So how does one deal with Aquaman's baggage as a lesser light in the DC Universe? How does one make him relevent when he's always been th
Aquaman #1 --
So how does one deal with Aquaman's baggage as a lesser light in the DC Universe? How does one make him relevent when he's always been the easy target of pop culture jokes (and his Marvel equivalent is decidely more bad ass)?
If you are Geoff Johns you address the issue head on, out in the open, morphing it from a negative into a positive, challenging the reader to set aside their biases, feel some shame for their "uninformed opinions" and empathize with Aquaman.
It works a treat. One issue is all it takes to get hooked by Aquaman, and I figure Geoff Johns will be reeling me in by the end of the arc.
Aquaman #2 --
Cheesy puns aside for this issue, I promise.
What we have here is a classic Aquaplot. Crazy sea creatures, in this case fish-like humanoids with giant pointy teeth -- sort neo-uber-gila men -- have attacked a fishing trawler, then a town, so Aquaman is called in to have a look.
Turns out Aquaman's not too popular with law enforcement, and they certainly don't take him seriously, but none of that matters when the neo-uber-gila men are attacking at full force, spitting paralytic goo and generally giving Aquaman and Mera a tough battle on the docks of the wee beseiged town.
If you like big, nearly bloody battles you'll dig this issue. I'm not a huge fan of these sorts of battles, but it's fun to see Aquaman in action. So there's that.
Aquaman #3 --
The neo-uber-gila men run into too much resistance and retreat into the sea, bearing humans in goo-pods as future food, but they leave behind one of their kind, which gives Arthur / Aquaman a reason to fill Mera and us in on his background, and how his youth fits in with deluded and slightly evil Marine Biologist Stephen Shin.
Not much happens in this issue, except that Dr. Shin helps Aquaman determine the origin of the new-uber-gila men, which is good enough for Arthur. He and Mera take off for the Trench, antagonizing Shin in the process and setting up, no doubt, some future trouble for themselves.
A slower pace in this issue would have helped, but I know this isn't going to happen. It's not in Johns writerly-DNA.
Aquaman and Mera track the new-uber-gila men to their lair with a hive-Queen at the center. Mera wants to kill them and do away with their "evil," but Arthur wants to protect their species and to understand them if he can. The conflict between their approaches is interesting, but there's little debate -- almost no debate. Aquaman presses on, not killing the new-uber-gila men in the process, and Mera follows unhappily.
Then Aquaman kills them all anyway (or so it seems) because steals (liberates?) their food, and when they try to take it back to fee their starving children, Aquaman unleashes the violence he'd been holding back in the form of an ocean floor volcano, thus burying them under rock and lava. Yep, twelve humans from a small coastal town are more important than an entire species. Glad we have that sorted out.
The first ten panels, which include a two page spread, are ten of the best panels I've seen. Arthur falls from the sky, and climbing out of the crater he left in the desert, he looks around and whispers, "Uh-oh." It looks gorgeous and it is scripted with sparing beauty. The rest of the issue fails to match this brilliance, however, and disappointment in this arc is truly beginning to settle in for me.
Before the next arc begins, before we figure out "Who sank Atlantis?" (the big question surrounding what's to come), we get an interesting little interlude with Mera (a.k.a. Aquawoman, but don't call her that). We see her Atlantean ethics at odds with supposedly human ethics (which are always a little too benevolent in the DC universe beyond Gotham), we discover the breadth of her powers, and she makes a friend. I like her. I wonder if I will like Arthur as much as I like her the next trade around. Doubt it.
Surprised: I didn’t expect to like World War Z at all. I’m not even sure why. I like Brooks’ parents, so that shouldn’t have negatively impacted my expectations. I’ve loved Zombies since first I saw Return of the Living Dead in the movie theatre, so I was predisposed to like this book. So I dunno. But I had low expectations, and they were thoroughly exceeded.
It is a great idea, and Brooks’ total commitment to his mock history was convincing. There were times when I couldn’t help letting my imagination run to a parallel universe where this War had actually happened.
