Mangaka: Natsuki Takaya
My rating: 3.5 of 5
As one of the outcast “Nameless” (her society’s term for orphans), Kotobuki has had to make her own way in the world–which she’s done by becoming a fairly skillful thief. The one person who always seems to be able to catch her in the act is an elite member of the military by the name of Raimon. Only Raimon seems completely uninterested in arresting her; he’d rather gaze at her adoringly and maybe offer her a candy bar. Eventually, Kotobuki decides to take the high road and become an upstanding citizen who works for a living . . . if only it were that easy to get a job! Lucky her (?) Raimon decides to quit the military and become her traveling companion, providing when she can’t find work. It’s got to be love (or at least obsession).
As a huge fan of Fruits Basket, I’ve been trying to find more of Takaya-sensei’s manga to try. Tsubasa is one of her earlier works, and it shows in somewhat more cliche plotlines and characters, as well as in a slightly less mature art style. But there are a lot of things about this manga that simply scream Takaya-sensei as well: the deep, dark pasts; the sweet, innocent girl who changes everything; the unexpected romances; the insane obsessions. Really, this is quite an enjoyable shoujo sci-fi manga–best for a bit older audiences, though. Partly because of the nudity and ecchiness at parts; moreso because of characters like Raimon who have really unhealthy motives that would be really bad for younger kids to read about and imitate. I do find it interesting that, although it’s called Tsubasa, the tsubasa don’t actually become a serious focus of the story until about halfway through; until then it’s much more slice-of-life focused on Kotobuki’s job search and her growing relationship with Raimon. But I do have to say that, when they do come in, the tsubasa are one of my favorite parts of the story, especially Rikuro. And, typical of Takaya-sensei, there’s a huge cast of unexpected and interesting characters–including an unlikely gang of thieves who strangely remind me of Team Rocket! All told, I think Tsubasa: Those With Wings is a good manga for people who already like Natsuki Takaya’s writing to try–and bonus, it’s only three volumes long, so it’s a pretty quick read.
Author/Illustrator: Marcus Sedgwick
My rating: 4 of 5
Ten-year-old Zoe lives in a world that has been overwhelmed by water. She’s never known anything else, but she knows the world wasn’t always this way. . . . And she knows it’s getting worse. A while back, as food supplies became more scarce and the small island that used to be Norwich continued to shrink, her family escaped on a ship to the larger landmass to the west. But in the confusion of the departure, Zoe got left in Norwich on her own. Now she is setting forth alone in a rowboat across the floods to find her family and a safe place to live, equipped with nothing but her father’s old compass.
Floodland is the first Sedgwick that I’ve read, and it definitely made me want to read more. It’s quite short and easy to read, making it a nice, quick read–and it’s appropriate for middle-grade readers as well as young adults (and adults). The writing style is enjoyable, and the characters and observations are interesting. There’s a good balance between the action and the more psychological aspects, which makes it much more enjoyable that it would otherwise be. Probably one of the most interesting facets of the book is when it takes place. You hear plenty about “global warming” and “protecting the planet”–but it hits you in a very different way when you hear the story from the perspective of a kid who knows nothing except a planet that’s already devastated. Plus, the flooded-earth plot choice was a really nice change from the post-apocalyptic dystopian stuff you usually see when you’re talking about ruining the earth. My one complaint was that the end seemed too perfect; I don’t think most people would react in the way Zoe did. But then, her being ten makes it more likely, and it’s nice in that it gives the story a hopeful conclusion. I guess it’s appropriate, especially considering that this is for pre-teen readers as well as YA. All in all, Floodland was a though-provoking, intriguing story that I would generally recommend to most readers.
Author: Rick Yancey
The 5th Wave, vol. 2
My rating: 3.5 of 5
Cassie and Ben have gotten their small group of survivors to temporary safety in an abandoned hotel, but they’re certain they can’t stay hidden there long. You can’t stay hidden anywhere long in a world that’s been taken over by hostile aliens inhabiting human bodies–aliens that have more tech than you can imagine and that hate the human race with an incomprehensible, unending spite. They send their best shot, Ringer, off to investigate a cave system–a potentially better hiding place, at least for a while–leaving the rest at the hotel to recover (Ben being pretty badly wounded) and hope against hope that Cassie’s alien boyfriend (long story) survived their escape and is coming to join them. But, as usual it seems, nothing goes as planned, leaving all of them in a desperate and continuing struggle for survival.
Honestly, while I generally enjoy Yancey’s writing, The Infinite Sea is a bit of a struggle for me to review. I mean, it was an exciting and engaging read, but I think I need to wait for the third volume to come out and then read all three volumes straight through together. As with The 5th Wave, the POV switches between various characters, making it a bit fragmented. Especially since the point of time also jumps back and forward a bit between characters. To complicate things even further, Yancey only rarely uses the name of the character in whose POV he’s writing, tending to use impersonal pronouns instead. Which I guess works with the whole dehumanizing theme he’s got going in the story–I really do appreciate the philosophical basis behind it–but it sure does make the reading more challenging. Also, there’s this whole Inception sort of mind games thing going on; plots within counterplots within even more evil alien counterplots. The characters don’t have a clue what’s really going on (and yes, some folks might have a good time figuring it out as they go along), but honestly the reader is often left struggling to comprehend. And (final complaint, I promise), I still find the whole Evan and Cassie thing to be a complete Twilight-type throw in that doesn’t really suit the rest of the plot . . . even though it is used to advance the plot in several instances. I still think Yancey should pick the Evan and Cassie story or the huge militarily-focused alien invasion story and stick with that one. But, in spite of all the above-listed complaints, I really did enjoy the story (even though it was sort of confusing at parts). I guess I’d just recommend approaching The Infinite Sea with caution, being prepared for a thrilling, mind-bending, intentionally fragmented piece of very dark science fiction.