Never have I read such a marvelously plausible work of Science Fiction. There are many prophetic works, and plenty of works of farther distant futures...moreNever have I read such a marvelously plausible work of Science Fiction. There are many prophetic works, and plenty of works of farther distant futures that I can see being possible, but The Space Merchants is mostly here right now, and everything else (if you exchange Mars for Venus) is merely moments away. And that is a scary fucking proposition.
Pohl & Kornbluth's world is an overpopulated mess, where food and water are at a serious premium and the super-rich dominate the use of goods and services. And that world is ruled by the all-powerful ad agencies, who just happen to have overtaken every industry. There is a President who is no more than a useless figurehead. There is martial law that everyone happily accepts. There are Orwellian levels of thought control without any need for thought police because advertising and media do the job quite nicely. And there is the usual group of revolutionaries working clandestinely for the "good of all."
The Space Merchants has been on one of my must read lists for twenty years, and I've only now gotten around to it because I tracked down a two part radio play of it on Relic Radio's Sci-Fi podcast. I'll be giving it a listen tonight, but I am not sure how close to the book a sixties CBS radio play can be, especially considering the damning criticism of America's consumer culture, and its ambiguously depressing ending. I imagine it is going to end about halfway through Mitchell Courtenay's journey, when his capitalist dreams are complete. I'm kind of stoked, regardless.
One last thing, if you are looking for a classic work of Sci-Fi to turn into a mini-series SyFy, this is the the work for you. Mitchell Courtenay could easily be the Don Draper of Sci-Fi pop culture. And there's even a part for Peter Dinklage (and a damn good one).
Charles, you had it absolutely right. I am so glad I got around to this. (less)
This book made me feel sick to my stomach. Not because it was too gory or because what was written disagreed with me in a philosophical way, but becau...moreThis book made me feel sick to my stomach. Not because it was too gory or because what was written disagreed with me in a philosophical way, but because I have grown to care about Kurt Wallander over the eight books I've read -- maybe even seeing a bit of myself in him -- and it's in this book that he is most under siege, and that feeling of being under attack was the feeling that made me feel ill.
His protege, Martinsson, the man he trained in the way his mentor Ryberg trained him, the man he kept in the police force when he was about to quit, the man he most trusted, has been quietly out to get him, undermining him with the police chief, the prosecutor's office, and his other colleagues.
His love life is a shambles, and when he finally sees a glimmer of hope it turns out to be an illusion designed to use him.
His personal relationships are all amok. His daugther is distant; his father is dead; his step-mother is playing at guilt; he can't see the one person closest to him for her closeness, so he keeps pushing her away (or, at least, maintaining his distance); he's even losing people he counted on without knowing it and finding it impossible to connect with the new people that are coming in to take their place.
And each of these bits and piece of Wallander's character made me physically ill. I've been where he's at (I may even be where he's at to some extent), and when all of those personal issues were coupled with real physical danger as a result of the case he was solving, I found myself reacting as if I could be a voice in his head, screaming advice, willing him to make positive decisions, begging him to stand up for himself.
It was an uncomfortable mirror for me, really, and it did its job of building and maintaining tension better than any other Wallander book I've read. It's entirely possible that this tension only works if someone connects with Wallander as I did, but it is there to be found if you are lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to make that connection.(less)
I felt like brushing up against the '60s last week, more as a way to uncover some more serious places to start reading than to truly inform myself abo...moreI felt like brushing up against the '60s last week, more as a way to uncover some more serious places to start reading than to truly inform myself about the period, but I was pleasantly surprised by John Robert Greene's willingness to criticize the sacred cows of the generation.
Whether discussing JFK's poor legislative record (before and during the Presidency), MLKJr's lack of support from the Black activist community who felt he wasn't doing enough and was too quick to capitulate to the Man, LBJ's war mongering, Ike's diplomacy or Nixon's supposed crookedness, Greene suggests -- quite explicitly -- that the myths of oru expectations and memories are very different from the realities of these men and their mark on their times.
