|Wychnor House, in the English Midlands,|
one of many former manor houses
that have since been turned into hotels.
1. Ravenshoe by Henry Kingsley. This was a nineteenth century English novel about a young man raised as a protestant in a Catholic household. Eventually, the Catholic priest reveals that the Protestant son is actually a bastard, and the son of an estate worker is actually an heir to the family fortune. The Protestant son leaves his family's manor house, goes to serve as a groom to a rich man, and eventually joins the army. He goes abroad to fight in the Crimean War, and even takes part in the Charge of the Light Brigade. This is a long, epic-style novel. It's less fun than The Pickwick Papers, but like Charles Dickens' novel, it paints a compelling portrait of life among the various social classes in another age.
2. Y: The Last Man: Book One by Brian K. Vaughan. This is a graphic novel I picked up in Hawaii, but finished after I returned home. It collects the first ten issues of the sixty-issue series. In the first issue, an unexplained event occurs, and every male Human and animal dies. This event crashes governments, the financial markets, and industries that supply basic needs like power, water, and food. As the title suggests, one man survives, along with his pet male monkey. The new female president assigns him a bodyguard, who travels with him to find a genetics research scientist who they hope may determine why he lived, while all the other males died. Of course, as he faces dangers at every turn, including from a group of militant Amazon warriors who ascribe all the evils of the world to man. The tension is increased by the knowledge that if he dies, all humanity will follow him.
3. Soulless by Gail Carriger. This recent novel is set in the nineteenth century. It focuses on a heroine who lacks a soul. This makes her immune to the bite of werewolves and vampires, who are created by possessing an "excess" of soul. While Victorian Britain is ruled by the monarch, power blocks of werewolves and vampires act as the Queen's advisors. As for our heroine, she is courted by a scientist who seeks a cure for an "excess" of soul, which would wipe out vampires and werewolves. At the same time, she is courted by a werewolf who oversees a powerful domestic force that guards ordinary citizens against supernatural dangers. For our heroine needs no outside assistance. With her cunning, and her silver-tipped umbrella, and her soulless status, she can defend herself against most every danger that threatens her. If only she had lighter skin, and possessed the features that London society defines as "beautiful." Then she could find a wealthy suitor, and get married!
4. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Is anyone in the world unfamiliar with Sherlock Holmes? This collection of short stories needs little introduction or summary. These are the cases that made Holmes into a household world in Victorian England. I read these stories on my Kindle, a few pages or so each night, until my wife drifted off to sleep. Then reluctantly, I switched over to another novel, such as Ravenshoe, which I also read on my Kindle.
5. WildCATs Compendium by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi. This graphic novel collects the first four issues of this series. The WildCATS is a team of superheroes, overseen by a dwarf (not a mythical being, but a person of short stature) who has gone from homeless to billionaire in a few years. He has accomplished this feat with the aid of a spectral being who can see into the future. Thus, he has raised a team of superheroes, as he knows that there is an evil force, a member of the Daemonite race, who is raising an army of superheroes to control the war. It's all part of a centuries-long war between the Kerubim and the Daemonites, two races who arrived on Earth long ago, and now seek to control the world. If these characters bear some similarities with more recognizable characters from Marvel, they're still fun, and the artwork is particularly striking.
It's kind of an interesting mix so far, comprising an English family novel, a collection of mysteries, a post apocalyptic tale, a clash of superheroes, and a Jane Austen style fantasy mashup. I'll cover the remaining six books in Part 2.