San Diego Comic Con has definitely reached such epic proportions that it contained “mini” cons within the exhibit hall itself. Other than the con staple Artist Alley, it was obvious which area was attracting which fans. Areas designated for the television fans contained overlapping booths such as AMC, Starz, and BBC America competing for eyeballs. Or there was the gaming area, which took up a good section of the hall. Almost right in the middle was the bookworm paradise with publishing companies presenting not only new works but also author signings. This area was consistently crowded with avid bookworms swarming the tables.
In this section, every reader had something to check out, whether children’s books or Russian automatons. If you are looking for a new read or want to get to know an author, enjoy the following reviews and interviews that Fangirl Nation was able to conduct.
After the Fall by Dan Santat
Synopsis: Everyone knows the tale of Humpty Dumpty. He fell, with all the King’s men coming and such. After such a shattering fall, how did Humpty get back on the wall? This is story of how Humpty Dumpty made that journey back to the wall to commence his beloved hobby of birdwatching.
The book may be marketed as a children’s book, but in reality, it is for everyone. This book is directed at anyone who has ever fallen physically or in dealing with life and is looking for the encouragement needed to get up again. The tale is the familiar story, but with a peek behind the curtain of what encouraged Humpty to overcome his own inner fear. The book is gorgeously drawn in soothing earth tones and soft styles that evoke calm and assurance with each page. Even though Humpty may feel dejected, each page infuses us the readers with hope and encouragement. The art is soothing and beautiful and serves as an overall balm to help readers take that one step forward toward their goal, whatever that may be.
Interviewing Dan Santat was an particular treat for me, especially after I correctly guessed that he is Thai. Discovering a Thai creator in any capacity always fills me with joy and gives me something to celebrate, as I never see enough Thai creators. Further, I feel that I must immediately help to share the news of a Thai artist who has created such a visually pleasing and heartwarming piece of work that brings enjoyment to all. During his interview with me, Dan Santat mentioned that he dedicated this book to his wife during a passionately particularly rough period in her life when she was dealing with anxiety. So I found this book not only sweet, but also absolutely meaningful and special, since it comes from a personal and loving space that everyone ought to check out.
Ramses the Damned, The Passion of Cleopatra by Christopher Rice
Synopsis: The Edwardian adventure tale begins again after the explosive cliff hanger in The Mummy or Ramses the Damned. The adventure seems to be over, and our main characters are wearily getting ready for their new lives. Julie Stratford and Elliot, the Earl of Rutherford, are stretching their newly immortal muscles and ready to explore the world. However, both Alex Rutherford and Ramses struggle with the sudden loss of the recently resurrected Cleopatra. What was once lost, however, has come back with a new purpose.
The absolute kicker to Ramses the Damned, The Passion of Cleopatra (2017) is that this sequel come THIRTY YEARS after The Mummy or Ramses the Damned (1989) and is a team effort between mother and son. Yes, indeed, Christopher Rice is the son of Anne Rice!
The Mummy or Ramses the Damned, the first book, published in 1989, uses a change in style from the usual books, filling every page with this great jazzy dramatic flair that suits the era of the book perfectly, since the book takes place in 1914 as an archaeologist unearths one of the greatest finds ever: the tomb of the Ramses the Damned. Because of a thankless, cold-hearted, pathetic, stupid drunk, tragedy dims this majestic find. The archaeologist’s daughter, Julie Statford, has the tomb and the treasures taken to her stately home for safekeeping and to honor her father’s legacy. Right before history repeats itself with further tragedy, Julie finds herself saved by the Mummy himself!
The plot is nowhere realistic or grounded, and that is just peachy, being pure fantasy and entertainment. The book contains elements of mystery, romance, and adventure as Julie takes the newly awakened Ramses to explore the new modern world he has awakened to.
So much happens from that point to where Ramses the Damned, The Passion of Cleopatra begins. The sequel contains a seamless transition from the prior book, and I am ever so grateful I did not have to wait thirty years for it.
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
Synopsis: The Telemachuses were on the brink of becoming one of the most famous psychic families in the world. They were on live television ready to show the world their talent. Until their talent didn’t show. Years later, the family is as dysfunctional as it can get. Each member is busy dealing with her or his own troubles. There is Irene, a single mother of an aloof and moody teenage son. Her brother, Buddy, practically ignores the world as he digs random holes in the yard and bolts steel doors to the basement. Irene’s other brother, Frankie, is in debt way over his head and has sought dangerous methods to solve his financial problems. The family is barely holding on as a unit until a glimpse of their psychic power is seen, and the past is re-opened.
Spoonbenders was a read that took every fiber of my energy to pause in order for me to be able to function as a human before getting back to the story. This story has a flavor of dysfunctional family life similar to that seen in The Royal Tenanbaums or Little Miss Sunshine, heaped with compelling mystery and fun reading as well. Each family member is already completely kooky and eccentric without his or her “psychic” abilities. However, because they are a family, they still come together and help one another out.
