the knowledge of the dragon’s name. Coming into the series years after it was completed, the dragons aren’t so much of a surprise since the next sequence is The Dragon Mage and the final sequence is The Silver Wyrm. But, it does serve as a momentous shift to a series thus far fairly well grounded to standard human conflict and limited magical threats. Where there is one dragon suggests there will be more. Or, at least, I’ll be surprised and a little disappointed if Arzosah is the only dragon in these novels.

Also, the above quote is one of my favorite descriptions of a dragon not breathing fire that I’ve come across.

As an absolute side note and apropos of nothing, I first tried to read Days of Air and Darkness when I was fourteen. Not only was I not ready for the book then, but I also had no idea it was part of a series and that it was the eighth book in that series or that it was wrapping up a four book cycle inside of a much larger series. I enjoyed, appreciated, and understood it a lot more this time around.

Finally, I would like to note that I have continued to discuss the series in terms of their being fifteen total novels. As noted following the previous essay, Katharine Kerr has announced a new Deverry novel was in progress. The title is A Talent for Magic, and I have no idea what the publication date might be. At the time of the first essay I had seen a “late 2017” date, but that has obviously come and gone. As it stands, the fifteen volume Deverry Cycle is complete. Whenever A Talent for Magic is published we’ll see how that new novel fits into the overall shape of the Cycle or if it continues a storyline set later, much earlier, or some gap that Kerr wanted to fill in.

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 & 2018 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Microreview [Book]: Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang

Zero Sum Game has some strong, subversive ideas, but weak characterisation and a slow-to-hook plot leaves it less than the sum of its parts.

Though it's new to print this year, Zero Sum Game was already on my radar in its previous, ebook only self-published incarnation, although it never made the leap from the ever-growing collection of Kindle Samples I keep around to inform potential purchases onto my actual TBR. This new version, published by Tor, has been revisited and polished up, and is now being released much more widely as part of the publisher's #Fearlesswomen initiative, bringing this unconventional superhero thriller to a bigger audience, and also to me.

Our protagonist Cas Russell is a mathematical genius, and a hired gun, but not in the way you'd expect. Far from being your average brains-over-brawn number crunching geek, providing support to a team from behind some giant, poorly lit computer display, her abilities let her calculate the trajectory of bullets, survive falls that should kill her and punch people much larger than her at just the right angle to drop them with minimum necessary force. Cas is extremely cagey about these abilities and keeps them very close to her chest, particularly as she lives in a world where she seems to be the only person who can do this kind of thing. However, after a routine extraction of a young woman from a Colombian drug cartel ends up leading her to an organisation led by someone with even more terrifying abilities, Cas ends up in the middle of a plot that's both more wide ranging and more relevant to her, personally, than she had realised.

The way Cas' abilities play out - and, almost as importantly, the way they don't - provides Zero Sum Game with its most unique and compelling facet. Our introduction to her capabilities is almost exclusively through her ability to manipulate real-world mechanics, giving her superhuman combat abilities and problem solving skills which allow her to, for example, move a series of random objects in an alley to manipulate the acoustics enough to hear a conversation happening in a distant room. This is all very cool stuff, and it absolutely sets the scene for Cas as an action hero subversion of the "maths geek" trope. In contrast, Cas' abilities to apply statistical analysis, while also developed in later chapters, take a long time to come to the fore, and importantly they never dominate the way the first-person narrative . Even when Cas does run the probabilities of what the people around her will do, it's embedded in interpersonal and emotional reactions to the situations she's in, and tends to come with a much lower rate of reward than her kickass physics-ninja skills. Cas is bad with people, but she's bad in a generally misanthropic way, not a "human emotions do not compute" way, and this makes for a more interesting character (especially for the purposes of first-person narration).