It makes me want to read more, more than I already did. Job well done, Dr. Greene. Your "further reading" sections already have me adding to my list of to-reads. (less)
Of all the characters -- villains and heroes -- within Batman's sphere of influence, it is Dick Grays...morewritten by Kyle Higgins & art by Eddy Barrows
Of all the characters -- villains and heroes -- within Batman's sphere of influence, it is Dick Grayson, specifically Dick Grayson as Nightwing, who is the most important to our reading of Batman himself.
Many, if not most, would argue that the pride of this place goes to Joker. He is often seen as Batman's opposite: the dark to Batman's light, the crazy to batman's sane, the chaos to Batman's order. But that's not the case, as many great comic book writers have been quick to show us. Batman and Joker, who they are and their actions, are but shadowy reflections of one another, they are too similar to be opposites. They are both dark, both crazy, both chaotic, and if there is any difference at all it is the difference of motivation and what that does to their consciences, which is where Batman manages to separate himself from the Clown Prince of Crime.
And it is in the realm of conscience that Dick Grayson plays his fundamental role in the life of Batman. Dick is the Horatio to Bruce's Hamlet. Like Hamlet, Bruce's parent(s) are murdered and his actions from then on are motivated by vengeance. Like Hamlet, Bruce is a prince above the peasantry, a man untouched by the constraints of lesser men. Like Hamlet, Bruce is brilliant, makes connections others can't, and is capable of deep love and emotional pain. Like Hamlet, Bruce needs a Horatio. He needs Dick to be objective when he cannot, needs Dick to criticize his behaviour when others won't, needs Dick to offer opinions when Bruce fails to see something important, needs Dick to protect him from himself.
It is Dick who is uncomfortable with Bruce's more brutal moments; it is Dick who is most against Batman's relationship with Catwoman; it is Dick who will receive a request to join the Justice League from his benefactor and have the guts to say no; it is Dick who will step in to maintain the presence of Batman when Bruce is missing; it is Dick, even more than Alfred, who will turn his back on Bruce when he/Batman has gone too far. He'll always come back, sure, but he will stand by his principles even in the face of the man who took him in and made him who he is.
So Nightwing was one of the New 52 I was most excited to read.
Traps and Trapezes (Vol 1), the first arc of the series by Kyle Higgins & Eddy Barrows (whose pencils are fantastic in this arc), is glorious when it comes to Dick Grayson: it lets Nightwing be Nightwing, lets Dick be Dick, without Batman (at least until the last possible moment in issue #5). The influence of Bruce is all around Dick, of course. But for five issues we get Dick on his own, on his own and dealing with some pretty serious shit.
Haly's Circus is back in Gotham, the circus Dick was in as a boy, as one of the Flying Graysons. It is the big top under which his parents fell to their deaths, and Dick finds himself inheriting the circus from a family friend at the same time as he is being hunted -- as himself rather than his alter ego -- by an assassin named Saiko (think a pissy Wolverine-lite).
It all builds up to an arc-closing confrontation with Bruce in the Batcave and some serious revelations about what Dick was being groomed for before the death of his parents and his moving in to Wayne Manor.
There's nothing groundbreaking about the plot, the action or the dialogue. It's pretty tame stuff, although all those elements have enough quality to do their job. The arc is strong, however, when it comes to character, and that's what matters to me when I am reading a Nightwing comic. If I want deep plots I go to Detective Comics; if I want killer action and dialogue I go to Batman; but if I want to spend some time with the Bat-characters, I go to Nightwing, which is precisely where this arc excelled. We were given a touch of Barbara Gordon, a hint of Bruce and Alfred, and plenty of Dick.
And who would turn down plenty of Dick if given half a chance? (sorry ... how could I resist)(less)
Harry Potter and the Tempest of Voldemort* BY JK SHAKESPEARE
Act I, Scene ii
(VOLDEMORT and BELLATRIX in a musty, dusty English mansion in a state of dis...moreHarry Potter and the Tempest of Voldemort* BY JK SHAKESPEARE
Act I, Scene ii
(VOLDEMORT and BELLATRIX in a musty, dusty English mansion in a state of disrepair.)
VOLDEMORT Here cease more questions: Thou art inclined to sleep; 'tis a good dulness, And give it way: I know thou canst not choose.
