Saturday, December 15, 2012

Interview with the Vampire: Claudia’s Story. Graphic novel review

Interview with the Vampire: Claudia’s Story. Adapted by Ashley Marie Witter (Headline £13.99).

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

Ashley Marie Witter has done a fabulous job in adapting Anne Rice’s seminal novel, which was published in the 1970s – that’s when I first read it. Actually, I’ve only read it the once after finding the sequel less gripping and I am yet to see the movie version – something about that deters me. Anyway, when I started this graphic novel adaptation I quickly found myself engrossed and read the book in one sitting.

Unlike the novel, the young reporter to whom Louis tells his story doesn’t appear, and the graphic novel does not suffer for this omission. Witter dives straight in to the story, when Lestat converts the girl – Claudia – into one of the undead. Witter’s version is told from Claudia perspective. Louis becomes emotionally attached to the girl – forever doomed to remain a child even though her imagination, her knowledge, becomes that of an adult woman. It’s a sort of curse – as she expresses so succinctly when in Paris.

As I read this version my memories of the novel percolated my mind: the adaption seems, to me, to be quite faithful to the Rice original. My initial reservation about starting this novel vanished after a few pages.

The artwork is stunning. Witter used a monochrome style but using a sepia-toned pen with occasional touches of colour – red of course. The layouts speed on the reader, perhaps too quickly: there are very few natural pauses if you have to break off reading for any reason. The only thing that would’ve improved the book is a larger format. The artwork deserved a bigger canvas. But for the price this hardback graphic novel is excellent value. It will make a grand Christmas gift.

Based on this book I hope that Witter becomes a mainstay of the graphic novel and I look forward to seeing more of her work.

Crossed volume 4. Graphic novel review

Crossed (volume four) by Garth Ennis, Jamie Delano, Jacen Burrows and Leandro Rizzo (Avatar $24.99/ Titan Books £18.99)

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

Volume four of Crossed collects two stories, “Badlands” and “Homo Superior” – and this is the first time I’ve come across the comic. First off I have to own up: I don’t much like zombies and their stories. To me, they are one-trick ponies. And Crossed is about zombies – or zombie-like beings: out to kill anyone not converted and, more often than not, eat them.

“Badlands” is written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Jacen Burrows. It’s set in the wilds of Scotland and follows a small troop of survivors – one of whom may or may not be a member of the Royal family – as they flee from the Crossed, looking for sanctuary. Do they make it? I’m not telling. Despite my reservations about zombies, I have to say that this tale worked quite well, and I liked the way that Ennis recognised that in order to survive the humans have to make some harsh decisions. Ennis also includes a nice little scene of black humour when the group argue amongst themselves – to go this way or that way and getting no where. The artwork is fine if appearing a little static at times. The artist enjoys depicting gore – as does Rizzo in the next story.

“Homo Superior”, by Jamie Delano (story) and Leandro Rizzo (art) is the longer story of the two. Here, the events are back in the USA where we follow the adventures of a couple of cyclists in one thread, and a family of survivalists in the second. Needless to say, their paths cross with the inevitable intrusion of the zombies and its bloody consequences. And again, do the humans survive? An added problem is that one of them is pregnant and needs to find somewhere safe to give birth to the next level of Homo sapiens. Like Burrows, Rizzo’s art is more than adequate for the tale; and in “Homo Superior” we also get much nudity and sex.

The Emperor of All Things by Paul Witcover

The Emperor of All Things by Paul Witcover is due out in February 2013 from Bantam (£14.99).

“The year is 1758. England is at war, embroiled in a globe-spanning conflict that stretches from her North American colonies to Europe and beyond. And now, after more than two years of military and diplomatic setbacks, the country itself is at risk. Across the Channel, the French prepare for an invasion — an invasion rumoured to be led by none other than Bonnie Prince Charlie. It seems the map of Europe is about to be redrawn ... again. Yet beneath the surface, behind the scenes, another war is raging – a war that will determine not just the fate of nations but of humanity itself.

Daniel Quare is a journeyman in the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, an ancient guild whose royal charter confers absolute authority over the manufacture of timepieces. But Quare is more than he seems. He is a Regulator, a member of an elite spy network within the guild — a network devoted to searching out and claiming for England's exclusive use any horological innovation that could conceivably result in an advantage for Britain over her adversaries, whether in business or in war.

It is just such a mission that brings him one moonlit night to the London townhouse of the eccentric collector Lord Wichcote. But there he finds more than he bargained for. A pocket watch possessed of seemingly impossible properties — deadly properties that seem to have more to do with magic than with any science familiar to Quare or to his superiors in the guild, Sir Thaddeus Wolfe, Grandmaster of the Order, and Theophilus Magnus, head of the Most Secret and Exalted Order of Regulators.

But the strange watch has drawn the attention of others as well. The mysterious masked thief known only as Grimalkin, and a French spy — and cold-blooded killer — who seeks to bring the prize back to his masters. Soon Quare finds himself following a trail of intrigue and murder that leads far from the world he knows into an otherwhere of dragons and demigods, in which nothing is as it seems ... time least of all.”

Raw Head & Bloody Bones by Jack Wolfe

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is Jack Wolf's d├ębut novel, scheduled for early January 2013 release (Chatto and Windus £14.99). Keep an eye out for it…

“The year is 1750. Tristan Hart, precociously talented student of medicine practising under the legendary Dr William Hunter. His obsession is the nature of pain and preventing it; the relationship between mind and matter and the existence of God. A product of the Age of Enlightenment, he is a rational man on a quest to cut through darkness and superstition with the brilliant blade of science.

Tristan Hart, madman and deviant. His obsession is the nature of pain, and causing it. A product of an age of faeries and goblins, gnomes and shape-shifting gypsies, he is on a quest to arouse the perfect scream and slay the daemon Raw Head who torments his dark days and long nights.

Troubled visionary, twisted genius, loving sadist. What is real and what imagined in Tristan Hart’s brutal, beautiful, complex world?”

The Betrayal of the Living by Nick Lake

Due next month (next year!) is Nick Lake’s The Betrayal of the Living, volume three in the Blood Ninja trilogy (Atlantic Books £12.99).

“Taro is at a crossroads: he has vanquished Lord Oda for good, but with no land and no title, he has no hope of marrying Hana, the daughter of a daimyo. So when Taro receives news of a murderous dragon and the large reward for killing it, he and his friends find themselves on a dangerous quest to slay the beast.

Their mission has the potential to save the people of Japan – but failure will result in the deaths of thousands. And dragons are not the only monsters they will encounter: the dead, led by the odious Kenji Kira, have begun to rise, and they have Taro in their sights.”

In this conclusion to the Blood Ninja trilogy, the future of all feudal Japan is in danger, and everything Taro holds dear will be threatened.”

Edge of Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan

We at Piper are always delighted to see new short story collections and anthologies, so we welcome from Solaris a crackingly good anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan: Edge of Infinity (out now at only £7.99).

"‘One small leap for a man, one giant leap for mankind.’ Neil Armstrong's immortal words when he became the first human being to step onto another world. Edge of Infinity is a new SF anthology that looks at the next giant leap for humankind: the leap from our home world out into the Solar System.”

With thirteen stories by Pat Cadigan, Elizabeth Bear, Paul McAuley, Gwyneth Jones, Hannu Rajaniemi, Stephen Baxter, Bruce Sterling and others, Edge of Infinity is hard SF adventure that’s sure to please all science fiction readers.