Cas is thrown into an action packed plot which kicks off right from the very first page and never really stops moving. I struggled with this in early chapters, as very little time is spent establishing the limited networks and sense of "normal" in Cas' life before these are ripped away from her in a move which feels rather like the prologue of a Bioware game, motivating her continuing interest in a case that otherwise doesn't hold much long-term appeal for such a self-interested character. It's not until the introduction of the big bad, and her own abilities, that I became more invested in where things were going. Dawna Polk is basically a telepath, in the way that Cas is basically a superhero - while she might not be able to magically read minds, her ability to interpret psychological cues is so good that she's able to read everything a person is thinking and, even more terrifyingly, manipulate the impact that encountering her has on the memories and intentions of others. The uncertainty this brings to what was formerly a fairly standard plot is chilling in all the right ways, and used to great effect both in the book itself and to set up hooks for the rest of the series.

Unfortunately, Dawna is a standout character in a story which doesn't really have any others. Even Cas herself is hard to like, and her characterisation is somewhat thin outside of the maths stuff, although some of the gaping holes in her background and motivations do make more sense towards the end. Also, this is yet another book where I was frustrated by the gender balance: besides Cas and Dawna, the only other women turn up near the beginning and are pretty much just there as victims, and there's no non-binary representation. By far my biggest annoyance was Rio, Cas' only "friend", who is supposed to be a compelling sociopath-with-a-code and whose motivations and relationship to Cas come to the fore at several points in the plot. Unfortunately, Rio's main functions are to do horrible things that Cas constantly makes excuses for, and mansplain her own emotions and behaviours to her for her own good. I can't help but note that Huang didn't need to make Rio a sociopath for this to be a plausible set of behaviours for him to exhibit towards a female protagonist, and the effect was far from endearing. Cas' other sidekick is Arthur Tresting, a Private Investigator who comes off better when his counterpoint is Rio, but is otherwise bland at best, getting upstaged by his bit-part hacker friend in the few scenes the friend gets to be in.

Ultimately, while I can certainly admire the elements that Zero Sum Game does well, for me the good didn't fully outweigh the things I didn't like about this story. Cas and Dawna both have highly compelling powers and are interesting characters in their own right (odd but ultimately justified choices on Cas' part aside), but the plot took a little too long to get its hooks into me, and the supporting protagonists were at best forgettable. For those who are more invested in fast paced action and don't mind the drawbacks I've mentioned here, Zero Sum Game's calculation might work out more in their favour, but alas, it's not going to go down as one of my favourite reading experiences this year.

The Math
Base Score: 6/10

Bonuses: +1 Genuinely brilliant reimagining of the "maths nerd" trope into something completely different, +1 If Cas Russell were reading this, she'd already have calculated the probabilities of where this score is going to go

Penalties: -1 Lacklustre characterisation outside of the compelling villain, -1 I'm suddenly really tired, I think I'll take a nap instead of justifying this score... what do you mean, psychic manipulation? No, no, none of that here, I assure you...

Nerd Coefficient: 6/10 "still enjoyable, but the flaws are hard to ignore"

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: Huang, S.L. Zero Sum Game [Tor, 2018]

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday Morning Superhero

There is less than 24 hours left to help fund Comics Comics #1!!!  Check out this amazing looking Kickstarter here and support this project. Backed with the talent of Patton Oswalt, Rose Matafeo, Sam Jay, and many other talented comedians.

Pick of the Week:
The Terminator: Sector War #2 - How the hell did I miss the first issue when this came out?!?! A Terminator mini-series penned by Brian Wood?!  Thanks to a retweet from the Dark Horse twitter account I was alerted about this series yesterday morning. I quickly added both issues #1 and this issue to my pull list and this series is an absolute blast. It seems that a second Terminator was deployed in 1984 to New York City in pursuit of Lucy Castro.  The first two issues amount to one incredible chase sequence, a solid body count, and a Terminator that won't give up in his pursuit to prevent the birth of Castro's future child. Apparently he is instrumental in the future resistance to the machines and the Terminator is pulling out all of the punches in order to prevent this child from ever organizing against them in the future. This series pulls on all of the right nostalgic heart strings and is a lot of freaking fun. Cannot recommend this one enough. If this continues to entertain like the first two issue I will need spin-offs in Texas, Minnesota, and across the globe.

