Well, usually I try to give my Stack Overflow columns a nice theme, something to wrap everything in a tidy package. Not today–my deadline is here and I don’t have a good collection assembled. So, here are a couple of books from my review piles, and the only thing they have in common is that I’ve read them recently.
Sara Varon has published a few comic books like Robot Dreams and Bake Sale, and her books are populated by friendly-looking people, anthropomorphic animals, robots, and even food. Sweaterweather, just published this week, is a collection of short comics stories and illustrated essays going back to 2001. The first eight stories were previously published as “Sweaterweather” in 2003, Varon’s first book, and this is a new, expanded version with eight new chapters added to it. Each chapter has a little note from Varon explaining what it is and why she drew it, and it’s a fun inside look at a little of her artistic process, plus you also get to see the way her drawing style and technique has changed over the years.
If you just can’t get enough of The Force Awakens, this book is a great way to get a closer look at a lot of little details, from characters to gadgets to vehicles. Each page is filled with photographs and little trivia factoids that may not have been revealed in the film. Want to see a Rathtar in better lighting? It’s in here. Need to know the rank insignia for the First Order? That’s here, too. Though if you’re looking for answers about C-3PO’s red arm, you’ll have to dig somewhere else.
This book focuses on the vehicles in The Force Awakens, from Rey’s speeder to the Millennium Falcon to Kylo Ren’s command shuttle. Kemp Remillard’s illustrations reveal what’s under the hood (or the wing), with plenty of captions and descriptions written by Jason Fry. The oversized format of the book allows plenty of room for all the details–and there are a lot of details. One of my favorite bits is the scale comparison at the back of the book, from the Finalizer Star Destroyer down to Rey’s speeder.
A few years ago I reviewed Containment by Christian Cantrell–it’s a hard science fiction novel about colonists on Venus, stuck in a world where resources are scarce and producing more oxygen is a top priority. Equinox fills in a little of the backstory, but then also picks up the story from where Containment ended. I’ll try to give you a sense of the story while avoiding major spoilers.
In the world of Containment, the Earth is in pretty bad shape. There was, for a time, a Solar Age in which energy became incredibly cheap and humankind made some significant technological achievements–among them, a vast space station encircling the planet known as Equinox. But it didn’t last–the atmosphere became polluted and nearly impenetrable by the sun’s rays, killing the ability to use the solar power that people had come to rely on. A small group of scientists, stranded on Equinox during a crisis, formed their own civilization and eventually called themselves Coronians, a branching-off point in human evolution.
The plot of the book largely revolves around the tension between the Coronians and Earth-bound humans. The Coronians supply energy and technology, in exchange for raw materials mined by the humans. But neither side trusts the other, and it’s a very fragile balance. This story is when the scales finally tip.
As with Containment, I found myself intrigued by the plot and interested in this future world that Cantrell created often by extrapolating from current technologies. There are more characters this time–some that will be familiar from Containment and several new ones–and while their stories start out separate, they quickly become intertwined. The downside, though, is that Cantrell spends a lot of time explaining various technology (or sometimes the history of the technology) in great detail, and it breaks up the story. The storyline is top-notch, but I would have liked the writing itself to be spiced up a little and not quite as dry. It’s a brilliant piece of world-building, though, and if you enjoy hard science fiction it’s worth checking out.
Well, that’s my grab bag for the week. Happy reading!
Disclosure: I received review copies of these books.