The best part, though, was the places Brooks took his Zombiepocalypse – places only The Walking Dead has even approached. Most Zombielit is about the outbreak. The Walking Dead takes the next step, letting us see what it would be like to be a survivor of the outbreak, what it would be like to live during the Zombie occupation, but Brooks gives us the aftermath. How he hell does the earth rebuild after something like that? Brooks takes a pretty convincing stab at imagining how, and it isn’t pretty, nor is it even all that inspiring. I buy it, though.
Fulfilled: My low expectations didn’t extend to the Zombie violence. Even with the oral history format, I expected gore and grotesquery and nastiness, and I got exactly what I expected. There were even a couple of kick ass violent – and not so violent – superlatives, like the marine-Zombies attacking divers, the madness of Yonkers (a pretty impressive moment, actually), the greed of Breckenridge Scott and his Phalanx, and the Redeker Plan (along with the Redeker Twist – which was my absolute favourite part of the book).
Disappointed: Once Brooks blew apart my low expectations with some strong writing and brilliant ideas, he created a new expectation – and a very high one that he failed to deliver on.
Brooks attempted to make his book a global chronicle of the Zombie War, and he populated World War Z with characters from nations on every continent. By the end of the book, though, they were homogenous. The Japanese folks didn’t sound Japanese. The Russian folks didn’t sound Russian. Everyone sounded American. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Brooks gave in to the temptation to make America and their “great” President the saviours of the human spirit. Yep, the Yankees led the charge to defeat the Zombies, to take the war to the Zacks rather than hiding in their fortresses and embracing safety.
We bought an antique piano today, and we were comparing middle C on our dreadfully out of tune piano and our electronic keyboard. The warbling shred of the antique piano made the kids sad because they wanted to sit down and play, but they knew they couldn’t until the piano is tuned. That sadness is exactly the way I felt about Brooks’ decision to make the USA the heroes of his War, but there’ll be no chance of a tune up to take away my sadness. ...more
4. And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before Edward Cullen, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
5. And there came a voice unto me, saying: Isabella, thy lust is forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6. And I, Isabella, knew that Edward could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.
7. And I said: Lord Edward, how is it done?
8. And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in the Cullens, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before we manifested ourselves in Forks; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.
9. Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of Jacob's brethren, the Wolphites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto Edward for them.
10. And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of Edward came into my mind again, saying: I will visit thy wolves according to their diligence in keeping my commandments. I have given unto them this land, and it is a bound land; and I curse it not save it be for the cause of iniquity; wherefore, I will visit thy wolves according as I have said; and their transgressions will I bring down with sorrow upon their own heads.
11. And after I, Isabella, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in Edward; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my wolves.
12. And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, Edward said unto me: I hate you for making me want you so much.
13. And now behold, this was the desire which I desired of him — that if it should so be, that I should fall into transgression, and by any means be destroyed and turned into a vampire, and the wolves should not be destroyed, that Edward would preserve a record of me and the wolves ; even if it so be by the power of his vampiric arm, that it might be brought forth at some future day unto the woves, that, perhaps, they might be brought unto vampiric salvation—
14. For at the present our strugglings were vain in restoring them to the true faith. And they swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of the Cullens.
15. Wherefore, I knowing that the Edward Cullen was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of me, ye shall receive it.
16. And I had faith, and I did cry unto Edward that he would preserve the records; and he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth unto the wolves in his own due time.
17. And I, Isabella, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore my soul did rest....more
I am confident that Stieg Larsson has a reason for this, but Lisbeth Salander is not much of a heroine. Let's list her transgressions from The Girl WhI am confident that Stieg Larsson has a reason for this, but Lisbeth Salander is not much of a heroine. Let's list her transgressions from The Girl Who Played With Fire (and these will be deliberately out of context):
1. She forces herself on a 16 year old boy in Granada. 2. She kills a man on the beach during a hurricane. 3. She shuts out Blomkvist for a very long time for a perceived slight, giving him no explanation. 4. She fails to take or show the necessary care with her ex-guardian after his stroke. 5. She alienates everyone else who cares about her. 6. She lives off billions that she stole. 7. She invades the apartment of her "guardian" and threatens his life in the middle of the night. 8. She endangers the lives of friends and innocents. 9. She very nearly burned her father to death when she was a teenager. 10. She pulls a gun on the owner of a car rental agency and shuts him in a broom closet to control him. 11. She commits multiple computer violations, including the hacking of government computers. 12. She carries and uses illegal weapons. 13. She is genuinely ultraviolent. 14. She shoots a man in the foot after macing his eyes, and she tasers another in the testicles. 15. She steals a motorcycle. 16. She chops her father's knee and skull with an axe. 17. She is vengeful in a way that makes Edmond Dantès look like a sissy.