The Rest:
Star Wars #54 - War is imminent as Leia and some rebels make a desperate gambit to secure jump codes right under Darth Vader's nose. The highlight was Leia hijacking a Tie-Fighter to escape only to learn that without a pilot's helmet there is no way for her to communicate with the X-Wings she needs to rendezvous with. Fortunately there is a little thing called the Force and her twin brother and her are both strong with it. This was a thrilling end to the current arc and a much larger war is impending. When the rebels jumped to safety I had some Battlestar Galactica vibes, which I quite enjoy.

Ether: The Copper Golems #5 - The second book in the Ether universe has come to its depressing end. Boone was able to successfully close the final portal and save earth, but it carried with it a massive cost. This series has been a trip from the beginning and for some reason this is the issue where I really started to feel for Boone and his desire to travel to the Ether. I never considered what he was sacrificing in his pursuit of knowledge and I am even more intrigued about Book III and what Matt Kindt and David Rubin have planned for this bizarre universe. This ended definitely makes me want to go back and read Book I and Book II back-to-back in preparation of what I think is the final chapter.

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Microreview [book]: Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning is an electric debut with a post-apocalyptic world, a kickass heroine, and her adrenaline-fueled ride through that landscape.

After a spectacular and very likely supernatural apocalypse that has drowned much of the world, much of North America is underwater and much of the remainder that isn't is a mess. The land inside of what was the Navajo Reservation is protected by a quartet of magical walls. And yet even inside of the boundaries of the walls, in this new world, there are monsters, and monstrous people, and such dangers and threats must be addressed, and fought.

That’s where Maggie Hoskie comes in. She’s been trained as a monster hunter by the very best, but she is new to fighting monsters on her own. And it is in the fighting monsters on her own that she is drawn into a plot that will not only gain her a partner, but also uncover a threat to the entire world inside the walls and the people who live there. Can Maggie protect herself, and those around her, when she must also restain an even greater monster--herself? And just what DID happen to her old mentor, anyhow?

This is the central question at the heart of Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut novel, Trail of Lightning.

There is plenty to love in Trail of Lighting, and Maggie as a main character is front and center the heart of the novel and she makes the novel sing. An indigenous woman granted supernatural powers that are complicated and make her an outsider by their very nature, Maggie’s life as a newly solo monster hunter is a fraught one. The author writes her action beats very well, and when Maggie takes the stage as a fighter, the novel positively sings. Through those action beats, and the first person point of view, we get a really intense look at Maggie as a character, how she sees herself, how others do, and the sometimes fraught relationshop between those two visions.

The second major character in the novel, Kai, a rather unconventional hero. Thanks to the nature of the character, and the plot, and the secrets that Kai is hiding, he is somewhat difficult to get a handle on as a character. I think that the author may have made Kai just a tad too slippery for readers to get a good enough purchase on for my taste. As the novel progresses, we get to see why Kai is the way he is and the relevance of that to the plot, but I think a little more hook on him would have been good.

The worldbuilding is top notch and a leading light of the power of #ownvoices. There is an authenticity to the myths and legends made supernatural manifest fact within the Sixth World that the author presents here. This is a post-apocalyptic world whose suipernatural denizens, threats and features felt like the author was truly delving deep into her own culture, understanding it and presenting it to us in context and the richness of what is on offer. And much of it is new to most readers and rich with details and ideas that I was very happy to have the author explore.  I particularly liked her interpretation of Coyote, the Trickster, who has an agenda for Maggie that only slowly becomes clear as the novel unfolds. But it is the things that go bump in the night, the entities that Maggic must encounter and fight, that shows the author’s invention the best.

The worldbuilding also extends to the non supernatural elements as well. From the vividly described desert landscapes in what used to be the Navajo Reservation, to the people who inhabit it, I got a deep sense of place and people in reading the novel. As I read the novel, I found myself consulting Google Maps time and again, and turning on the Satellite image to get an even better view of where events took place. The author also invoked a more than mild desire for me to one day see  the real life terrain and meet the people who live there. There are also a number of set piece locations that the novel is built around, that serve as hubs or tentpoles where the novel’s major scenes takes place. I particularly like Grace’s All-American, one of the few bars left, and built like a fortress. Grace and her family are quite the distinctive characters,. too.

