REVIEW: Russell's Reviews Volume One # 3
milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 19 22:41:07 PST 2008
Today is Sunday, which means we're a day late for...
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/____________/ /__ | / / /__ | //__ VOL. 1
/ \ /___ |/ / /___ |/\/___/ NO. 3
SPORKMAN # 10 [JAN 15, 2008], Fishbone
ACADEMY OF SUPERHEROES # 84 [JAN 18, 2008], Van
The ASH universe, and its flagship series, can at
times be very daunting; there are a lot of characters,
a lot of subplots, and a lot of stories that unfold
into other stories. It often draws heavily on its
past continuity, and while this is very rewarding for
long-time readers, for the newbie it can be a little
mind-boggling. I still consider myself a newbie, even
though I've been reading ASH pretty steadily since at
least the mid-sixties, and sometimes even I need to
keep a print-out of the roll-call handy just so I can
remember who's who.
But in this issue, the focus is squarely on two
characters. There are no subplots present or
interweaving, but rather one strong straight line
running from beginning to end. There's a lot to enjoy
in this issue of ASH, and I heartily recommend it for
any new readers who have previously been unsure about
dipping their toes into it. It ably demonstrates many
of Dave Van Domelen's strengths as a writer in a way
that's readily accessible to the first-time reader.
For example, it's very nice to see such smart
characters. As JakZak and Jen discuss their
situation, trying to anticipate Triton's motives and
actions, they display clear, well-developed
intellects, each capable of discussing the situation
beyond a mere "Oh man, we're screwed". They don't
panic, but rather think. And their conversation--
articulate, well-reasoned, insightful, and
occasionally witty-- is a real pleasure to read.
And this is something Dvandom does really, really
well: writing very smart characters who aren't boring
or irritating. Characters who understand psychology,
advanced quantum mechanics, and themselves fairly
The esteemed critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, a
Mr. Roger Ebert, has often complained of "the idiot
plot", which is "any plot containing problems which
would be solved instantly if all of the characters
were not idiots." And I think it's safe to say that
Dvandom will never, ever be caught writing an idiot
plot. Some of his stories might be great, and every
once in a while one might be a dud, but all of them
will be smart and populated with smart people, and
that's very appealing.
Intelligence also marks the world building in ASH.
The idea of the locus point is fairly clever, very
logical, and explained in extraordinarily concise,
readable prose. Though I think Saxon Brenton might be
RACC's king of Readable Plot Dump/Digression and
Expository Dialogue, Dave runs a very close second.
Dvandom also addresses the moral dilemma that is
usually brought up in time travel stories but actually
manages to deliver the goods, even if in doing so he
elides the big "destruction of Pompeii" scene that the
scene before it seemed to be foreshadowing. But this
was the right choice: the enormity of their decision
to let history take place, to stand by idle, is
communicated more effectively after the fact.
The somewhat philosophical discussion of the Many
Worlds theory is another great scene in an installment
made up of great scenes. It, too, is intelligent and
witty, while being just mystical enough to liberate it
from cold hard science.
So: you've got very smart characters, time travel,
ethical dilemmas, philosophy, and good world-building
in one focused, very easy-to-follow package. What are
you waiting for, new readers? Dive in!
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