When it comes to my reviews of volumes put out by Smart Pop Books, I can’t help but start every article with a gushing endorsement of the publisher and their products. Smart Pop’s publishing line is a geeky reader’s dream come true, featuring a number of brilliant and highly enjoyable essay anthologies focusing on popular culture subjects like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Hunger Games, Veronica Mars, and many, many more. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Smart Pop Books established itself a long time ago as the go-to publisher for the intelligent and introspective geek.
David Hair’s Scarlet Tides, the second novel in his Moontide Quartet series, has been compared to great fantasy epics such as A Song of Ice and Fire and The Wheel of Time, and it easily earns it place amongst them. Spanning two continents, multiple countries, and countless cultures, Scarlet Tides follows the holy (and not so holy) wars, political machinations, alliances and betrayals, and magical maneuverings of powerful rulers in a game of thrones that would almost put the denizens of Westeros to shame; however, true influence is held by those who can wield magic, and they don’t always hold the same values as the ruling nobles. The person who comes out on top will depend entirely on who can control the most mages . . . and the mysterious Leviathan Bridge that only connects the two continents during periods of low seas known as Moontide.
The recent release of Dr. Mütter's Marvels from Gotham Books may not be the typical reading fare of many who include themselves as members of “geek culture,” but author Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s “true tale of intrigue and innovation at the dawn of modern medicine” is such a captivating, gripping, and intensely interesting historical tale that even the reader who has mere casual interest in the subject will find themselves devouring Aptowicz’s text in a matter of days, if not hours. The story of the mysterious Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter and his fascinating and noble effect on the advancement of American medical practices and treatment is a rare opportunity to step into a time in our nation’s past, when surgery was performed without anesthesia, patients were restricted against their will during extremely long and painful procedures, and one kind, intelligent, and gentle man searched passionately for something more civilized than the world before him.
Anyone who follows my reviews on Fanboy Comics knows by now that I’m a HUGE fan of Smart Pop Books. Featuring a number of brilliant and highly enjoyable essay anthologies focusing on popular culture subjects like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Hunger Games, Veronica Mars, and many, many more, Smart Pop Books has established itself a long time ago as the go-to publisher for the intelligent and introspective geek.
Fifteen-year-old Rosie Sinclair has run out of opportunities in her drab, poor hometown of Doli, AZ. Fortunately, her skill as an amateur filmmaker grabs her enrollment in the elite Forge School, the premier arts school in the country, but there’s a catch. Everything at the school is broadcast on a reality series called The Forge Show, and Rosie must make the top fifty most popular first-year students to stay. At the same time she chafes against the sleeping pills mandated by the school’s strange twelve hours of sleep policy and during the night hours begins to uncover signs that Forge School may not be the creative mecca everyone believes.
Ashley has been the target of bullying in her small community ever since a bid for popularity in middle school went disastrously wrong. Her mother worries more about her daughter not fitting in, her best friend seems to think that Ashley should just try harder to see the good in her tormentors, and her artwork is the only chance of escape from the microcosm strangling her. Ashley finds limited relief in her Older Self on the other side of the mirror who tries to give advice to prevent repeats of her mistakes; however, when you’re the only one who sees the person you’re talking to in the mirror, what’s to prevent everyone else from thinking you’ve finally gone mad?
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Puffin Books is honoring the special occasion in a multitude of ways, including a new edition of Dahl’s delicious children’s novel, a Golden Ticket sweepstakes, and the release of a new title, Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl’s Greatest Creation. What lies between the pages of Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory is a wonderful look back on the creation, adaptation, and cultural impact of Dahl’s Willy Wonka and his magical and mysterious chocolate factory that is sure to be devoured by both Wonka fanatics and those who only occasionally encounter an everlasting gobstobber.
Okay, here’s the set up: It’s present-day America, but not the America that you know (though there are some very potent parallels). See, it’s an alternate reality, it’s the present, IF back in the 1980s children started being born brilliant, idiot savants but without the idiot part. 1% of the population has been born with these gifts, gifts that let them read vectors so well they can avoid sight lines of those around them and become nearly invisible or see patterns enabling them to gobble up wealth through investments so efficiently that the stock market is forced to close. There are many different kinds of gifts, and many different levels, or tiers, of ability, and while only one in every hundred people is actually born “Brilliant,” it has changed everything. Despite relentless research, no one yet knows exactly why Brilliants are being born, but the tension that exists between the exceptional minority and the insecure majority is threatening to tear the country apart. There are radicals on both sides, extremist Brilliants who are convinced that they represent a new and superior form of humanity, as well as a new, covert government agency with a limitless budget called the Department of Analysis and Response (DAR) tasked with investigating and eliminating hostile Brilliants on American soil. The story follows a conflicted DAR agent and Brilliant, Nick Cooper, as he tries to prevent another American Civil War.
“No one, no matter how bad, considers themselves the villain of their own story.” This was one of the conclusions I reached in my review of Samit Basu’s Turbulence last year: a superhero novel set in India, which explored the rather complex aspects of good vs. evil, heroes vs. villains, etc. Now, after reading the sequel, Resistance, I’m not sure that that statement still holds. It’s true to some degree. But, like with the first book, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is rather different in style and tone from much of Andrez Bergen’s previous body of work. Even so, though, there’s a distinct flavor to it that, if you’re familiar with Bergen’s writing, is unmistakable. His influences and his passions always stand out, from elements of noir to classic films and comic books to music, and more. As I’ve remarked before, this tendency to wear his passions on his sleeve is part of what makes Bergen’s work so much fun to read.