There are some small flaws in the novel, however. It is very clearly a first novel, and its pacing and plotting can get a little herky-jerky in places. The action beats as mentioned above are strong and rich, but sometimes the connective tissue.isn’t quite what it could be, and it sometimes meanders, without strong compensative character development at the same time. The novel, in fact, definitely does best in character development during those action beats.

Still, I look forward to what Roanhorse does in the next Sixth World novels, and hope that some of the roughness of the first novel wears off and she only improves on the strengths of this novel.

Find out more about Rebecca Roanhorse and her work in our Six Books Feature.

Baseline Assessment 7/10

Bonuses : +1 for  a deep dive into an intriguing main character
+1 for an inventive and well described world

Penalties : -1 for some first novel  pacing and plotting issues.

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

Reference:  Roanhorse, Rebecca  Trail of Lightning [Saga Press 2018]

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Microreview [film]: The Predator by Shane Black (director)

Mindless Animal

I know what it means when a child is a prominent character in a R rated action movie. In the opening 20 minutes of The Predator, we’re introduced to Rory McKenna, a grade schooler on the autism spectrum and son of Army man Quinn McKenna, this film’s protagonist. Can you guess why Rory is here? I groaned out loud, which is okay because I watched this from the comfort of my car at my local drive-in theater. It didn’t get better.

The Predator is a sequel to the previous Predator and Alien vs. Predator movies, starting with a predator crash landing on Earth. After a brief encounter with the senior McKenna, it’s captured by scientists while McKenna tries to escape with some alien equipment stolen from the crash site. McKenna is captured by the government and put with a group of other “crazy” military veterans, but the predator escapes and starts to track down the stolen gear, which McKenna had accidentally sent home and are now in the hands of his pre-teen child. McKenna enlists the help of his new friends and one of the surviving scientists to track down the predator and save his son, but none of them are ready for a second, even more dangerous predator that has also come to Earth.

I saw the trailers for this movie and it did not look good. I should have trusted my instincts. The gaggle of damaged military veterans are obviously made to emulate the special forces team of the first Predator, except they somehow have even less dimension to their characters, and essentially no motivation to take on this suicide mission. McKenna’s motivations are so incredibly weak as well, mostly correcting for a problem he caused for himself by stealing alien artifacts for seemingly no reason. But the worst of these are the motivations of the first predator that crash landed on Earth. Without spoiling the weak plot, the reason for why the first predator is on Earth to begin with is nonsense, especially in context of its actions. The only character that makes any sense whatsoever is the super predator but even its actions can’t be reconciled with its motives at times. The ending is completely predictable, and how they get there requires so much hand waving and movie magic that it pulled me completely out of its fiction. This movie world does not make sense, and not in a whimsical way, just a thoughtless way. I cannot believe a single thought went into this script beyond the singular purpose of getting from one end of the movie to the other.

Even if it made sense, it’s a bad action movie. For unknown reasons, the whole movie takes place at night (with a questionable amount of fast forwarding through time at the start), and nearly every scene is poorly lit. This is good for the predators though, because they don’t seem to take much advantage of the benefits of being a predator, namely being able to hunt invisibly. You see so much of these predators that they may as well be slasher movie villains. This is Predator by way of Friday the 13th. No skilled hunters, just invincible killers brutally murdering anyone in the path of their (again, weak and nonsensical) mission until the plot dictates that they have to be defeated.

I don’t hold any franchise sacred, but this is worse than just a bad popcorn action movie. It belongs in the gutters with Terminator 3, Terminator: Genesys, and Alien: Resurrection. This is a movie so bad that it should put the franchise on the shelf for a very long time. I don’t want to see someone course-correct on this. Please, Fox/Disney, put Predator away and let us forget this horrible outing.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 3/10

Bonuses: Nada

Penalties: -1 completely and utterly mindless in every manner

Nerd Coefficient: 2/10 (really really bad)


POSTED BY: brian, sci-fi/fantasy/video game dork and contributor since 2014

Reference: Black, Shane (director). The Predator [20th Century Fox, 2018]  

Microreview [Film]: Fahrenheit 451

With some dystopian themes taking hold in our everyday reality and the success of Handmaid's Tale TV series, it may seem like a good time for HBO to revisit other classics of dystopian science fiction. This year, they released a new movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 – the novel about firemen burning books because different opinions and worldviews create unhappiness, and about literati rebels fight back by the way of illicit bookcrossing and memorizing whole novels.

