Central Station By Lavie Tidhar

Central Station cvr

Title: Central Station
Author: Lavie Tidhar
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Type: ARC ebook (NetGalley)
Keywords: sci-fi opera, Tel Aviv, diversity, cyborgs, data vampires

Have you ever read a book where you felt that the central character in the book wasn’t the human, but the location? Central Station is that kind of book. Central Station is a (the?) spaceport in Tel Aviv and like all ports, is the central hub for the masses to gather or journey to the stars. You will see everyone here: Chinese and Filipino refugees, people from Mars or beyond the Belt, cyborgs…everyone and everything can be found here. Connecting them all is the Conversation, the digital network that connects all “noded” life and cascades them with everyone’s data streams. In the end, Central Station is just a building. The story introduces several characters that are intertwined by history, family, and love. Through their connection, they become the witnesses of the next step in evolution that may transcend the physical and digital realities.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is the familiarity and accessibility of this world that Tidhar created. The book is filled with futuristic technologies (though we can already see the beginnings of these now) yet the image I got wasn’t pristine and sleek. The technology is used and grungy (think original Stars Wars versus the prequels). Speaking of familiarity, the characters are diverse and multi-racial across the board, even alien. Mama Jones, one of the many characters you meet is half Nigerian and Filipino (do you know how amazing it is to see Filipinos written in a sci-fi book?!). The Others are digital entities that hang around the Conversation. The characters also come from a diverse economic background, from the bottom rungs of homeless veteran cyborgs to the working class of Mama Jones and Boris Chang, where his family’s history in the city defines his somewhat upper-class standing than anything else.

Another theme that stuck me is the commentary on technology: how it affects us and the possibilities of our relationship with it in the future. Achimwene a Nigerian-Filipino and brother to Mama Jones is one of the only humans left that isn’t “noded”, physical nodes inserted in the body during childhood in order to connect online, or the Conversation as it’s called in the book. People look at Achimwene with pity and consider him crippled. Even Achimwene is caught wondering what it would be like to always be connected and hear everyone’s thoughts around you, to always know what is going on. How many of us feel that way already today? When was the last time we felt left out of a conversation when we didn’t see the latest trend or meme on Facebook or Twitter? FOMO anyone? Other fascinating characters abound: Carmel is a digital strigoi or vampire that sucks her victim’s data streams in order to live. Vlad an elderly man is suffering under a futuristic Alzheimer’s disease where he is bombarded with data overload of memories of his father and past relatives. And of course, the mysterious two children Kranki and Ismail who may be the next step of the merger between the digital and physical spaces.

Okay, I know up until now I’ve been talking about ‘technology this’ and ‘technology’ that on this book, but to be fair Tidhar does a great job in focusing on the community too. People are still heading over to Mama Jones’ bar to grab a drink of arak.  Generations of families and refugees have stayed in Central Station, it’s a place where people still have face to face contact. The human connection is still slightly there; if anything, people use the Conversation to gauge a person’s actual feelings and possibly any other background information needed for that current interaction.

Central Station is a sci-fi opera story that stays on Earth. This book may not have the shooting lasers and adrenaline space chases that pepper “successful” sci-fi today, but if you want something close to home, a collective story of people, technology, and the connections that bind us, digitally or not, read this book.

Gem Rating: 💎 💎 💎 💎 💎

 

 

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Eyeshield 21: The Super Bowl I Would Love to See

The Super Bowl was a family thing more than anything else; just another excuse for my huge Filipino family to meet up, eat, and hang out. The 49ers team was a childhood legend for me. While my mother was still alive she was still lamenting over Joe Montana. Nowadays I watch the Super Bowl out of nostalgia of those days.

With the Super Bowl coming up (and literally so close to home), it made me think of a manga near and dear to my heart that just takes football to a crazy level: Eyeshield 21

 

eyeshield 21 cvr
Mangaka: Riichiro Inagaki, Artist: Yusuke Murata

For those who have never read the manga or watched the anime here’s the down low: shy, tiny Sena Kobayakawa ends up joining his school’s American Football team thanks to the crazy machine-gun wielding Yoichi Hiruma. Fortunately based on his experience with bullies, Sena runs fast. Very fast. Enough that Hiruma believes Sena is the key for his team, the Devil Bats to get to the top.

As far as sports manga go, the series hits all the right points: underdog team striving to make it to the top, misfits with crazy idiosyncrasies (pictures of Hiruma with a machine gun is not just a cover image: he literally starts shooting the field to get his players to actually, you know, play football), the supportive girls who cheer the guys on…yeah, the manga has it all. I’m pretty sure there were amazing American stereotypes too… And yet the fact that Inagaki-san chooses American football for his story makes Eyeshield 21 refreshing to read (American football is pretty non-existent in Japan so I’m pretty sure it was refreshing for the Japanese audience too!) Also the manga is ridiculously hilarious in its execution. Maybe it’s because I actually have knowledge of football, but seeing the absurd plays and storylines makes the manga just that much more enjoyable and funny to read.