Let's face it, Lisbeth is more than a little bit nasty. And taken a step further, it is safe to say that she is not particularly likable. She is cold, calculating, emotionally irrational, mean, detached, abrasive, unapproachable, unfriendly, selfish, mercenary, vengeful, and more than a few other things most of us would classify as unlikable.
Out of context, Lisbeth Salander is the kind of person who most people would be more than happy to see locked up forever. And if all we had to go on were the reports of newspapers and descriptions of trials, we'd all see it as a failure of the "justice system" if she went free.
Yet we cheer for her in the Millenium Trilogy; we can't seem to help ourselves. And therein lies what Stieg Larsson is trying to tell us with his challenging protagonist -- context is everything.
Larsson isn't simply writing a compelling series of thrillers (and I haven't been so locked into a book, as I was with GWPWF, for a very long time). He isn't simply fishing for a film deal. He isn't just sitting down to write a vapid bestseller. I'd even go so far as to say that Stieg Larsson is not a hack. Nowhere near. He is criticizing the very efficacy of what we so proudly call the "rule of law."
Larsson is suggesting that the "rule of law" fails because it has no room for context. It deals in absolutes (unless you're one of the super-rich or super-influential), and it doesn't give a damn whether you perceived a threat before you lit someone on fire; it doesn't care whether the sixteen year old you're having sex with is mature, in love with you and is totally willing; it doesn't care that you stole the car or killed someone to save a life; it doesn't care that you withheld evidence from the police to protect yourself or someone you love; it doesn't care that you hacked into computers for altruistic reasons; it doesn't care that you were bred to ultraviolence through nature and nurture; it doesn't care about you and it doesn't care about context. It just doesn't care, and because it doesn't care Larsson suggests that we should have a healthy disdain for the "rule of law" and recognize its terrible shortcomings because it is the structure we have to live with whether we like it or not.
Yet with all this, The Girl Who Played With Fire is -- most importantly -- a cracking read. It is fast paced, cinematic in its noirishness, full of suspense, has a genuine twist or two (one of which actually took me by surprise), a cast of characters it is almost impossible not to love and hate (as the mood takes you) -- even thought they are all rather static -- and it ends with a cliff hanger of the first order (I am guessing this is a problem for some readers, but I am a fan of the cliff hanger).
What a shame Stieg Larsson passed from us so soon. I could have read his books for the rest of my life. ...more
This book is crap in so many ways that I should have put it down after thirty pages and scoured the vacuum tubes of my brain with the light acid solutThis book is crap in so many ways that I should have put it down after thirty pages and scoured the vacuum tubes of my brain with the light acid solution of an idiotic RA Salvatore drow bloodfest.
It's bad enough that the survival of a Cylon Dreadnought from the first-Cylon War raises unanswerable questions for the wider BSG universe -- particularly considering its total exclusion from the reimagined series. But Gardner doesn't stop there. He engages the Cylon's in clearly "evil" machinations at a former Picon scientific colony, years in advance of the sneak attack on the Colonies that precipitated the second-Cylon War, which undermines the careful suggestions by the television series' creators that the Colonials were aggressors who pushed the Cylons into a preemptive strike.
Moreover, Gardner completely abandons the muddy ethics of the series, making all actions as black and white as possible. There are good guys and bad guys, sinners and saints, and there are no cases wherein anyone is challenged by what "they must do." And this is a shame because the gray areas are precisely what made Battlestar Galactica worth watching.
As a result, his versions of William Adama, Saul Tigh and Tom Zarek are pretty awful too. All their depth is gone. It is as though Gardner writes with the depth of these characters in mind but assumes that the preexistence of their depths is enough. It isn't enough, however. Gardner needed to expand on these men, show us their struggles and contradictions, engage with what made them complex men on television. His failure to do this makes them caricatures of what they should have been rather than characters worthy of existence beyond the confines of the Sci-Fi Network.