The story is recognizable for the fans of the novel, I guess, even though writer-director Ramin Bahrani (together with his co-writer Amir Naderi who is an established director in his own right) has played around with the characters and events quite a bit.

There's a lot to modernize in a novel that is a 65 years old speculative future, of course, but I wouldn't describe much of it as very successful. There are new books to fight about, for sure: We see the book-torching firemen burn a copy of a Harry Potter novel and Clarisse McClellan – transformed from the teenage neighbor appearing in Bradbury's novel into a fire brigade's unwilling informer and eventually the protagonist's love interest – is memorizing Zadie Smith's White Teeth.

Instead of soap opera parlor walls (or whatever it was everyone was addicted to in the novel) the citizens of this new world seem to be obsessively consuming reality TV broadcasts of raids by the firemen. It is never explained and it has no consequence for the story, but all the emoticons and comments appearing on the building-size displays suggest some kind of social media aspect to this technology, even though everything and everyone seems to be firmly under the bootheels of their paramilitary rulers. Any amount of free expression is hard to reconcile with the vision, so the world starts to come apart at the seams if you consider it too closely. Some hard drives get torched with the books and there are computers and networks around but the rebels mostly stick to reading and smuggling dead-tree editions which seems a bit unpractical.

The main character is still Guy Montag (played by Michael B. Jordan) from the novel, a fireman who starts having second thoughts about what he's doing, but Bahrani has completely dropped his wife to make room for Montag's romance with McClellan. As a consequence, the film doesn't have a person who would stay desensitized by the stale state-approved entertainment as a contrast to Montag who has woken up. That's perhaps one of the biggest things making the film less engaging. Showing us only the conflict between firemen and their opponents leave much of this dystopian world unexplored.

Of course, there's only so much the film can do, given its source material. Fahrenheit 451 is ultimately making a philosophical armchair argument, and transforming that into high-adrenaline political action was never an easy task. For anybody living in 2018, banning fiction as a way to lessen tensions between different worldviews is as nonsensical a proposition as it gets, because practically all other imaginable kinds of human interactions (social media, journalism etc) are much more effective in polarizing societies around the world today. Perhaps this would have been an interesting theme to look into in the movie adaptation, and quite possibly something that Bradbury would be thinking about if he was writing Fahrenheit 451 today.

The haunting character of fire brigade captain Beatty played by Michael Shannon, the musical-esque opening scene in which firemen sing in their fire truck, and occasional cool visuals are about the only solid things about this movie. In addition, the ending is your cup of tea if you enjoy over-the-top poetic and metaphoric moments and can manage to suspend your disbelief in the book-loving rebels' arguably rather silly master plan.

The Math

Base Score: 4/10

Bonuses: +1 for "Down the red-hot valley, lo! The phantom armies marching go! Salamander ho! Salamander ho!"

Penalties: -2 for missing so many opportunities to be a relevant adaptation of a novel that was highly relevant

Nerd Coefficient: 3/10 – "Very little good I can say about this"

Reference: Fahrenheit 451 [HBO 2018]


POSTED BY: Spacefaring Kitten, an extradimensional enthusiast of speculative fiction, comics, and general weirdness. Contributor since 2018.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Microreview [video game]: No Man's Sky Next by Hello Games

Listlessly Drifting Through Space

No Man's Sky wasn't exactly a success on release. Sure, it seemed to sell well and generate a lot of discussion, but an overwhelming majority of that discussion was on whether or not the developers delivered on what they promised. Such an incredible number of words were written about what was or was not promised, and was or was not delivered, that the developers essentially dropped the game and disappeared from public eye, quietly updating and improving it until we reached this most recent update. It was enough of a leap to warrant a release on a new platform (Xbox One), and a new name, No Man's Sky Next. However, it doesn't exactly fix what made No Man's Sky a disappointment.

