:: A while back, Michael May recommended a book called Napoleon's Pyramids, which sounded right up my alley:
I had high hopes for Napoleon’s Pyramids. It promised a lot: a swashbuckling hero, a mysterious medallion, an evil count, and an Indiana Jones-esque adventure to unlock the secrets of the pyramids. I’ve learned to be skeptical though about stories that sound too good to be true. There’s always something wrong. The hero is unlikable, the Maguffin is dull, the villain is unbelievable, or the adventure is a bait-and-switch that promises much more than it ever intended to deliver. Napoleon’s Pyramids has none of these problems. It’s exactly what it claims to be and so much more.
I'll second his recommendation, with one caveat. This book is like a cross between Indiana Jones and the National Treasure movies, set in the Napoleonic era. There are secret societies, ancient prophecies, present-day people who are guardians of ancient lore, exciting chases, thrilling escapes, and interesting characters. You have the French army, the English navy, American spies, mysterious Egyptians, and even Gypsies. All this is mixed together in a plot that is a lot of fun -- so much so that you expect to hear music by John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith while you read it.
The book's pacing slows down a bit as we move into the middle third of the book, but as soon as I became concerned about that, the book picked right back up again. There are twists that are predictable, but I think those are there to distract attention from the twists that are not predictable -- and there are quite a few of those.
My one caveat, that I mention above? Michael May did mention that the book is the start of a series. He did not mention that this one ends on a cliffhanger. Aieee!!!
:: Grease Monkey is fantastic. I loved it. What is Grease Monkey? It's a graphic novel, originally serialized online but now available in a trade paperback, about a young mechanic who comes to live on a giant space cruiser, where he hopes to get a job working on the fighter ships. He is assigned to work with Mac Gimbensky, the very experienced, and very crusty, older mechanic who just happens to be a gorilla.
All of this is in the wake of an alien invasion of Earth, and a subsequent visit by aliens who "uplift" gorillas to human levels of intelligence. The book tells the story of their unfolding relationship, and their trials and tribulations on an immense warship that is a society of its own, with competing squadrons, weaselly mechanics out to steal each others' secrets, cranky librarians, military officers who desperately want control over everything, and, as our young hero discovers, girls.
As a collected webcomic, Grease Monkey is pretty episodic in structure; there's no plot that ties everything together, but there are arcs to follow as creator Tim Eldred opens up more and more of his world. The entire story, though, takes place on this one ship, and the whole conceit is great; it's wonderfully refreshing to read a SF/space opera story where the Admirals and Captains are only supporting characters, and we instead focus on the mechanics who are just trying to keep the fighters flying and find time in between to have dates and read their favorite books.
Grease Monkey also has a wonderful sense of humor. I laughed out loud plenty of times while reading it, and some of the chapters turn out to be elaborate set-ups for jokes that only pay off in the very last panel or two.
Grease Monkey is great stuff. Read it!