The mystery that is instigated by the strange behavior of the reclusive Buddy has the taste of Donny Darko in its execution. We learn that Buddy has the ability to see the future, but on a particular day coming up very soon, his visions stop. His psychic vision goes black after this day. We begin the story days before this one day. As the story creeps slowly towards the mysterious event, we flashback to decades ago in the past. With each passing chapter, the suspense builds, and when it happens….zap. My reaction was of complete stunned shock. It all came together. All of it.
During his interview with me, Gregory enlightened me on the history behind the title. As this took place before my time, the reference went over my head! Spoon bending references a well known illusionist, Uri Geller, who was known to bend spoons telepathically on television.
Lost Boy by Christina Henry
Synoposis: Everyone is familiar with Peter Pan. The boy who never grew old as he took the three Darling children on trips to Neverland. There they would have adventures free from adults and from ever growing old. Everyone is familiar with Pan’s enemy, Captain Hook. According to Hook, that is only one version and that version is from Pan’s perspective. This story is about how Pan’s greatest enemy began as his first and favorite Lost Boy.
There is a steady and entertaining trend of books being told from the other perspective of famous stories or from a different angle. Hearing about Lost Boy immediately brings to mind the beloved movie, Hook, which isn’t about Hook’s perspective but the idea of Pan, played by the legendary Robin Williams, actually growing up in the real world. Lost Boy is completely and utterly different as it takes a truly deep and bloody route.
Before he became Hook, he was Jaime- Pan’s first and favorite Lost Boy. Jamie cannot remember how long ago it was that Pan brought him to the island, but he has been around long enough to see scores of young boys succumb to the dangers that Pan has brought them to. It is not Pan, but rather Jamie who has to care for the boys who become sick, who has to bury the dead, and who must protect them all, since no matter how many boys never come back from pirate raids or get taken by monsters, the boys still look up to Pan and will do whatever he says, and this at first included Jamie. At least it did until Jamie begins to notice the manipulations and true danger that Pan has brought upon them all. That is also when Jamie begins to grow up.
It didn’t take long to figure out from interviewing Christina Henry that she is a serious and hardcore writer. Reading Peter Pan (1904) and watching her own son inspired Henry to peel back the mysticism and playful spirit of Pan and show the recklessness, savagery, and deadly charisma that the boy holds.
Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
Synoposis: An anthropologist specializing in ancient technology discovers a secret message while analyzing an ancient automaton doll. Immediately, she finds herself in danger as there are immortal clockwork beings who are searching for the key to their own survival.
Steampunk is a genre that is distinctive in its aesthetic and has been limited by geographic parameters set by authors. It has become an over saturated tangle of goggles, Victorian attitudes, and an avalanche of clockwork gears. SoI experienced immense relief and excitement upon discovering novels that take those Steampunk features and transcend them to a novel of deep values, as well as a fantastic story.
In Clockwork Dynasty, someone unknown has created sentient automatons (or avtomats). They are immortal beings who have thoughts and reasoning, as they live by the core value that has been given to them. and which defines their existence and governs their choices, a sort of clockwork soul. As they live on, these values change and warp through changing cultures, which ultimately divides the automatons’ loyalties and goals. Two mechanical beings, Peter and Elena, are awakened in Russia in 1725 for the Tsar. Very quickly, political changes cause these two mechanical siblings to run, immediately compromising their commitment to their inner values of Truth and Justice.
Many decades later, in another country, Peter and Elena are reluctantly forced to face their past as the archaeologist, June Stefanov, uncovers a key to the survival of the automatons. Although they have lived hundreds of years, they do not possess the ability to fix their inner cores or to create more automatons. They have become a powerful but dying group of creatures.
It was fascinating reading how Wilson was able to bridge Russian and Chinese elements to create this clockwork fantasy. The story quickly goes from a mystery of history to a race against time. He weaves in steampunk, history, mysticism, and Gothic atmosphere, which is an absolute book-nip for this reviewer. Just as after reading Wilson’s previous novel, Robopacalypse, where we see another perspective of robots, now we spot the same shift in perspective on automatons in Clockwork Dynasty. Plus, I just found the vampire connection to the automatons highly entertaining!
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew
Synoposis: In this EISNER AWARD WINNING GRAPHIC NOVEL, we meet Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Charlie is 70 years old and a graphic artist. In this graphic novel, Charlie recounts historical events in Singapore through the use of various artistic media.
It was an honor and a pleasure to interview Sonny Liew on his Eisner Award winning graphic novel. Just flipping through the first few pages of The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye made it easy for me to see why this novel is so amazing and important. A different aesthetic that hearkens to the past and to Liew’s artistic inspirations helps tell the historical events since 1954 from Charlie’s view point. Every panel is thoughtful, gorgeous, detailed, and full of meaning. History is such a hard subject to share using plain facts or even harder to bear as it is usually skewed to one viewpoint. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye gives the reader a more personal connection to these events with Charlie.
History is not my strongest suite, nor is it a genre that I pursue for entertainment’s sake. With this novel, I was engrossed and learned so much. It truly is a phenomenal piece of work and deserves all of the awards and praises it has received.