In No Man's Sky, you are a solitary explorer in an infinite galaxy. The game pushes technological boundaries by providing an almost limitless number of planets to explore, with almost limitless numbers of aliens, plants, and minerals on those planets. And before the Next update, that was about it.

Over the course of two years, and including the Next update, the game added the ability to build a base, manage a fleet of frigates, interact with other people through online multiplayer, and offered a handful of quests with storylines to follow. The base game just kind of pointed you to the center of the galaxy, but now there are things to do in this universe. Unfortunately, it's still not much of a game. The bulk of my time was spent filling meters and watching them slowly tick down while I tried to accomplish the meager and sometimes unclear goals the quests gave me. There are so many planets to explore that none of them seem particularly noteworthy until you land on a nasty one that is hostile to almost all life and you're low on resources. Then I spent too much time scraping enough bits and pieces together just to get off the planet and hope the next one I landed on wasn't such a hellhole. Every planet has a universal system of space police that seem to serve only to annoy you. If you mine resources in front of them, they attack. If you fight back, they summon reinforcements, escalating in number and size, never backing down. The only way to escape them was to literally run into any building and hide.

I did this all for about 20 hours, on top of the 10 I spent on the original release, before I gave up entirely. I had built myself a sizeable base on the least hostile planet I could find, but I still couldn't find the point in continuing to play this game. It's barely fun and barely a game at all.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 5/10

Bonuses: +1 they added a lot since the original release

Penalties: -2 nothing in the game, not the worlds, nor the aliens, nor the player's actions, seem to matter, not even within the fiction of the game

Nerd Coefficient: 4/10 (not very good)


POSTED BY: brian, sci-fi/fantasy/video game dork and contributor since 2014

Reference: Hello Games. No Man's Sky [Hello Games, 2016]  

Friday, September 14, 2018

Eco-Speculation #2 Animals Among Us

Environmental fiction is often bracketed into a narrow shelf. The Kim Stanley Robinsons and Jeff Vandermeers and a few Atwoods. The best books maintain elements of “fun” reading, like The Southern Reach Trilogy but in general these books have a #message. Otherwise, why would we call them environmental?

I’d like to challenge such an idea. On the academic and activist sides of the environmentalists, intersectionality is the hot word. Is Flint, Michigan an environmental issue? Yes. Does the situation also contain issues of race and class? Yes. As the intersections of environmental issues continue to grow, I wonder if we will reimagine old texts as more environmental than we thought. For example, Tolkien is not usually placed on the environmental shelf beside Vandermeer, but how can he not be seen as an environmental writer, especially when one gets to the know the man who could spend half an hour looking at a flower?

Speculative literature has long been lauded for its ability to produce empathy since so much of the genre is about understanding other places/people/races/species/whatever. In particular, I wonder about the impact of the genre’s inclusion of animals and nonhuman beings as a common element in speculative literature.

There’s no perfect word for referring to other-than-humans. For the purpose of this column, I’ll use nonhuman, which I still find way too human centric, but it’s common in academic fields as well as the speculative side of things. What is a nonhuman, you ask? Usually another other living thing, though “living” is pretty broad. For example, a tree can be nonhuman (take Ents, for example). But so can a mountain or a river.

In the discussion of nonhuman beings, one is often discouraged from projecting human characteristics on them. I heard this a lot in my writing workshops at my environmental MFA. If you give a river emotion, you are forcing it into the box of human understanding. This distinction will become more developed as new writers come into speculative literature, but I wonder about evaluating older literature with this set of rules. Humans are animals, after all. The human body is a type of biome, much like a mountain.