Then there are the nits to be picked, and pick them I will: 1. never write "anarchic" when you mean "archaic," or you better make sure you have a decent editor; 2. don't call him "Captain Adama" when you've already told us his rank is "Colonel," or you better make damn sure you have the same support as suggested in number one; 3. when you ask a question (or three) make sure you use a question mark rather than a period...question marks (right above the backslash) are there for asking questions -- go figure; 4. drop the wordiness: "Dr. Fuest was never much of a one for speed"?! Seriously? Try Dr. Fuest was never much for speed, or Dr. Fuest was never one for speed. Trust me, Craig, my alterations flow better (and they're correct).
So...yeah...this book was basically crap, yet I still gave it two stars.
What can I say? I am a sucker for BSG, and it was a nice way to escape from the mental strain of Nabokov late in the night. Plus it made me smile...and it fulfilled my expectations entirely.
Don't buy this if you haven't a love for Battlestar Galactica, though. You'll wind up over your barbecue with lighter fluid and matches in hand. You've been warned....more
When I was a kid I would sit in our playroom and watch M*A*S*H* on my black and white TV while everyone else was busy doing their thing. I remember LiWhen I was a kid I would sit in our playroom and watch M*A*S*H* on my black and white TV while everyone else was busy doing their thing. I remember Little House on the Prairie being on at the same time, so my sister and Mom must have been watching the Ingalls. And my Dad...well he wasn't interested in M*A*S*H*. He hated Alan Alda.
According to my Dad, Hawkeye, and Alan Alda by extension, was a bleeding heart liberal, and the only things worse than bleeding heart liberals in our house were "fags" or true commies (and bleeding heart liberals were practically the latter). M*A*S*H* was too anti-war for my Dad, too anti-America, and the way Hawkeye criticized the military industrial complex, whether explicitly or implicitly, pissed my Dad off to no end.
I doubt he'd admit those feelings today, or admit that he ever said the things he did. Not because he's changed his opinions in any fundamental way, mind you, but because he wouldn't want people to think he was intolerant. It was acceptable in my childhood to badmouth "fags" and say they deserved to be put on an island and nuked, just as it was acceptable to preach the commie menace. Nobody looked at him askance back then, but they would now, so he'd never admit he'd held his intolerant line.
I loved Hawkeye's tolerance. It felt right to me despite what my father said. I loved that Hawkeye loved his father because I wanted that for myself. I loved that Hawkeye was funny and talented and fought injustice.
So I would lose myself in M*A*S*H* whenever I got the chance. When it wasn't on TV that was okay because I taped episodes on my little hand held cassette recorder and listened to them until I had them memorized. I learned comic timing watching Alan Alda. I learned my first lessons in acting from the man, and I loved, when I was old enough to notice, that he wrote many of the episodes he acted in.
I was worried when I picked up Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned that learning more about Alan Alda would disappoint me. I was expecting a lot about the M*A*S*H* years, and a William Shatner style musing on the pettiness of his cast mates. The big stars of big shows always seem to be forced to defend themselves in their memoirs, and I braced myself for the sad reality of narcissism and ego I was sure was coming. I shouldn't have been afraid.
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned barely mentions M*A*S*H*. There is one chapter and a couple of passing connections here and there but that's all. Instead, Alda's first memoir is as much about being a human as it is about being an actor. It's about his schizophrenic mother (which was particularly unsettling), his slightly distant, loving but guilt ridden father, the woman he has loved for almost fifty years, his strange obsessions with science, number systems, acting and, of course, writing (and whatever one makes of his acting, the man can write). It's about stuffed dogs and memory and bowel resections.
It made me love him more than I already did, replacing my worship with genuine respect and a little touch of awe for his ability to really submerse himself in the best of life.
Mr. Alda is another father who raised me despite my Dad's influence. I want to tell him how much he's meant to me...but I can tell y'all instead. ...more
Dallas was on TV, and my Mom was sitting in the kitchen doing her nails. I was in the living room with a blank Player Character Record Sheet, a new baDallas was on TV, and my Mom was sitting in the kitchen doing her nails. I was in the living room with a blank Player Character Record Sheet, a new bag of dice, a pencil, an eraser and Gygax's masterpiece.