(BELLATRIX sleeps) Come away, servant, come. I am ready now. Approach, my WORMTAIL, come.
WORMTAIL All hail, great master! grave sir, hail! I come To answer thy best pleasure; be't to fly, To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride On the curl'd clouds, to thy strong bidding task WORMTAIL and all his loyalty.
VOLDEMORT Hast thou, servant, Perform'd to point the tempest that I bade thee?
WORMTAIL To every article. I boarded the Hogwart's Express; now on the engine, Now in the waist, the roof, in every car, I flamed amazement: sometime I'ld divide, And burn in many places; on the windows, The rails and ties, would I flame distinctly, Then meet and join. Your lightnings, the precursors O' the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble, Yea, his dread trident shake.
VOLDEMORT My brave grovelling fool! Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil Would not infect his reason?
WORMTAIL Only Potter. All else felt a fever of the mad and play'd Some tricks of desperation. All but Potter Hid in their compartments of quit the vessel, Then all afire with me: the Granger girl, the Weasly boy, With hair up-staring,--then like reeds, not hair,-- Were the first that leap'd; cried, 'Azkaban is empty And all the Dementors are here.'
VOLDEMORT Why that's my rat! But was not this nigh the bridge?
WORMTAIL Close by, my master.
VOLDEMORT But are they, WORMTAIL, safe?
WORMTAIL Not a hair perish'd; On their sustaining garments not a blemish, But fresher than before: and, as thou badest me, In troops I have dispersed them 'bout the fens. Potter have I landed by himself; Whom I left cooling of the air with sighs In an odd angle of the highlands and sitting, His arms in this sad knot.
VOLDEMORT Of the Hogwart's express The professors say how thou hast disposed And all the rest o' Dumbledore's army.
WORMTAIL Safely at the station Is the Express; in Hogsmeade, where once Thou call'dst me up at midnight to fetch butterbeer From the still-vex'd Rosemerta's, there she sits: The professors all under hatches stow'd; Who, with a charm join'd to their suffer'd labour, I have left asleep; and for the rest o' his Army Which I dispersed, they all have met again And are within Hogwart's, Bound sadly for the Sorting Hat, Supposing that they saw the Express wreck'd And the great Potter perished.
VOLDEMORT WORMTAIL, thy charge Exactly is perform'd: but there's more work. What is the time o' the day?
WORMTAIL Past the mid season.
VOLDEMORT At least two glasses. The time 'twixt six and now Must be spent by you most preciously.
WORMTAIL Is there more toil? Since thou dost give me pains, Let me remember thee what thou hast promised, Which is not yet perform'd me.
VOLDEMORT How now? moody? What is't thou canst demand?
WORMTAIL My arm.
VOLDEMORT Before the task be complete? no more!
WORMTAIL I prithee, Remember I have done thee worthy service; Told thee no lies, made thee no mistakings, served Without or grudge or grumblings: thou didst promise To make me whole, my Lord.
VOLDEMORT Dost thou forget From what a torment I did free thee?
VOLDEMORT Thou dost, and think'st it much to tread the ooze Of the salt deep, To run upon the sharp wind of the north, To do me business in the veins o' the earth When it is baked with frost.
WORMTAIL I do not, Lord.
VOLDEMORT Thou liest, malignant thing! Hast thou forgot Thy foul friend Sirius Black, who with age and envy Was grown into a dog? hast thou forgot him?
WORMTAIL No, Lord.
PROSPERO Thou hast. Where is he now? speak; tell me.
WORMTAIL Sir, escaped Azkaban.
VOLDEMORT O, was he so? I must Once in a day recount who thou hast wronged, Which thou forget'st. This damn'd wizard Black, With mischiefs manifold and disloyalties terrible To enter wizard hearing, from Azkaban, Thou know'st, has fled: for one thing he desires Vengeance upon thy wretched head. Is not this true?
WORMTAIL Ay, sir.