When I look back on my road to environmentalism, the books that impacted my thinking often contained anthropomorphic beings. In particular, the Redwall series sticks out from the shadows of childhood. Written by Brian Jacques, the series spans twenty books. While not clearly chronological, they can be read in certain orders to tease out repeating characters. The novels revolve around several enduring places rather than characters or plots—Redwall Abbey, Salamandastron, and Mossflower Woods. The beings that populate these places are mice, moles, hedgehogs, shrews, hares, badgers, otters, rats, owls, snakes, etc. They carry swords, wear habits, cook scones, and fight wars. For the most part, they are explicitly human with one key difference—they rarely subjugate other animals (example, riding a horse). It does happen (book one, Redwall, contains the most specific instance with the villain whipping a horse), but animal subjugation is less often than in such a text as Wind in the Willows.  

Today, animal studies theorists and environmental writers would most likely raise an eyebrow at claiming Brian Jacques as an environmental writer. For me, it comes back to empathy. These stories made me see a mouse as something worthy of respect. One could argue that the respect grew out of the human attributes rather than the animal aspects, but I can’t help but feel it something more. That respect for these creatures as having worlds of their own (even if it was their humanity appealing to me as a child) created a foundation I’ve built on since then.

It is fantasy, after all. Should we continue to explore new ways to respect nonhumans through our human storytelling—yes, but I wonder at the power of giving animals humanity in the eyes of a child, to give rich lives to the animals a child recognizes as “pests,” such as a mouse. I’ll leave you with this quote from Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-stories:” “We should look at green again, and be startled anew (but not blinded) by blue and yellow and red. We should meet the centaur and the dragon, and then perhaps suddenly behold, like the ancient shepherds, sheep, and dogs, and horses—and wolves. This recovery [fantasy]-stories help us to make. In that sense only a taste for them may make us, or keep us, childish.”

Posted by Phoebe Wagner, a writer living in the high desert. She can be found on Twitter @pheebs_w

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thursday Morning Superhero

It might seem a bit too early to start your Halloween planning, but time is running out if you want to be cool and give out mini-comics to your trick-or-treaters!  Thanks to Halloween ComicFest, you can pre-order bundles of 25 mini comics from your local comic book store. I placed my order last week and look forward to introducing the neighborhood kids to the amazing Johnny Boo! Check out the comics you can pre-order here!

Pick of the Week:
Darth Vader #21 - We are starting to learn why Vader has selected the world of Mustafar for his prize from the Emperor. He was given Padme's royal starship as his vessel to embark to Mustafar and there is something very odd about Vader piloting such a pristine and shiny vessel. It seems that Vader has similar feelings and has an odd and surprising method of altering the shiny exterior. It seems that Vader has never felt more connected to the Force than his time on Mustafar. The location where he lost so much, including his life, has some sort of power over him and drives him forward with a blind allegiance. Marvel has really done a great job filling in the holes between the movies and providing us with valuable insights of characters that we have know since our childhood. When I think back to my first impression of Vader I thought he was simply a bad dude that could force choke someone out. We learned more about him as the movies progressed, but nothing like the nuance we get in the comics. The Clone Wars cartoon does a similar thing in regards to Anakin and I would love to see similar treatment given to other franchises.

The Rest:
Birthright #31 - It has been quite some time since I revisited this series and will admit that I will need to read the  previous few issues to properly catch up, but am instantly reminded why this series from Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan stood out to me when I first read it. The lore (inside joke) of Terrenos, the mages, and the world add such depth to what started as a missing child story. This week we learn more about the tragic upbringing of Mastema and the sheer power that consumes her. This issue is a nice pause in the story and Williamson promises the next few issues are insane.

Daredevil #608 - Matt and Mike Murdock have some family issues to work out. I was unaware that Matt had a twin brother, but apparently he died many years ago and was brought back through the powers of The Reader. He is already causing quite a few headaches and kidnapped Foggy, but Daredevil is conflicted faced with the prospect of killing his brother or a realistic copy of his brother. I am not entirely on board with this development, but it became more interesting with this issue and has me very intrigued given the fact that Mike just went to visit Kingpin and informed him of Matt's research into the legitimacy of the mayoral election. If only our current political environment was this entertaining. I think some good old fashioned superheros would really liven up the Mueller investigation!

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