Behind the Badge

by J.D. Cunegan
Reviewed by SA

Gosh, I’m a huge fan of Jill Andersen mysteries. It fills the hole in my heart that the cancellation of Castle left there. A brilliant, fast paced crime novel with an amazing, asexual lead? What more could I want? The bounty series continues to be one of the most diverse and dynamic detective series I have ever read.

Summary30120290

For Jill Andersen, being part of the Baltimore Police Department has always been both a tremendous honor and a serious responsibility. Her father, before his fall from grace, had instilled in her a great respect for police and the work they do day-to-day. But when a teenage boy winds up dead on the outskirts of downtown Baltimore, Jill finds herself once again faced with those who would abuse their badges to fulfill personal agendas and uphold biases.

Jill still has a job to do, but she soon finds that not everyone is in her corner. For the first time in almost four years working Homicide, Jill finds herself at odds with people who claim to be on her side. From other cops to suits downtown all the way to the Mayor’s office, it becomes increasingly clear that Jill will need to rely on more than just her badge if she’s to solve this case.

But even if she finds justice, what’s the price?

I was wondering where the author would take us, after the storyline with Paul, Jill’s father, wrapped up in Blood Ties. This time he tackles an issue that is very much ingrained in our day to day: police discrimination, black lives matter, and corruption. He does so in a way that is incredibly powerful, reminding us that there are so many different people playing in that equation, and that good cops will try to do their job no matter what.

Jill faces up against a powerful opponent: her own superiors. Her own colleagues. When she tries to do her job by the books, hurdles keep getting thrown in her way. Luckily for her, she doesn’t always need to play by those books: her alter ego, Bounty, is used to taking justice into her own hands. And with her secret out to her closest friends, she’s got support from every direction. So why is it still so hard to bring criminals to justice?

I loved how the author tackled current issues: this series still happens to be one of the most diverse ones I’ve ever read, with different PoCs, genders, and sexualities all coming into play – just like in real life. It’s one of the reasons I love the Bounty series so much: it’s one of the most down to earth crime series I’ve ever read, even if the main character is basically a superhero. All the sub plots are great, making me feel like I’m watching a TV show, giving me glimpses into the lives of the minor characters, who each lead very complex lives as well.

However, I feel like it might not have been as good as the other books in the series. The plot was a little more drawn out and there was a little less growth from the characters. Jill’s own development was very impressive, but I didn’t feel as attached as I did in the previous novels. Still, it was a great read which made my commute to and from work something I would look forward to.

All in all, a great new installment of the Bounty series. And I can’t wait for more!

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The Dark Side

By Anthony O’Neill
Reviewed by SA

Give me a fantastic Sci Fi any day, and I wont be able to move until I’ve finished reading it. With The Dark Side, I physically could not put it down, or else I would be stuck thinking about it every second until it was in my hands again. This book was gripping, thrilling, clever, and even funny, with such amazing science that I was completely engrossed from page one.

Summary27276286

In this dark and gripping sci-fi noir, an exiled police detective arrives at a lunar penal colony just as a psychotic android begins a murderous odyssey across the far side of the moon.

Purgatory is the lawless moon colony of eccentric billionaire, Fletcher Brass: a mecca for war criminals, murderers, sex fiends, and adventurous tourists. You can’t find better drugs, cheaper plastic surgery, or a more ominous travel advisory anywhere in the universe. But trouble is brewing in Brass’s black-market heaven. When an exiled cop arrives in this wild new frontier, he immediately finds himself investigating a string of ruthless assassinations in which Brass himself—and his equally ambitious daughter—are the chief suspects.

Meanwhile, two-thousand kilometers away, an amnesiac android, Leonardo Black, rampages across the lunar surface. Programmed with only the notorious “Brass Code”—a compendium of corporate laws that would make Ayn Rand blush—Black has only one goal in mind: to find Purgatory and conquer it.

The name Anthony O’Neill is going to soon become synonymous with impeccable world building. This author evokes a rich, complex world that follows the laws of science themselves. As a science geek, I absolutely loved how he infused the novel with the small details: like the large rain you would get in a humid hab on a rock where the gravity is so much lighter. Or the beautiful dust clouds created where the night meets day on the moon’s surface. Those beautiful, evocative details create a believable world you could almost imagine being in.

Not only that, but before each encounter with Leonardo Black, the Android walking the moon just to follow a set of programmed motivationals, the author details the life of the character who’s about to come into play. He shows us what it’s like back on earth, what it is to be a criminal in this near future. What line of thought can bring a person to live on the moon. The complexity of his background characters is astounding, and I honestly think he could write an entire book about each of them.

I myself could have read an entire book about Leonardo Black. This android was hilarious, even in his murderous rampage. His Brass code sounds like something out of the mouth of Donald Trump or Ann Rand. For example, he literally cannot spell surrender. He is motivated by a need to “Find Oz” and “become the wizard.” He’s a psycho, and yet he was my favorite character.

The main plot revolves around an Exiled cop, detective Justus, who’s trying to stop a wave of murders int he city of Purgatory. At first, I didn’t see how this storyline met  with that of Leonardo Black, but it all came together in the end in a really creative way. I loved how it felt like a noir detective novel from the 1950s, only set on the moon in a scientifically accurate future.

This book was pure FUN. I loved it. Think “The Martian” crossed over with a 1950s Noir novel. Fun for fans of thrillers and science fiction alike!

This novel comes out June 28th from Simon & Schuster.