Mom and I could still talk, even separated as we were by the full kitchen wall, and I could smell the mixture of her menthols, nail polish and nail polish remover from the other room. Our home was small and intimate: a great place to be on a Friday night when it was just the two of us hanging out with bad 80s TV, and our own devices. My little sister was in bed down the hall, and my Dad was off playing poker, so it was just me and my Mom and one of the biggest moments of my life.
It was a Friday night, and I was playing D&D with Robert S--- and his friends the next day. It was going to be my first time. Much to my Catholic father's dismay, and after long attempts by my mother to talk me out of it, I'd spent all the money I'd been saving from my paper route on D&D gear. I bought the Dungeon Master's Guide, The Monster Manual, dice, a couple of metal figures (I remember that one was a dwarf with an axe), a sheaf of PC Record Sheets, and the most magical item of them all The Player's Handbook.
I smelled the smell of my Mom's Friday ritual. I was repeatedly distracted by oil barons and their substance abusing wives. And I was totally stunned into paralysis by the giant fracking mess I'd gotten myself into. I had no idea how to make a character. I'd been reading and flipping and trying to figure things out, and I was lost. Each page made me feel more stupid, each page made me angrier, and I exploded, finally, into tears of frustration.
I was in grade seven at the time, and I was only months away from reading Lady Chatterley's Lover. I'd devoured the Scottish play. I'd spent the summer immersed in Middle Earth. I was a math whiz. I had big glasses. I was a geek extraordinaire, and I sat on our turquoise carpet beaten by THE role playing game before I'd even begun. And I just kept crying. Sobbing, more like.
But then my Mom was there.
She had even less clue than I did, but she didn't really need a clue. All she needed was to be there, to be my support, and she did that. She tried to wrestle with the things that were stumping me, and through her struggles I was able to figure out what I was missing. She played the dunski to my pre-teen pseudo-genius, and just the chance to bounce stuff off someone outside my head helped me unlock bonuses and percentages and thieving abilities and armor class, et al. I figured out the attributes, and I made myself a Halfling thief named Malachi (I know...it wasn't tremendously original, but the Halfling dexterity boost gave me an 18 dexterity, and that seemed wicked deadly to me back in those days).
By the time Falcon Crest was over and missed by both of us, with no chance of a rerun, I had created my first D&D character, and I was ready to sit by Lauren L---, the coolest girl in our class, in Robert S---'s super cold, harshly lit, linoleum floored basement.
It didn't take long for all the "cool" kids to leave D&D behind. Mike C---, Paul E---, Lauren L---, Robert S---, they all moved on to headbanging, and that left me, Jeff, and Mark to spend the rest of our Junior High days in a happy D&D oblivion, (I'm still friends with Jeff and Mark, by the way).
I wait patiently for Brontë & Miloš (and now Scout) to grow old enough for our first foray into D&D, and I hope I can be a worthy guide into the coolest worlds of their imagination.
And even though my Mom wasn't my guide, she was my protector that night twenty-six years ago. And she'll always be tied to The Player's Handbook for me.
Too bad she's gone now. I'd love for her to be here when her grand-kids make their first characters. I bet Të makes a magic-user and Loš makes a fighter, and I suppose I'll have to plan a NPC Cleric to keep them alive.
It isn't bad. It really isn't, but it is not great either. It's nowhere near great. I wish I could say I was baffled by how this became the worldwide sensation it became, but that would be a lie. On stage and on film, The Wizard of Oz has become THE go-to kids entertainment of the last 80-odd years. It is so pervasive as to be a sort of children's propaganda entertainment, indoctrinating our children into the wickedness of ugly witches, the goodness of pretty witches, the innocence of naive young girls, the importance of home, and the need to accept that who we are and how we are is just good enough.
Not all of these indoctrinations are necessarily bad; in fact, some of them can be quite beneficial given the right circumstances, but in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz the presentation of these ideas is always coupled with a quite frightening lack of thought.
None of the characters ask questions...about anything...ever (with the exception of "Can I have brains, a heart, courage, or go home?"). They accept things as they are, blindly agree with whatever they are told, make snap judgments about the good or evil of whomever they meet and act accordingly, and their answer to every antagonistic situation is to kill. Dorothy kills, the Lion kills, the Tin Woodman kills, even the Scarecrow kills, and there is never a hint of regret or guilt from any of them -- even mister big heart in the hollow body. They want what they want, and if they have to kill to get it then so be it.
