Book Review: Season of Marvels: Viking Tales

Book Review: Season of Marvels: Viking Tales by Deb Houdek Rule

This is a collection of four speculative fiction short stories on the general theme of “Vikings” from the small label press Variations On a Theme.

Season of Marvels: Viking Tales

“Viking -Trojan War” is an after-action report about 8th Century Viking raiders suddenly materializing on the USC campus due to the Temporal Physics department getting a bit careless.  The narrative voice is apparently one of the college administrators, and sudden bits of informality suggest that this is the draft version of his or her report rather than the final one.  Lightly humorous.

“The Last Ship” is set in Greenland during the 15th Century, after the supply ships from Norway stopped coming.  A shepherd sings an old song from the pagan times, and one last ship arrives.  Did she call it, or was the ship doomed to begin with, and the survivor less monster than alien?

“Season of Marvels” is closer to the fantasy side.  Kieran, Irish slave of Einar the Earless, wants his freedom.  And in this Icelandic winter where marvels and dark magic are on the rise, he might be able to get it.

“Borealis”, on the other hand, is more inclined to science fiction.  An orphan boy who forms a bond with a cat (possibly psychic in nature) is drafted by a secret organization.  That organization drops him without a briefing on a planet with a Norse-like culture that’s been stagnating for centuries.   Culture shock ensues.

This last story has the most potential to be turned into a full novel, or even a series, as Brock deals with Chimaera and its mysterious goals.

They’re all decent stories, with four very different moods.  The paperback is perhaps a bit overpriced for the size, but I see the Kindle version is inexpensive, or free if you already have Kindle Unlimited.

Consider this one if you like Viking-themed stories, or as a gift for someone who does.

Anime Review: Suisei no Gargantia

Anime Review: Suisei no Gargantia

Gargantia

In the future, Earth became uninhabitable due to extreme cold, so much of the human race took off to space.  Somehow the remainder survived through the freezing, and now Earth is a water world, where the word “land” is a legend.  The remnants of humanity live on interconnected fleets, the one we focus on being named Gargantia.  They sail the “galactic” currents, fishing and diving for salvage from the drowned cities.

The Gargantians have some minor problems with pirates, and have to avoid angering the territorial whalesquid, but mostly life is peaceful.

Until, that is, Ledo arrives.  He’s a soldier of the Galactic Alliance, the humans who went into space, only to find themselves locked in a war with implacable aliens known as the Hideauze.  A malfunctioning wormhole brought him and his intelligent combat robot Chamber to humanity’s home.  Ledo has never known anything but war, and he has difficulty dealing with the relatively peaceful culture of Gargantia.

Ledo starts bonding with Amy, a local delivery girl, and her sickly brother Bevel.  Perhaps this won’t be such an awful place to live?  But then new information surfaces, and it looks like Ledo’s not done with war at all….

This thirteen-episode anime series included in its writers Gen Urobuchi, most recently famous for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a series about magical girls that took some very dark turns.  Gargantia isn’t nearly as shocking, though it does have some interesting plot twists.  Some of the character designs are kind of fanservicey–the designer used to do porn.

The main character arc is Ledo learning how to interact with other people outside of a hierarchical military mindset, and finding his place in his new world.  One of the themes of the story is that the skills and knowledge you acquired growing up don’t always apply to the real outside world, and you have to be able to adapt.  A good amount of time is also spent on Ledo’s relationship with Chamber, who has its own, more subtle character arc.  Chamber is one of the best artificial intelligence characters in years.

Less subtle is Pinion’s (a mechanic with a dark secret or two) character arc, which feels a little forced.

There’s a certain amount of violence, of course, with Episode 9 being the most disturbing about it (and for this reason  I do not recommend the series for preteens or sensitive tweens.)

Perhaps the weakest episode is #5, which is a bathing suit episode and is annoyingly hetero-normative (no thank you for the drag queen stereotypes) and can be skipped if fanservice irks you.  #6 features belly dancing and is also pretty fanservicey, but you’ll want to watch at least the last few minutes as the plot kicks back in.

All in all, a pretty good show that should appeal to mecha and SF fans.

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