I've recently finished reading a novel, Wool, and a trade paperback (or graphic novel), Marvel's Secret Invasion, and so here is a review for those that are interested, keeping in mind I paint things and am not a book reviewer by profession ;0)
First off, Wool.
I read the Wool Omnibus Edition (originally the story was in five parts, later collected in this edition), and it is written by guy called Hugh Howey. In a nutshell, the story follows what you believe to be the last of mankind who are surviving in a huge underground silo from the toxic and apocalyptic remains of the Earth above ground.
The world that the survivors live in is one set many years after the fact, and so over the generations knowledge of the past has become obscure and controlled, technology has paused and therefore the general population of the silo has become repressed and for the most part accepted their lot. The ones that don't and ask too many questions are sent to 'clean'.
The only view of the outside world the last of mankind has is via a set of sensors on top of the silo the imagery that they obtain presented upon a huge screen that acts as a window to the outside world. From time-to-time these sensors need cleaning, and that is where it becomes problematic. The atmosphere is so toxic that even in the latest bespoke environmental survival gear the wearer only lasts a very short time before the toxic atmosphere brings them to a painful and horrid death.
So how do you work around this? You use the guys from the silo who don't conform or break the law to clean the sensors and send them to a horrid death - that's how. This act is known in Wool as 'Cleaning', and everyone is terrified of being the one to have to do it.
All of the above gets set up very quickly at the start of the story, and I was sort of think okay, and.... That is when you get introduced to a character who wants to 'clean', she is convinced that the world outside is not what you think it is and everyone is being lied to by IT. IT being the actual IT support guys who take care of the PCs. Seriously, the nerds are pulling the strings sort of thing - it is genius.
Like it states on the book cover, 'If the lies don't kill you. The truth will', and that is the brilliance of this book. Once a few guys have been sent to clean, and you as the reader have had some insight to some odd things that are going on the story really picks up pace and you are left puzzling what appears to be a conspiracy together along with the main protagonist, a character called Juliette or Jules.
Then the story starts to spiral and gets more brilliant with each page you read, seriously, I had many evenings where I couldn't put the book down without reading the next part of the story.
Hugh Howey's writing is spot on, the plot well thought out with some good twists and you never feel like you're not keeping up with things as the seeds of the conspiracy grow and grow. Hugh Howey has also created some real solid characters, you just know them the moment you start to read about them, which is one of the standout qualities of this book. It all feels familiar, there is no jarring within the story. Which makes this book, despite being a science fiction story, accessible to anyone who likes a good mystery.
The only down to the whole reading experience was a very slight one, and it happens just as you hit the peek of the story within the first third of the book. There is a big and steady build of plot and tension as you read, then BOOM! You get slapped with a 'wow' moment as it pays off. Then the slow and steady build starts again with the new established norm. Which at the end of a engaging and very absorbing part of the story where you are left feeling drained, almost feels like a sit down for a picnic mid a hundred meters sprint. I'm assuming this is due to the nature of this book being five shorter ones gelled into one big one, and as a set of short stories this worked a bit like a cliff hanger at the end of the first act.
So what did I think?
Yes, buy this book, it is awesome and you wont be disappointed. There are at least two more books in the series following on from Wool. I have it on good authority that they are not very good, and having read some sample chapters of both, I'm inclined to agree. However, if you enjoy a good mystery, you'll love this book. If you like post apocalypse sci-fi as well, then that's a double whammy bonus!
Next, COMICS! With Marvel's, Secret Invasion.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Leinil Francis Yu
I LOVED this book! I really did. In a nutshell, Skrulls (shape-shifting aliens for those who are casual followers of all things Marvel) have infiltrated the Earth at all levels, and as far as you can make out, they have been there a while. The story arc is pitched as, 'Who do you trust?' as the Skrulls can even mimic superheroes powers, and therefore you don't know who is who they are meant to be, or are they an infiltrator. Then, just as you are getting our head around this, the invasion kicks in and it is all out war!
I can't say enough good things about this story, I so hope that Marvel are aiming the film franchise in this direction as it will be epic on the big screen. The whole vibe of who do you trust is brilliant, friends, family and the such turning on one-another, others just unable to accept the truth that the person they loved has been an impostor from who knows when. Even the some of the Skrulls are sleepers and don't know that they aren't who they appear to be. The whole thing is a glorious and confusing mess of awesomeness. Then the invasion kicks off and it is action like you wouldn't believe.
I don't want to go into any real detail other than the above, as it will ruin the story for anyone who hasn't read it yet, and that would be a shame as it is such a good one. So I'm going to focus on the other bits that make up the story, such as Bendis's writing, which as always is top-notch. I make no bones about it, I'm a Michael Bendis fanboy, and he really delivers with this story, especially considering how many characters and plots and story that are going on in this book.
The above image is an example of some of the brilliant artwork, and also the amount of characters involved pretty much on every page. I know one thing for sure, I would not have wanted to have illustrated this comic - it would have ended me in the nicest way possible, but ended me non-the-less.
There are pages and pages of fantastically illustrated heroes, once you have read the book, you need to go back and spend time just taking in all of the beautiful artwork - some of it is awe inspiring. The story within itself is brilliant, the fallout between the characters and the rest of the world is shown in way that you as the reader can buy into. You are never left at any point thinking, now THAT wouldn't have happened (taking into account this is a world full of aliens and superheroes).
One of the things I appreciated about the story as well was the touch points with previous stories, written in such a way that you only have to have the vaguest of knowledge about and you're good - no confusion, you don't need to have read all of the previous Marvel comics to get the connection, which is great. For example, one that pops to mind is how the Skrulls use the information gathered from the Civil War story to aid their invasion. If you have read the comics, or seen the movie, you get it. If not and you kinda have a one sentence understanding of the Civil War story, then that is all you need. What goes without say is that if you have read the comics or seen the movie, you do get that little bit more out of it.
So, what do I think?
Go out and buy this trade/graphic novel, the story is brilliant, the writing is spot on and the artwork is incredible.