VOLDEMORT This blue-eyed Black who once wronged us And hates you wretched rat. Thou, my slave, As thou report'st thyself, betrayed him for me; And, for thou wast a wizard too weak Too pathetic, too abhorr'd to strand alone, Gave your loyalty to me, did betray Black, With the help of my more potent ministers And in his most unmitigable rage, He seeks you now; within which state Only I protect you from his wrath These dozen weeks; within which space he roams free And haunts thee with potential; so thou grovel'st and groan As fast as mill-wheels strike. Then was your service-- Your right servitude to my greatness your protection Thou buck toothed whelp, hag-born--dishonour'd with A rat's shape.
WORMTAIL Yes, my Dark Lord.
VOLDEMORT Dull thing, I say so; thou, thou cunning Rat Whom now I keep in service. Thou best know'st What torment I did find thee in; thy whinges Did make wolves howl and penetrate the breasts Of ever angry bucks: it was a torment To lay upon the damn'd, which Dumbledore Could not again undo: it was mine art, When I arrived and heard thee, that made an end to freindship Gave thee purpose and let thee out.
WORMTAIL I thank thee, master.
VOLDEMORT If thou more murmur'st, I will rend an oak And peg thee in his knotty entrails till Thou hast howl'd away twelve winters.
WORMTAIL Pardon, master; I will be correspondent to command And do my wizarding promptly.
VOLDEMORT Do so, and after two days I will rearm thee.
WORMTAIL That's my noble master! What shall I do? say what; what shall I do?
VOLDEMORT Go make thyself like a rat o' the sewer: be subject To no sight but thine and mine, invisible To every eyeball else. Go take this shape And hither come in't: go, hence with diligence! (Exit WORMTAIL) Awake, dear BELLATRIX, awake! thou hast slept well; Awake!
*inspired by two of my students: Molly Chase and Rebecca Stewart(less)
John Lee, the narrator of many of the more famous Miéville books on audio, has a voice made for very specific kinds of stories. The City and the City...moreJohn Lee, the narrator of many of the more famous Miéville books on audio, has a voice made for very specific kinds of stories. The City and the City is one of those stories wherein his voice works, as it also does with Miéville's Kraken. He has the kind of voice that perfectly suits the cynical world of our now. Hard without being harsh (and without the gravelly phlegm of smoking too much), almost combative in his delivery and mostly humourless (which worked oddly well in the very funny Kraken), Lee sounds like the sort of guy Miéville is usually writing about in his Earthbound books. So imagining Lee's voice as that of Tyador Borlu, even with the English accent when it should really be some form of Balkan accent, is not at all difficult. His voice is perfect for the jaded cop from Beszel, expressing pragmatism, annoyance and righteousness (though not necessarily of the "self") in turns. I'm not as big a fan of John Lee when he tries to read the Bas Lag books, but for Miéville's stuff on Earth, there is no one better. (less)
There is a little over a decade of comic book writing I need to catch up on. I loved comics and collected religiously from my early teens to my mid-tw...moreThere is a little over a decade of comic book writing I need to catch up on. I loved comics and collected religiously from my early teens to my mid-twenties, then I drifted away from comics for a long time. Only now, now that my kids are discovering comics, have I found my way back to this world I love so deeply, and now that I am back in comic book land, I get to come to fantastic works I missed out on the first time around. Enter Superman: Birthright.
With the possible exceptions of Batman, Spider-Man and the Hulk, Superman has the most well known origin story. Even those who've never read a comic or seen a superhero movie are likely to know the origin of Superman. They know he is the last son of Krypton (even if they've never heard of Jor-el). They know he was adopted by a childless farming couple in the American prairies (even if they don't know it's in Smallville, Iowa). They know that he goes to the big city and hides his alien identity behind a pair of glasses and a bumbling demeanour (even if they don't know he is a jornalist named Clark Kent and that the city is Metropolis). They know he is the most powerful being on Earth.
We all know these things because it has been told and retold countless times, in comics, in cartoons, in multiple movies, in multiple television shows, in dime-store novels; we know these things because they have become the target of satire or criticism or celebration in sit-coms, comedies, plays, academic theses and even literary works.
So with that level of cultural saturation -- a saturation that goes well beyond the comic nerd sphere of influence -- how in the Multiverse can anything new be brought to the generative myth of Superman? Much to my surprise, very easily and with excellence.
