Sci-Fi Fi! What a wonderful phrase! Sci-Fi Fi! Ain’t no passing phaaaaaaaaaaase. OK, so Disney this ain’t, but it’s Friday, I’m punch-drunk from the longest shortest work week ever, and I’m about to go off the rails at any second. Let’s get down to business, shall we?
So my reading volume was up significantly all summer; but certainly wasn’t quality over quantity. Lucky for me, a solid short story anthology dropped right around the middle of summer. Masked is refreshingly high-quality collection of superhero fiction by some of the best talent in the industry today (and a few outside of it). As with any anthology, there are a few stories that fall flat; but the majority do a great job of taking what’s considered a “fluff” genre and elevating it to, maybe not high literature, but certainly something that merits further discussion (or at least multiple reads). Gail Simone’s “Thug” really shines as a quirky character portrait (which, admittedly, she does best) of a mentally-challenged henchman. “Cleansed and Set in Gold” by Matthew Sturges is the first story in the book and, despite the fact that you can figure out the twist pretty quickly, where it ends up is surprising. At it’s core, it’s a wink and a nod to that old comic trope of heroes developing just the right random power to get themselves out a fix whenever it befits the story; but the way it’s developed is satisfyingly plausible. “The Non-Event” by Mike Carey features some really sharp pacing and dialogue; and, despite it’s telegraphed conclusion, really charmed me with the world it created. Finally, “A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (and Villains Too)” by Bill Willingham deserves to be its own novel. Hell, it deserves to be its own ongoing comic series with movie and TV tie-ins. Ever read Secret Wars or any of the big Crisis events when you were a kid? Where every character in the world is thrown together against impossible odds? That’s this – only so much more brutal and witty. I mean, there’s a supervillain called Bad Moon…who actually is a rogue planetoid, it’s deliciously tounge-in-cheek. Taken as a whole, Masked is a great way to kill a weekend. Even those of you who don’t necessarily enjoy the cape and cowl set will likely find something refreshingly fun and different.
Anything else? Sadly, the only other book that I’ve found worth it’s salt wasn’t a library book, so it’ll have to wait for it’s own review (and I have to actually finish the damn thing). All-in-all a decidedly flat Sci-Fi Fi summer, but I was pleased to have stretched my reading muscles and rescue some books from the stacks (albeit briefly). If you haven’t checked out the offerings at your local library, please do so. Many are really stepping up efforts so that they can compete in this age of instantly downloadable media (though free Kindle previews are a great way to figure out if you’re going to like a book). Don’t be scared. The librarians don’t bite (much).