Besides the humor, the art is a huge part of why I love the manga. Yusuke Murata’s art is awesome, and he actually draws different body types (for males but hey I’ll take it!) One Punch Man fans should be very familiar with this art.

Eyeshield 21 memories

So if you’re tired of seeing all the hype of the Super Bowl, or just want a break, I definitely recommend having a few laughs and root for the Devil Bats. For those who are going to watch the Super Bowl, who are you rooting for? If I had to choose, had to I’d probably be going for the Panthers. No particular reason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gene Luen Yang @ The Escapist

On Saturday, Gene Luen Yang visited The Escapist, a local comic book store in the Bay Area. This was a treat not only because of seeing a successful comic creator visiting his hometown, but also because of his new appointment as Ambassador of Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress and Every Child a Reader. How cool is that?!

 

Escapist_Gene Yang
Gene Yang speaking to children who came from Sacramento to meet him

Mr. Yang is a veteran of the graphic novel industry and his experience shown throughout the talk. He spoke about how he got into the business and how one would go about it if they were so inclined to be a comic writer/artist. His honesty about getting into the business of comics was both sobering and funny. From his story of having his friend’s mom xerox copies of their comics to sell to their fifth-grade friends to current cost estimates of different methods of self-publishing, Mr. Yang told it all.

Just when I had the courage to raise my hand to ask a question, luckily the owner of The Escapist asked about his newly appointed role as Ambassador of Young People’s Literature (which was all well and good because that was what I was going to ask.) As an Ambassador, he can work on a platform that he can promote for young readers. For those who know his work, his platform Reading Without Walls should come as no surprise. His platform has 3 goals: for children to read outside their comfort zone, to read about different kinds of people with different life experiences and to read different book formats (graphic novel to prose for example).

Escapist_Gene Yang signing

As a Filipino, seeing an Asian-American successfully enter the graphic novel industry and to be in such an influential position as an ambassador for reading is inspiring. The audience in the very crowded comic store reflected his impact in the community: grandparents, children (who came all the way from Sacramento, no less!), teenagers, white, people of color, the cute 1-year-old girl next to me…it’s a nice visual to see the power of literature (all types of literature) impact all age groups from all backgrounds. I can’t wait to see what Gene Yuen Lang does from here.

 

Sorcerer to the Crown

Sorcerer to the Crown_Zen Cho

Title: Sorcerer to the Crown
Author: Zen Cho
Publisher: ACE Books
Keywords: sorcerers, magic, POC main characters, regency era

I might go anywhere and do any magic I pleased if I were Peter, not Prunella.

England’s magic is declining. Relations between Faerie and Britain are neutral at best and familiars, creatures of Faerie that agree to serve a Thaumaturge (magicians in fancy England speak) are no longer allowed in the human realm. As a result of their weakness, the society of thaumaturges’ power is deteriorating in the royal court. Add to that, the successor of the late Sorcerer Royal, sorcerer to King and country, is Zacharias, an African. Not only does he have to deal with racism from his fellow thaumaturges and assassination attempts, he must somehow find a way to restore magic to England. Fortunately, the key to solving his problems may come from outside England’s borders and a woman with an aptitude for magic…

If you enjoyed Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, you will most likely enjoy the writing style of this book. I’m one of the few who didn’t enjoy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Regency era dialogue is so…difficult for me to read. The stuffy language, the illusion of etiquette and politeness…ugh. Fortunately, Cho’s dialogue seemed like a mix of regency era and modern which made it much more accessible to me. The characters also made it a huge plus: Zacharias (who I may have a tiny crush on) is charming and Prunella though I don’t like her (a bit too calculating for me at times), I ended up respecting her at the end. Especially at the end.

I suppose the main reason Sorcerer to the Crown received so much buzz was because the setting of the story is told from 2 POC (and a woman POC, good heavens!) and highlights the societal issues of living as one in a time and place where that was… not really the best of circumstances. The fantasy and magic are just a very cool bonus. An African receiving one of the most powerful titles in the country? A woman actually practicing magic and being ridiculously powerful? Inconceivable! Speaking of women in this book, the magical issues of women was frustrating, disturbing (at times) and very, very, relatable to read. Women are not allowed to use magic due to a) wasting their precious abilities by using it for glamours and b) being “too delicate” to handle the stress of conjuring magic. In Mrs. Daubney’s School for Gentlewitches, Mrs. Daubney represses the girls’ magic, not encourage them to use it (not that the girls listen). The school is a place to treat an illness, not an ability that’s lauded were it for the opposite sex. The method in which Mrs. Daubney represses the girls’ magic is probably one of the most disturbing parts of the book. A spell drains the users’ magic (and physical health) and releases it to the atmosphere for everyone else (men) to use. The laws and cultural views of a woman’s body in this book should sound pretty familiar to women today.