The key is in the recognition, which has since become an integral part of Superman's existence, that no one on Earth would be too pleased with a sublimely powerful, indestructible alien wandering around doing good deeds. Superman / Clark Kent / Kal-el is simply not welcome around these parts. No matter how much good he does, he can be either a potential enemy to us all or an unwelcome deus ex machina who can only make our decisions -- even our destructive decisions -- meaningless because he has the potential to correct them and save us, against our will, from ourselves.
It seems like a small thing, perhaps, but it is far removed from the dazzling Superman, the perfectly good and beloved Superman, the completely accepted Superman, who existed from his creation to the Christopher Reeve films and beyond. He was the Superman that only the "bad guys" would fear because if you were a good guy you'd have nothing to fear from the Last Son of Krypton. But that's not the world we live in now. We live in a world of chronic xenophobia, paranoia and insecurity, and there is nothing secure about a super-alien who can do damn near anything.
In Birthright, Mark Waid recognizes the truth about Superman's near omnipotence, and he expresses it through the two most important human men in Superman's life: Pa Kent and Lex Luthor. The former tries to warn Superman of humanity's fears and convince his son to stay hidden and avoid conflict. The latter embodies humanity's paranoia, only ramped up to the levels that only a mad ultra-genius could attain, putting Luthor in a position to make a power grab using the best possible tool -- Superman himself.
Details of Luthor's power grab aside, Pa winds up being correct, and the world is not happy about the rise of Superman, even less so when Lex Luthor's plans come to fruition, and nothing Superman does to thwart Luthor's plans for domination can overcome the damage done to his own trustworthiness at the hands of his greatest enemy (a man/boy with whom Clark Kent was once a friend).
It's powerful, it's refreshing, and it leads seamlessly into this summer's newest expression of the Superman origin in the Man of Steel. We've heard Kevin Costner's Pa telling Clark that maybe he should have let others die to remain hidden. Some have been appalled by that idea, but the idea was Waid's and for a legion of comic book fans who prefer to have their superheroes in a world like our own, it is an embracing of verisimilitude that will make Superman relevant once again. And no matter how good the movie is, Birthright already exists and has done the job for nerds everywhere.
Yep ... we'll always have Birthright, but wouldn't it be wonderful if Man of Steel was excellent too?.(less)
How the times change. My most recent class left me with the impression that most of them are just fine with the Ludovico Technique, thank you very muc...moreHow the times change. My most recent class left me with the impression that most of them are just fine with the Ludovico Technique, thank you very much. If it makes criminals incapable of committing crimes, then they didn't give a damn about free will. Mind control is welcome if it makes us "safe." That frightens me, and what little hope I've held onto for our world is slowly disappearing. Maybe I am the cynic a close friend suggested I am. But fuck ... I didn't think it was going to be like this. (less)
I bought this for my boy, and he has been leaving it on the shelf in our living room, so I was just sitting there and thought I would take a look. Now...moreI bought this for my boy, and he has been leaving it on the shelf in our living room, so I was just sitting there and thought I would take a look. Now I feel compelled to share.
Mythos: Captain America: Paolo Rivera's art is pretty, all muted tones and gentle brush strokes, but Paul Jenkins writing doesn't do anything for me, but that could be because I am a long time fan of Captain America. I love the old geezer, and I've read countless versions of his origin story, even seen a couple in moving pictures, and this one, with its focus on the "Golden Generation," along with plenty of saccharine humility on Cap's part was an inauspicious beginning to the sequence of origin stories. Oh well, I really picked up the book to read Vision's creation again (it's been years), so I'll keep plugging away when the feeling takes me.
Mythos: Hulk: Booooorrrrrrring. Why even bother with the retelling of this origin? Throwing in an iPad for Rick Jones and making him a maintenance man, making Bruce a pacifist, cutting Bruce funding, these things added nothing worthwhile to the classic story. The art was pretty, though, just like the Captain America retelling. I am hoping that at least one of these chapters has more worth than some pretty art.