I have been reading some Wonderful Wizard of Oz criticism as I've been reading the book, and many critics see Baum's opening book as a political and social satire. I tried hard to see it, I wanted to see it, but what I saw was a book that sells familiar myths to people who want the familiar. It is a myth of "goodness," a myth of class distinction, a myth of meritocracy, a myth of "evil," and worst of all a myth of benevolent and righteous violence.
Yet, for all its problems, it is compellingly fun to read, especially if you have occasion to read it out loud to your children and discuss the behaviour of the characters. Even if your children are young (mine are both five), they should leave The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with a touch more self-awareness and a healthier view of the big entertainment versions of Baum's story.
And there is, for me, one truly redeeming quality in this classic: I appreciate the genius of Gregory Maguire's Wicked all the more. I see now why China Mieville chose it as one of the 50 books all socialists must read. I've read Wicked once before, long before I read Baum, but I'll be reading it again...and soon.
Taking my cue from the emotional ratings of the goodreads star system (and I can only muster two stars for this book), I offer you a fully gut reactioTaking my cue from the emotional ratings of the goodreads star system (and I can only muster two stars for this book), I offer you a fully gut reaction to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
didn’t like it 1. The ninjafication of Lizzy and the Bennet sisters. It was completely idiotic. The book really should have been called Pride and Prejudice and Ninjas with Zombies to allow dumb ass Ultraviolence. Had Grahame-Smith simply employed the available military training of the Regency period and allowed the Bennet girls to be warriors of that sort, I could have suspended my frustration at his failure to see the difference such a shift would have made on the period itself, and his failure to engage with these changes. But by adding his bizarre, counter-factual, Asian cultural influence without any explanation, without any sense, Grahame-Smith made ignoring the illogic of his changes impossible. Plus, I fucking hate Ninja stories. They were embarrassingly bad when Chuck Norris was turning them into movies, and they are even worse when tossed inexplicably into a Regency Romance.
2. The Destruction of Lizzy. This is partially a result of Grahame-Smith’s Ninjification of P&P, but mostly it is his stupidity. P&P&Z’s Elizabeth could be the lead smarmy girl in any of a thousand teenage high school flicks. In fact, there is nothing of the Regency girl left in Grahame-Smith’s version. She’s a Millennial Girl with a Katana, and that strips Lizzy of all that makes her attractive.
3. Then there’s the vomit. It doesn’t matter that Grahame-Smith offers a tongue-in-cheek defense of the constant stream of vomit in his book. It is disruptive, silly and annoying. And damn near everyone does it. Oh sure, Mrs. Bennet is the biggest puker, but at some point almost every character pukes discretely into their handkerchief. Yeah, yeah, Zombies eating brains is gross, but when one has been surrounded by the Unmentionables for fifty years, it is unlikely that one will share our sense of decorum and our weak stomachs.
it was ok 4. The Zombie scenes were nowhere near as exciting and interesting as I expected. In fact, the Zombies seemed incidental. They were their so Elizabeth could whip out her Katana and kill things indiscriminately. One of the elements of good Zombie tales is that there is always a sense of danger. Sure there are a plenty of cheesy Zombie movies, but there is always a feeling that the characters are going to have their brains eaten and turn into Zombies themselves, but when Mr. Darcy or Elizabeth or any of the Bennet sisters whip out their swords there is no threat to anyone but the Zombies. Still, baiting Zombies with heads of cauliflower is kind of fun.
5. The one character who turned into a Zombie. Charlotte Lucas’s joining of Satan’s legions starts out strong even if it ends poorly. It went on much too long, but Charlotte lusting after the brains of animals at the dinner table did make me smile.
6. Seth Grahame-Smith’s attempts to capture the style of Austen. They were acceptable, though uninspired.
liked it 7. The quarantine of London It made me smile.
really liked it 8. The initial idea Zombies in Pride and Prejudice?! It's a brilliant idea. Too bad Grahame-Smith’s execution didn’t match.
it was amazing 9. The cover. With its Zombified Regency woman, the touch of blood, the freaky red eyes, the exposed jawbone all while mugging the cover conventions of the classic novel, it was a kick ass marketing ploy that would have sucked me in had the idea not sucked me in first (not that being sucked in can be called a good thing).