To be honest after finishing the book I couldn’t tell if I liked the book or not because throughout the story I kept going into mental rants and yelling at the racism and sexism. But I guess that was the point of this book. Sooo I guess that means I enjoyed it.

 

Gem Rating: 💎💎💎💎

A good read if you enjoy your historical fantasy with POC protagonists, Faery mythology, wand magic, and a hefty dash of race and gender commentary!

Of course, mature and constructive comments are welcome!

The Captain’s Back! Captain Marvel #1

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Captain Marvel #1
Writer(s): Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters
Artist: Kris Anka
Colors: Matthew Wilson

Announced waaaay back when, the new Captain Marvel had to be one of the most anticipated female lead comics to come back after the events of Secret Wars (which I didn’t really care much about). After the departure of awesome amazing writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, the Carol Corps were intrigued and excited to hear that Marvel’s Agent Carter producers Fazekas and Butters would take the helm. Did they make the cut? Well, one issue is too short for me to gauge, but so far I think so!

The Captain decides to have a “change of pace” and accepts commanding Alpha Flight, the group now responsible for being Earth’s first line of defense (but let’s face it, *all* superhero teams dub themselves Earth’s first line of defense). Despite the Cap’s close friends’ skepticism, Carol believes the Commander position will be a nice change of pace, only now in space! Of course, next thing she knows she’s in a meeting with a delegation to negotiate waste removal on the space station. Ah yes, administration. Luckily, a massive asteroid and, later, a very old looking warship distract Captain Marvel and finds out she and Alpha Flight have a bit more to worry about contract negotiations.

It will be interesting if the series shows the dichotomy of Carol the Captain and Carol the newly appointed Commander of a badass space station. Commanders usually stay indoors, overlooking a holographic battlefield with a grim, determined eye, but Carol doesn’t seem like that kind of girl. Will her new head position in Alpha Flight cool her down a bit? Hopefully not too much, because I love seeing her punching things in the face.

The art is clean and bright thanks to Anka and Wilson, almost to the point where I felt like I wasn’t looking at events in space. I particularly love Anka’s style in drawing Captain Marvel because abs and the muscular body.

 

KrisAnkaDrawstheBestAbs
More body diversity in women is always a good thing

 

Alpha Flight didn’t really get much of a spotlight in issue 1, but hopefully, we’ll see more shenanigans in the future. I feel like they and the Captain will make an interesting team-up. Unless Brand kills Carol first for causing more trouble and stress for her.

Kelly Sue was such an enormous influence on Captain Marvel (and women’s representation in comics in general) that I’m sure it might be difficult for some Carol Corps fans. I’m still beginning my Kelly Sue run, so my view may not be so biased. I for one will see where Michele and Tara take Captain Marvel and us, the readers.

On Drawing Strong Women: Kris Anka

To celebrate issue #1 of Captain Marvel in the new Marvel Universe, my LCS invited the artist of the new series, Kris Anka for a little Q&A.

Fantastic_Anka 012316

He talked about the process of becoming the artist for Captain Marvel (which he fanboyed over) and the even longer process of revamping the style for the series relaunch (not so much fanboying). The audience was able to see some of his initial sketches of character designs. I’m not too familiar with his art, but I love his clean style and how he draws the Captain particularly muscular (moar abs and moar buffer became the little joke throughout the discussion). Juliette, the comic store employee/moderator commented how she admired that aspect of Anka’s art while he just shrugged it off. “It’s not that difficult to draw different body types of women. I just actually put in the effort.” (Mic drop male gaze centric artists!!) Thanks to social media, artists can listen and get immediate feedback of their work from fans and Anka’s the type to listen. Although, he has no shame of admiring Rob Liefeld’s 90’s style work and would love to work with him (ah well, no one can be perfect I suppose).

It was a nice change to hear the experience of the artist. Anka delved a bit into his work schedule and the business side of the art, advising potential comic artists to “be nice and turn in your work on time”. There’s nothing worse than an unreliable artist who can’t hit a deadline.

Other things of note: his fashion style. He was rocking a bright plaid shirt with a flower patterned tie. Plus his bushy mustache. I dug it. Also, during the time he was visualizing the new costume of our beloved Captain, he noted his drawings had to pass by Marvel’s legal department because the outfit couldn’t be so drastically different that it wouldn’t match future licensed goods. That part made me fangirl a bit because I love that aspect of the publishing business.

The Q&A ended with signings and prints for sale that he drew for this event (yeees). I remember during the discussion he said one his of New Year’s resolution was to draw more women. I gotta say, Anka, you made me a believer and I’ll make it a point this year to look for your art.