I can't really be bothered to break these all down. The art is pretty throughout, but only one story benefited from the updated, classy treatment -- Luke Cage. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch & Ant Man and Wasp both suffered from packing too much emotional baggage into too short a space. Vision hit all the right plot points, but left me as cold as the android Avenger's emotions. And Thor was Thor: arrogant at first, less arrogant later on, bellicose at first less bellicose later on, thick at first, less thick later on. The best part of Thor was that we got to see Sif's hair shift from her mythologoical golden locks to her jet black Marvel locks, which was also the saddest part.
Great for someone who is new to the Avengers, but mostly annoying if one already knows these stories. It would have been better if the origins of Captain America, Hulk and Thor had been replaced by more peripheral Avengers. But my eight year old son enjoys it, so I suppose it works for the classic demographic if no one else. (less)
I finished this book a while back, but I needed to let it sit and marinate before tackling my review. I'm not sure why that is exactly. It's not for f...moreI finished this book a while back, but I needed to let it sit and marinate before tackling my review. I'm not sure why that is exactly. It's not for fear of bias getting in the way of my review (I've long ago lost any pretension of objectivity when reviewing anything); it's not because I didn't have things to say. Perhaps it is simply that my enjoyment of the book and its quality don't match, and I needed to reconcile that in and for myself before sharing it with others.
My enjoyment -- I run a comic review website. Clearly I am a comic nerd. So I am of this book's target audience, and it serves me and my brethren well. It is, essentially, a history of the creators and writers and artists and bureaucrats and greedy bastards and corporate villains who made Marvel the biggest comic book company of all time, and nearly drove it into the ground over and over and over.
It's the story of Stan Lee maybe co-creating most of the big characters with Jack Kirby, and Jack Kirby maybe creating the big characters on his own, and Marvel the entitiy screwing Jack Kirby royally regardless of the role he had (Lee likes to claim he was in the same boat as Kirby and that he understood all along that his creations weren't his own, but then Lee was working for the family in the family business when he created the big guns. Hardly the same boat, is it?).
It's the story of psychedlic trippiness, cosmic tales, and LSD inspired deadline pushes. It's the story of creative infighting, of creative teams coming together and splitting apart. It's the story of how Marvel's liberal politics were always -- and quite by mistake -- at the forefront of social change and then pulled back when things got too hot. It's the story of selling comics to kids, and ringing as much money from the wet towel as they possibly could in every way they possibly could.
And that's all the fun stuff.
The quality --I know I've been implying that the quality isn't all it could be, and it isn't, but it is important to note that it isn't Howe's writing that is lacking quality. He writes fine. It is his courage that is lacking.
We are left -- in those moments I mentioned where Howe discusses the behind the scenes drama -- with a sense that there is more, much more, that Howe knows that he's not telling us. This book is touted as an "unvarnished" and "unauthorized" take on Marvel Comics and when a book take that's stance it has to be braver by far than Marvel: The Untold Story.
Surely Howe discovered more about the Kirby/Lee battle over character creation. Where are the interviews with their colleagues? Howe mentions these folks, mentions that they know things or don't know things, but he never tells us what those things might be. Where is his investigation into the controversy? Where is his opinion? Where are his conclusions? Not here, that's for sure, and this isn't the only time he steers away from controversy. There's no discussion of how John Byrne's Canadian super-hero, Northstar, a character of the 80s, was a gay man becoming mysteriously and gravely ill, of how we, the readers, all knew that Northstar was suffering from AIDs, and how Byrne's plans were tossed aside right at the moment he fled to DC and took over Superman. These and other stories like them are where the real "untold" stuff sits, and Sean Howe simply didn't do enough to fulfill the promise of his title. So ... quality lacking.
But there is one more quality issue, and that's that this book will do very little for anyone with a passing interest in comics and nothing for people with no interest. It is for fanboys and no one else.
I wish it had been for everyone as I think it could have been. Perhaps that task will fall to someone else (or to Sean Howe once the players he's protecting have passed away).(less)
I don't like Peter Pan. I don't like the idea. I don't like the book. I like the Disney movie only very little, and I've never bothered seeing it on s...moreI don't like Peter Pan. I don't like the idea. I don't like the book. I like the Disney movie only very little, and I've never bothered seeing it on stage. I don't like either of the live action film versions I can think of at the moment. I just don't like it, so it is no surprise that I like Peter Panzerfaust much, much better than everything that's come before it.
