It’s a bit later in the day than I had intended, Readers Mine, but there’s still time to answer the burning questions concerning what have I've been reading lately, what am I reading now, and what I'll be reading next.
Interstellar Wars: Last weekend I took a break from all things Whedon in the evenings by reading Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet: Victorious, the final volume of Campbell’s 6-part series dealing with John “Black Jack” Geary. Geary was a naval officer 100 years ago during the outbreak of a vast interstellar war between two human polities, the Alliance and the Syndicate Worlds. During the first action of the war, his ship was destroyed and he jumped into an escape pod and cryogenic sleep only to be awakened after a century to find humanity still at war with itself and himself, through a series of disasters, in command of the last great Alliance Fleet, deep within Syndic territory. His job: get the fleet home and win the war.
The series is pretty standard military space opera, with some good hard science and theoretical naval tactics thrown in, and it starts off really strong. By the third volume, however, it’s getting a bit formulaic. Geary and his fleet face seemingly impossible odds only to emerge victorious after a brilliant battle to sail on into the next book. Major characters don’t die, and you can always count on the good guys to win. Campbell throws in some romance and politics, but it seems tacked on, and is obviously merely a device to move the story along to the next battle sequence. The battle sequences, however, are well written, and Campbell builds tension well.
Over all the series is good Brain Candy for the Military SF fan, and Victorious was a fun read after so much research, writing, and school, but Campbell’s characters are becoming more and more plastic, while actually losing depth. Campbell plans to continue writing in this ‘Verse, however, and the first three books of Lost Fleet were good enough that I’m unwilling to write him off just yet, so… we’ll see.
Allan and the Vampire: Okay, I may have just found the title for a foray into some weird fan fiction. Currently I’m reading Angel by Stacey Abbot from the TV Milestones series, and Allan and the Holy Flower by H. Rider Haggard. I enjoyed getting into the world of Allan Quatermain so much with The Zulu Trilogy collection, that I ordered another omnibus, and dove into it the night we returned from St. Augustine. So far there’s been a wandering American saint, a Zulu witch doctor, an English orchidologist, a Hottentot named Hans, a Portuguese slaver, and an Arab pirate, and I’m 50 pages into the book! No worries though, what Allan and his companions can’t handle themselves, the Royal Navy can, and freedom and liberty in South Africa will be preserved under the Union Jack. Rule Britannia. (I think maybe I enjoy these tales a bit much. Can you be a “liberal imperialist”? [The answer is: yes. Very liberal country, Imperial England.])
On to Stacy Abbot’s Angel. I usually try to avoid having more than one book going at a time, but sometimes it happens, and this thin little volume is well worth it. This is probably the best introduction to the academic study of Joss Whedon’s series Angel that I’ve run across. Abbot Looks at the show’s production history, writing system , its mixing of different genres, its depictions of gender and sexuality, and how and why it should be considered a television milestone. Furthermore, though this is an academic work published by a university press, Abbot’s writing is clear, informative, and enjoyable. While I doubt I have the knowledge base (yet) to get the most out of this little book, I am learning a tremendous amount from it about Angel, and about examining television critically. As a fan, it’s always exciting when something comes along that deepens your appreciation of a show and demonstrates that it is something more than “just a TV show.” Stacy Abbot does both with Angel.
Back to the title of this section. Seriously, Angel teams up with Allan Quatermain, or even Allan Quatermain foils Angelus, depending on the timeline. How cool would that be?
Next on the pile: Lots of stuff. I picked up a couple of hard to find novels by Jack Williamson at Anastasia Books in St. Augustine, as well as Leonard F. Guttridge’s biography of Stephen Decatur, Our Country Right or Wrong, and there is still Jean Edward Smith’s Grant on the shelf. One of the next will certainly be The Television Genre Book, edited by Glen Creeber. It’s been recommended to me as a good introduction to television studies and should be coming my way through the inter-library-loan system any day now. Since I’ll have to return it in a timely fashion, this one will jump to the top of the list. Last, but not least, there are four more Quatermain novels after Allan and the Holy Flower, and let’s not kid ourselves, I’m having way too much fun with those to quit now.