Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Reason For Dragons


The last thing a high school outcast needs out of life is something really weird happening. Wendell hasn't built and form of relationship with his stepfather aside from feeling awkward and intimidated by him. His stepfather Ted is big... and intimidating. Telling Wendel stories like how he annihilated a guy for scratching his pride and joy, a motorcycle named Lilly doesn't help the situation. Wendell’s only peace comes from going to the woods and escaping into a book. But that peace doesn't last when the local school bullies challenge Wendel to a feat of bravery. Grab some programs from the grounds of an abandoned renaissance fair that is allegedly haunted. It should have been easy. But then he meets a medieval knight… who is tasked to slay a dragon… that just might be real.

This is both a coming of age story and a tale of redemption. The very unlikely insanity that happens on the renaissance fair grounds not only helps Wendel to grow up, but it also accomplishes another seemingly unlikely feat, Wendel and Ted form a bond. It is also the tale of Sir Habersham, a knight who just might be crazy, but might also be telling the truth about a dragon.

Created by Chris Northrup with art by Jeff Stokely, The Reason For Dragons comes from the ashes of a cartoon Northrup was creating with artist and writer, Sean Murphy. The laptop with all their work was stolen. But fortunately for us, we still get to experience the story. In this books introduction, Murphy recounts the tale of how The Reason For Dragons came to be this graphic novel published by Archaia Entertainment. The main story is not too long. It's pretty much the perfect length to get lost in a fantasy tale for a little while. The Reason For Dragons also contains some other shorter tales that flesh out the characters some more. It's an all ages book that adults and kids should find entertaining. I wanted a little more time between Habersham and Wendell, but in no way was I disappointed with anything about this book. I really enjoyed it. Maybe it will become a cartoon again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tomorrow Land


Tomorrow Land, not to be confused with the Disney film and section of Disney World, is a sci-fi/zombie apocalypse novel by Mari Mancusi. It skews a little more into the young adult genre than I would typically read, but after my wife and I met the author at Wizard World in Austin, I decided to take a chance. There are a lot of zombie stories out there. That is the good thing about a zombie apocalypse. You can apply it to any time and place. In the case of Tomorrow Land, this apocalypse takes place in the near future of 2030. The youth of the word had moved on from being obsessed with mobile social media into the world of virtual social media with VR systems that allow them to enter the virtual internet.

Just before the world was about to fall, Peyton Anderson was a normal girl in high school. Or as normal as any teen can be with a father that is anti-technology government conspiracy theorist. And of course the world would fall apart just when it looks like she is about to find her first true love. But her father has a different destiny for her. Four years after the outbreak, Peyton emerges from a bunker under her house. She does not know what the world will be like. All she has to depend on are the cybernetic enhancements her father gave her. She must go to Florida and find her father and the scientific colony he was setting up under Disney World. She will also get help from the boy she abandoned before the fall of civiliation, Chris Parker, who has his own demons that could jeopardize everything.

The story flashes back and fourth between the outbreak in 2030 and the 2040 post apocalypse. I enjoyed the scifi/zombie elements a lot. The zombies in this world are the result of infection. No dying and reanimating here. Kind of like what we saw in I Am Legend. As usual I don’t think of things until I begin typing. It is somewhat poetic that in a world where people disappear themselves into a world where nothing is real that the population would fall to a disease that strips humans of their identities and turns them into a mindless hoard.

 The book is really interesting and I did enjoy it. But the teen angst took me out of the story sometimes. Especially in the 2030 chapters covering the initial outbreak. Although this could be a non-issue for some people. I mean, let's be honest, no matter what goes on in the world, as long as there are teenagers, there is going to be some levels of angst. But I will give Mancusi credit for not making Peyton the classic girl who needs to be saved. Even though she does need Chris to navigate the brave new world, and there is the budding romance subplot, Peyton is mission focused to get to her father and deliver a cure that is hidden in her cybernetics. And while Chris is the love interest, he was not a melodramatic motorcycle hood with a heard of gold, if you get my meaning. He is definitely flawed. But I never got a sense in the story that Peyton needed to "save" him.

While on the surface Tomorrow Land appears to fall into the YA romance mold (not that I am any kind of authority on YA), it does push into some hard sci-fi elements and themes, even directly referencing classic sci-fi. I wish the world in 2040 would have been fleshed out some more. I wanted to spend more time in 2034 and explore that world. For me too much time was spent on the initial budding romance in the early outbreak in 2030. It's close to a 50/50 split between the pre and post years. Or it felt that way to me. There are two human colonies in the book that are direct contrasts to one another and we only get a little time in each. Although thinking about it, it's also possible Mancusi gave enough time to those places. While I wasn't thrilled by some of Tomorrow Land's elements, I did find it to be a good read. It's staying on my shelf and I look forward to reading more of Mari Mancusi's novels. I have her Scroched trilogy in my backlog of things on the shelf I really need to get through. Book nerds know what I 'm talking about.

You can find out more about Tomorrow Land, Mari Mancusi, and her other novels at MariMancusi.com
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