Stack Overflow: End of Summer Recommendations

Reading Time: 6 minutes

JK Book Group 1

I am SO far behind in my book reviews. Not quite as far as Jonathan Liu, though. Heh heh. Sorry, Jonathan. Summer was great! So many books! Not only did I get to read many original novels, I got to revisit some series favorites. But now I find myself staring at my stacks. Again. So… time for some recommendations. I hope that one or more of the books below might catch your interest–and if you’ve read any of them, please let me know what you thought in the comments.

Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards, Seasons 3 & 4

Adv Time Title CardsI’m a fan of Adventure Time, but since getting a copy of the first two seasons’ title cards (review here) in 2014, I’ve found myself focusing more and more on the title cards with new episodes. These snippets of artwork that introduce each episode just grab me, and the seven artists featured in this latest collection for seasons 3 and 4 have created some frame-worthy pieces.

With glimpses into the rough sketches and quotes from the various artists about each title card’s inspiration or influence, true fans are going to have a hard time picking their favorites. A few that stand out to me include “Dad’s Dungeon” on page 56 and “Card Wars” on page 86–both are highly enjoyable to the D&D and card game fan in me, but the postcard imagery of “Beautopia” on page 35 and the Dali-esque twisting library shown in “Paper Pete” on page 51 also strike a chord.

If you’re a fan, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of these two great hardbound books from Titan Books.

William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh by Ian Doescher

Clone Army Attacketh

Ian Doescher is almost done! The fifth book in his series that mixes Shakespeare’s prose with the Lucas storylines has just been released. The Clone Army Attacketh continues Drescher’s fun with the Dramatis Personae opening up the book and then following with five acts that mix stage play and a Chorus with some amazing writing.

Full page artwork mixed with smaller pieces allow you to get a glimpse of how The Bard might have actually handled some of the more memorable moments such as Yoda searching the stars with the Younglings and Jango and Obi-Wan duking it out on the battlements of a castle.

As with previous books, the Afterword will fill you in on some of Doescher’s musings on the task at hand, including one interesting method of writing Jango and Boba’s dialogue that included a nod to the clone-nature of Jango and how he speaks. Try to discover it before reading the Afterword–I missed it completely, butm once the secret was given, the lightbulb went on.

Things are almost done, and Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge will be out in September, so keep your eyes open!

Zeroes by Chuck Wendig

Zeroes

I’m anxiously awaiting Chuck Wendig’s new Star Wars novel next month, but in the meantime I’ve been pondering his techno-thriller, Zeroes, which I enjoyed on the beach this summer. It follows the “training” of five hackers who have been collected by the US government and forced to live together at The Lodge, a commune-slash-prison where they’re forced to do the government’s bidding. When they begin to wonder who is behind their assignments, their digging offers up an answer that is both unbelievable and terrifying.

Wendig manages to take today’s technology and mix it with a bit of extrapolation on our fascination with the Internet-of-Things and our society’s occasional (constant?) lack of concern with so many security breaches. You’ll find yourself wondering where the line between fiction and reality exists because Wendig’s examination of technology and those who use it for nefarious purposes rarely reads as unbelievable.

I fully expect this book to get the big screen treatment soon. But you know the book is always better than the movie, so don’t bother waiting… get to reading now and enjoy the ride.

Crooked by Austin Grossman

Crooked

I discovered Grossman’s novel, YOU, and became an instant fan, going back and finishing his Soon I Will Be Invincible novel and confirming that this was an author I wanted to watch. When I first heard about the basic premise of his latest novel, Crooked, I knew I’d be reading it–the secret history of President Richard Nixon and his war on things that go bump in the night? Yes, please.

I read it in two days. Nixon’s presidency (and his resignation from the Watergate scandal) were before my time, but I remember studying about it in school. And I can tell you this–Grossman’s account is so much more interesting. I’m just glad it’s fiction. You see, Nixon makes a shocking discovery early in his days of serving in Congress and investigating potential communists. It’s a discovery that launches his rise to Vice President and later takes him to the Presidency. In between a bit as a spy for a pair of Soviet handlers (it’s fiction, folks!), Nixon begins to discover he’s got a much larger role in the protection of the United States against darker beings and foreign sorcerers who wish to deal damage to his country. While Nixon never feels as if he’s in control of his life (and maybe he isn’t), he understands the risks should he fail in his duties as both President… and the risks should his secrets be uncovered by his countrymen… and his wife, Pat.

Fans of HP Lovecraft will enjoy this little tale of a former president and his fight against the darkness. Grossman’s tale explains why the one president who is defined by history as a crook may very well have been anything but… a really fun read, and even a bit educational, as Grossman mixes in historical figures and events with his own mix of crazy. I actually found myself Googling a few historical events mentioned in the book and discovered that Grossman has wound a fictional story around some amazingly accurate events, and the fun is found in reading Grossman’s darker explanations for many mundane happenings. Twisted stuff, certainly–you’ll wish history was really this mysterious. Hmm… probably not.

The Dangerous Type by Loren Rhoads

Dangerous Type Cover

I stumbled upon this book on a recent visit to the bookstore–the premise sounded promising, a “galaxy-spanning thriller” of the “one of the galaxy’s most dangerous assassins,” a woman named Raena.

Raena has spent the last twenty years in a Templar’s stasis tomb as a prisoner of the long-dead human Empire. The tomb has kept her alive and un-aging, and you can probably imagine that she’s got revenge on her mind when an old flame named Sloan (a scoundrel, of sorts–think Han Solo, but rather than shoot Greedo, he would have tortured him and then sold him for spare parts) finally tracks her secret prison down and frees her. Raena’s “sister,” Ariel, is also glad to hear about her sister’s freedom, although she’s done little in the way of finding her while running her gun-running business and becoming very wealthy along the way. Also biding his time is Jonan Thallian, one of the most wanted humans in the galaxy for his extermination of the Templar insect race. (Humans aren’t looked upon well by the rest of the galaxy’s strange races, by the way.) Thallian has known exactly where his former aide was placed, but has been unable to do much because he’s been in hiding and because he’s not quite certain how Raena would react upon being freed.

Thallian won’t have long to wait, as Raena is reunited with Sloan and Ariel, and is plotting her revenge against her previous master for crimes obvious and those to be discovered by the reader. There’s a healthy dose of chase scenes and heists mixed into this tale, and it was such a fun ride. Rhoads has created some fun alien races, some interesting technologies, and wonderful locations (included domed underwater hideouts), but it’s the dialogue and characterization that will win you over to this new series.

The Dangerous Type is Book 1 in the Wake of the Templars series, and I cannot wait to see where this story moves next… although (slight spoiler ahead), Rhoads has setup a very motley/Firefly-like crew by story’s end that begs for more shenanigans in a universe where humans aren’t the center of attention. I won’t have to wait long to find out, though–Book 2, Kill by Numbers, is out in September, and the concluding Book 3 will be out in November… woo hoo! Don’t miss this fun ride.

Disclosure: I received review copies of all of these titles except Crooked and The Dangerous Type, which I purchased myself.

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