Saturday, March 15, 2008
Review: Revelation (Star Wars: Legacy of the Force)
Revelation Book CoverBy Karen Traviss. ISBN 978-0-345-47757-6. There are a few great science fiction writers who have written "Expanded Universe" Star Wars tie-in fiction. Traviss is not one of them. Her plot twists are predictable, and every big plot development is weighed down with an unjustified sense of importance. The first half of Revelation was no exception. In fact, it committed the cardinal sin of pulp fiction: it was boring. But readers that can slog through will be rewarded with a second half that is a surprising pleasure. It contained a couple plot twists that I didn't see coming, and a few of the emotional dénouements proved genuinely affecting. In Star Wars fiction, there is a tendency to use the characters as props for philosophical debates, with familiar quips and patterns of speech used to manufacture an artificial humanity. As this book draws to a close, Traviss allows the characters to just be human beings.

Review: Coraline
Coraline Book CoverBy Neil Gaiman. ISBN 0380977788. If I've read a creepier children's book than Coraline, I certainly don't remember it. Like C.S. Lewis's Narnia prequel The Magician's Nephew, Coraline begins with its young protagonist trapped in a strange old house, bored and neglected by the distracted adults around her. Just when Coraline (not Caroline!) Jones thinks she can stand no more, she finds a previously blocked doorway into a part of the house that is a mirror image to her own. At first everything seems like it's the same, only better. But gradually, Coraline comes to understand that it is in fact much, much worse. Gaiman's imagery is only slightly skewed from reality, a fact which helps explain the world's disturbing power, but his sense of humor is gentle and clever and fun. By the time the story reaches its horribly eery conclusion, I was half-convinced that Coraline began as the best campfire story ever.