Django/Zorro

By Quentin Tarantino and Matt Wegner
Reviewed by SA

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a graphic novel, so I thought it should be time to share a good one with you all. Especially those of you who are fans of Tarantino’s Django, a brilliant, violent movie set in the deep south in the 1860s. Because, if you ever wanted to know what happens next,  now you can; presenting Django/Zorro, the official sequel to the story.

Summary25717121

Oscar Award-winning writer/director and Django creator Quentin Tarantino teams with Eisner Award-winning comic book creator Matt Wagner to write the official Django Unchained sequel, uniting the gun-blazing Western hero with the legendary swordsman of literature, film, and comics: Zorro! Set several years after the events of Django Unchained, Django again pursues evil men in his role as a bounty hunter. Taking to the roads of the American Southwest, he encounters the aged and sophisticated Diego de la Vega by sheer chance. Django is fascinated by this unusual character, the first wealthy white man he’s met who seems totally unconcerned with the color of his skin… and who can hold his own in a fight. Django hires on as Diego’s bodyguard, and is soon drawn into a fight to free the local indigenous people from brutal servitude. Learning much from the older man (as he did from King Schultz), he discovers that slavery isn’t exclusive to his people, as he even dons the mask of Zorro in their mission of mercy!

The plot takes place in the south, where Django is still hunting bounties, but a chance meeting with Diego de la Vega, an old man with many secrets, will take them all the way to Arizona, which is not part of the United States yet. There, the Archduke of Arizona is attempting to build the first railroad across the state, but the construction comes with a terrible cost: he’s enslaving the local people and working them literally to death. His abuse towards the people does not go unnoticed, and Diego, alias Zorro, must step in to prove that the Archduke is a fraud, and free the people he is destroying. But he’s going to need help, and Django seems like the perfect man for the job.

This graphic novel was fun and fast to read. It was a fantastic sequel to the film, and a crossover I never knew I wanted, but was so glad had happened. Who knew it could go so well? Not knowing the character of Zorro very well, or that of Diego de la Vega, I was pleasantly surprised to find such a bold and strong person, a perfect partner for Django.

The one thing I found a little off was the pacing – there was a lot of exposition in the beginning, which gave a very compelling story, there’s no denying that, but the ending flew a little too quickly in comparison. It happened way too fast. This story renders fantastically in graphic novel form, but for those of you wanting another movie, you may have to wait a little bit, because I don’t think it will render very well on the big screen.

All in all, though, I absolutely loved the fact that we finally know what happens next to our friend Django. And Hildy too! She gets a mention, though no ‘screen time’. I was not familiar with Wagner’s work bringing Zorro back to life, but I am curious now, and would love to read his new comics. Diego de la Vega is a pretty badass character, defying all appearances. As I said before, he makes a great partner for Django, though it can be argued that Django makes a good partner for Diego.

Bonus content: like most comic compilations, there’s a bit of bonus content in the end, a good 40 pages of it. This wouldn’t be a complete review if I didn’t tell you a little bit about it! We have the script for the graphic novel, written by Wagner and Tarantino, as well are some very cool concept art/alternative covers. The artwork is gorgeous, though admittedly, having just read the comic, I found the script a little redundant. However, for anyone wanting to imagine the comic as a movie, the script is a definite help.

Definitely a violent comic, just like Tarantino’s film: not for those who would like a peaceful read. It was a fun, fast thrill ride with excitement around every corner. If you’re a fan of Django, you definitely don’t want to miss it.

The official pub date is the 24th of November, by Dynamite comics. Happy reading!

Now I’m just going to try and get the Django theme song out of my head.

The Girl With All the Gifts

by M.R. Carey

Reviewed by SA

This book may be impossible to review without giving away too much or spoiling it, but I am going to try, because this is one that I really enjoyed, and want you to read it to, experiencing it spoiler free, like I did. I am warning you that I may be deliberately vague in areas to ensure I don’t ruin it!

I only had a Goodreads summary to go by when i picked this book up, but it was enough to make me read it. Let me tell you, it was nothing like I expected just going by its looks, but it was so much more. It was one of those books that was so mesmerizing, so compelling, great by its unpredictability.

17235026“Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.” – Goodreads Summary

Doesn’t tell you much, does it?

Melanie is our main character, a young girl of undetermined age (around ten?) who lives her life in routine, going to school, sitting in her room, going to school, sitting in her room – every day, the same thing, over and over again, for as long as she can remember. She loves school, loves to learn about the world that she has never seen, and above all, loves her teacher, Miss Justineau.

Both of their lives are going to be thrown upside down. Over, and over again.

The story centers around four main characters – Melanie, this ‘gifted’ girl; Miss Justineau, her teacher; Sergeant Parks; and Dr. Caldwell. Each has different intentions at heart, and as their lives are thrown together, they are tested in ways they could never have expected.

At the first twist of the novel, my initial thought was ‘oh no, it’s THAT kind of novel!’ but that thought was quickly dismissed for ‘wait… this is INCREDIBLE’. I had no problem with the new genre, as it defied every trope I knew. (Yes, vague, but I’m trying to allow you to enjoy this novel like I did.)

I love science, and one thing I hate is when novels use ‘science’ to explain what really fails to stand up on its own. Science fiction is at its best when it doesn’t over explain. Carey has somehow managed to write a novel that takes an old trope and makes it new, WHILE using science to support the concept. I absolutely loved it.

This novel combines so many genres, plays on so many ideas, while remaining simple at its core. It’s both an amazing thriller, a gripping horror, and a thoughtful science fiction. I highly recommend it to loves of apocalyptic novels (though it isn’t one, technically, but hey, deliberately vague here). However, I warning for those who hate gore, violence, and language. There is a bit of everything.