It didn't need to do a whole hell of a lot to get there, though. But it did, which is good because this is a truly inspired take. Peter Pan (the lone Yankee) and his French Lost Boys as Resistance to the Nazis in WWII France? It is precisely as cool as it sounds. We've already seen Untersturmfuhrer Hook for a moment (pre-hand loss). We have an appropriately spunky Peter. Wendy and her brothers are there in peripheral supporting roles, and joy of joys, the narrative has been delivered by one of the Lost Boys himself.
Image is producing some excellent comics at the moment. If you're a fan of the medium, you should check out what they've got in their stable at the moment. Image is doing it right. (less)
It's no Persuasion, and this time through it suffered for my simultaneous listen to Charlotte Bronte's Villette, but P&P is still a great piece of...moreIt's no Persuasion, and this time through it suffered for my simultaneous listen to Charlotte Bronte's Villette, but P&P is still a great piece of fiction. 200 years old this year too. Happy 200th, Ms. Austen.(less)
This is a cute, inoffensive little adventure story that winds up offending me anyway simply by being present in the world. What sort of a grump am I,...moreThis is a cute, inoffensive little adventure story that winds up offending me anyway simply by being present in the world. What sort of a grump am I, eh?
I was looking for something a little easier for my dyslexic girl. She'd been struggling with some bigger books, and she needed a burst of confidence to help her get back to where she wanted to be, so I found this book, saw how easy it was and brought it home for her.
Mission accomplished: she blew through it, had fun, and moved straight back to a more difficult book with her confidence restored. For that, Dinosaurs in the Dark's practical use, it earns a second star (if there were no mitigating circumstances, I'd only give it one star).
So why am I so offended? I'm offended because I know talented authors, plenty of them, who can't get their stuff published, and their stuff is good stuff. I've had the pleasure, for instance, to read the beginning of one of Scribble Orca's books, and in its "in process" state, her book is vastly superior to Dinosaurs Before Dark. Her book is original; her relationships are realistic; the stakes are believable even in her fantastic setting, whereas Mary Pope Osborne's book is none of these things. It is fine, but it is an elementary school student's paint by numbers picture, and not a terribly complex paint by numbers picture at that. So that's where the offense lies: talented friends (or talented folks I don't know) can't get a sniff of publication (and are forced to the ghetto of self-publication), but hackosaurids, however good intentioned, live their "dream" of writing for a living -- when that happens I can barely contain my bileousness.
So this book? This book should be bound in a soft folder, maybe put together with brads, and brought out for Osborne's children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, passed on within a family and nothing more. Like so many more deserving authors books are destined to be. (less)
"Step back and think about this one. It's ridiculous. Giant silver bullets? Another genocidal X-Man story? Death and resurrection and death and ...? A...more"Step back and think about this one. It's ridiculous. Giant silver bullets? Another genocidal X-Man story? Death and resurrection and death and ...? Another super-powered alien race? Space S.H.I.E.L.D.? Another big 'sacrifice' that won't be a sacrifice. And the inexplicable failure of all the big brains to save things in the end" "I know. It sounds crazy, but I can't help myself." "So nothing I say can change your mind?" "'Fraid not.' "Why?" "That Joss Whedon is pretty good." "How? He wrote all that silliness." "Yes, but he made all that silliness work, and then it isn't silly in his hands. Is there anyone else who can do what Whedon does with Marvel Superheroes?" "Sure. There's gotta be." "No. There doesn't. Just like the Avengers movie, Whedon doesn't just offer the ultimate X-Man team experience (gloriously devoid of the always excruciating and self-righteous Professor X)--" "--Not devoid!" "Yeah, yeah, a one frame, hinted at deus ex machina cameo, but at least we didn't have to listen to him yammer on about 'my X-Men.'" "No. We had Cyclops for that." "Exactly! But Cyclops didn't go on about it. Whedon used it as a passing of