Monday, July 30, 2007

And Now, Finally, the Best M.A.N. Review EVAR

From some dude named Iain Jackson, who totally nails it:

"Picture a lovely, tropical isle. The balmy breezes blow, tourists plague the natives, and all is right with the world.

Enter the giant worm. Takes the top off a few buildings, rampages a little here and there. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just another day on Lapuatu. But thanks to the Monster Attack Network (or M.A.N.), the rampaging is limited, fewer tops of buildings get done in, and the monster eventually gets led back to the sea, or the hole in the ground, or wherever, because that's Just What MAN does.

The main characters are Nathaniel Klinger, lead field agent and operations manager for the Monster Attack Network, and Lana Barnes, newbie agent who may have a Deep Dark Secret. Zeke (whose last name I don't believe we find out) is Nate's best friend and fellow agent... and black. And gay. (That last detail doesn't come out until late in the book, at which point my love of the tragically heterosexual writing team was locked in stone.) There is, of course, a villain (aside from the monsters) as well. There's inappropriate sex! (Alas, not involving Zeke. Next time, maybe.) There's angst! There's drama! There's giant flying microbats and giant robots! And here and there, we see snippets from the MAN Manual, with cheery little anime-ish figures saying things like, "From time to time, you will need equipment not available at MAN headquarters. Every business' charter includes a clause stating that they must, when presented with due cause by a MAN operative, place any requested equipment/personnel at said operative's disposal. They won't want to do this. But it's the cost of doing business on Lapuatu. Tell them to suck it up." (This is followed immediately by a scene in which Zeke commandeers a van and does indeed tell someone to "suck it up.")

The writing and art are well matched -- mostly -- and both very good. Nima Sorat's artwork is wonderfully expressive, and does a great job of showing character and feeling. Unfortunately, it isn't the best for showing clear action scenes, which is a problem in a book that's almost nonstop action. Most of the time, it works out OK, but there are some scenes, especially when the various creatures are crashing into the built world around them, where all you can do is scratch your head and wonder what exactly just happened. The writing also has this weird moment at the very end, which is wonderfully inspirational, and hits exactly the right emotional note ... and ten seconds after you close the book, you realize that it's absolutely and completely wrong, but in a weirdly right way. Given what we've been told about the characters involved, it simply shouldn't happen; certainly not without a lot of angst and agita, at least some of which we should have seen or heard about. But ... it feels like the right ending, so you kind of don't mind.

I really really really want there to be another one of these. Perhaps a Monster Attack Network annual! Something to look for every summer! (Plus, if there's another one, maybe next time, Zeke can be the one having the terribly inappropriate sex. One can but dream...)

Highly highly recommended. Go. Buy. NOW. You will read and read again. Really."

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