that hat, a true claiming of leadership. He made it the ultimate Cyclops moment. And THAT is what Whedon does best. He doesn't just make a great team story, he turns his team stories into the best possible individual stories." "Such as?" "Best Colossus moment ever in the energy core. Best Wolverine moment ever after burning his way into the atmosphere. Best Kitty Pryde moments ever while in bed with Peter and then saving the Earth. Best Emma Frost moment ever facilitating the plan. And as I said, the best Scott moment ever when he releases his blast and calls his X-Men to him." "What about Beast?" "Okay, 5 of 6 is pretty damn good. I guess Beast got the Hawkeye end of Whedon's stick." "Yeah, Hawkeye sucked in the Avengers." "A waste. But everything else was so good, as it is here in Astonishing X-Men, that I feel compelled to let it go." "So you dig this?" "Love it. Second favourite complete comic story I've ever read." "Really?! That good?" "That good." "What beats it?" "C'mon. You know the answer to that." "Oh yeah. I guess I do." (less)
This did not go the way I expected at all. I haven’t heard a dissenting voice from anyone about Preacher. Not one, although I’ve not looked at any of...moreThis did not go the way I expected at all. I haven’t heard a dissenting voice from anyone about Preacher. Not one, although I’ve not looked at any of the reviews here on goodreads. In fact, I’ve had numerous friends say, “You have to read this book,” and, “Dude, you will love this book,” and since it was all from people I trusted, loving Preacher was my expectation.
Nope. I hated this book.
First, this book is populated by the most idiotic array of stereotypes and caricatures (certainly these characters can’t be called archetypes) outside of a Circus Sideshow:
Foul-mouthed, sexed-up, lost his faith Preacher? ✓ Foul-mouthed, sexy, Preacher-loving-hating Moll? ✓ Foul-mouthed, ultra-violent Vampire (but he’s Irish. Isn’t that original? No. Not terribly.) ✓ Foul-mouthed, racist, Texas sheriff? Cormac McCarthy-style, unstoppable, amoral Saint of Killers? ✓ Cocky, arrogant, bureaucratic, disbelieving FBI Agent? ✓ Too butch, sado-masochistic, homophobic homosexual? ✓ Big city, throw-the-book-out-the-window, abusive super-cop and his bumbling partner? ✓ Overbearing warrior Angels, sexy Demons, idiotic heavenly functionary Angels? ✓ An absentee God? ✓ Dog-faced boy?✓
I find nothing compelling about this cast of assholes, and I am usually a fan of assholes. I can care about assholes if they are unique and I can believe their behaviour. Not this bunch, though.
Second, Garth Ennis is an Irishman writing about a Texan douchebag wandering the U.S., and there are times when it is distractingly obvious that Ennis is not American. His Texan characters speak in ways Texans would never speak. It might not happen often, but it happens enough that I noticed, and oddly enough, when they slip, they speak precisely like someone from Ireland. Go figure. Couldn’t this story have been told just as effectively in Dublin or Belfast as the starting point? Couldn’t the Preacher have been a priest? Perhaps the Vampire could have been a Yank, then? I think it could have been all of these things, and had it been I wouldn’t have found myself constantly being yanked out of the comic by inappropriate vocabulary and regional cadences.
Third. the humor was awful. Had one character been a smarmy dipshit, quick with the cutting, insulting banter, I probably would have loved him/her? But the fact that EVERY-SINGLE-CHARACTER (with the exception of Saint of Killers and a cop named Tool) was capable of smarmy dipshittery drove me mad. The dialogue was painfully one note -- and there was a ton of it. The dialogue just goes on and on, like a Quentin Tarantino table talk, but without the entertainment value. If this is any indication of Ennis’ usual writing, my expectations have fallen into a muddy trench; one I’d be happy to leave for the danger of No Man’s Land.
Sure there were some interesting moments and wannabe twists (all of which Ennis telegraphed too obviously), but they were not enough to save this comic for me. I worry that I expected too much, though. I truly expected greatness. I thought I was opening something on par with Alan Moore’s best, and with expectations like that there was no way Preacher Gone To Texas could succeed. For that reason alone, I will take a crack at the second volume, but Ennis better hook me with that book or I am all out.(less)