10. Grahame-Smith’s book club bit. “A Reader’s Discussion Guide” was smart, funny, and did repair my opinion of the stupidity of the book -- just a little.
11. The pencil sketch illustrations. Filled with Zombies and swordplay, the sketches were big hits with my kids. If I left the book lying around they were checking out the Zombie madness. For me, every sketch represented one step closer to being finished. So I loved them too.
12. Jane Austen’s writing. It was still the best part of the book, and there was plenty of it there to make reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies tolerable. I’ll be grabbing some real Austen soon, however, so I can cleanse my literary palette....more
Jaws is the tale of a marriage on the edge of failure. Chief Brody, head of the Amity police, is married to Ellen. They've three kids. He's a native oJaws is the tale of a marriage on the edge of failure. Chief Brody, head of the Amity police, is married to Ellen. They've three kids. He's a native of the area; one of the poor boys who spent his days on the beaches while the rich folks came down to vacation from the big cities. She's from one of those big cities, from one of those rich families, and since she married Chief Brody she's been an outsider amongst the natives and outsider amongst the tourists. She belongs nowhere and feels herself wasting away in the tiny beach town, and she pines for what once was. (view spoiler)[She ends up sleeping with Matt Hooper, ichthyologist and younger brother of a boy she once loved, much to the Chief's chagrin (hide spoiler)].
Jaws is the tale of shady land speculation, organized crime and local governmental corruption, wherein another poor local boy "makes good," becomes Mayor, becomes one of the "nouveau riche," then winds up putting lives at risk to save his own skin and pay his bad debts.(view spoiler)[ A storyline that parallels and informs what's happening with Ellen, showing us what happens to those moving between classes in either direction (and suggesting that, perhaps, everyone should stay where they fucking belong, amongst their own people -- much to my discomfort and frustration) (hide spoiler)].
Oh yeah ... Jaws is also the tale of a killer shark that starts eating swimmers off the coast of Amity. Chief Brody, Matt Hooper and Quint (the infamous modern Ahab captured so wonderfully by Robert Shaw in Spielberg's movie, although he only shows up in the book in the last eighty pages after one brief half page cameo early on) go out and try to save the people and Amity's economy by catching the greatest of great white sharks. (view spoiler)[Hooper dies in this version, and the final take down of the Shark is Quint's rather than Brody's , then Brody swims towards a light house on the coast all by his lonesome. (hide spoiler)] It all feels like an afterthought, a tacked on third act of a book that never knew what it wanted to be, and the total lack of closure as the novel ends is pretty disappointing.
Once again, the movie proves to be better than the book. Much, much better.
Glad I reread this, though. A woman I loved told me to read this again, once upon a time, and I promised I would. It took a decade, but I lived up to the promise.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This really is the worst book of the Harry Potter bunch, and its lack of quality isn’t helped by its position in the series. For all its faults, PhiloThis really is the worst book of the Harry Potter bunch, and its lack of quality isn’t helped by its position in the series. For all its faults, Philosopher’s Stone is a strong first novel and does a great job of sucking its readers in -– even the grown up ones -– and Prisoner of Azkaban, for its balanced mix of suspense, character development, and the first real glimpse of the world beyond Hogwarts and Privet Dr., makes it, for me, the best of the entire series. So Chamber of Secret's number two position is a bad place to be in the Harry Potter world.
What it boils down to is that Chamber of Secrets is kinda dumb. This is the third time I’ve read the book, and the first time I’ve read it out loud to my kids, and it just doesn’t work well. There’s too much idiocy, really. The flying car is dumb. Hermione turning into a half-cat is dumb. Gilderoy Lockhart is dumb (though played extremely well by Kenneth Branagh in the movie). Aragog, the big blind spider, is dumb. And even Dobby is dumb long before he becomes interesting.
For all these reasons the book feels outside the Potter universe. Almost everything in the other book makes sense to me, but this one is bizarre. What makes it worth reading, despite its dumbness, are the bits and pieces that hint at the world we'll see in the future: the introduction of Dobby and the house elves, the first taste of Tom Riddle, the beginning of the long road of love for Ginny and Harry, the naming of Azkaban as a prison that evokes terror, and the introduction of the surprisingly important Moaning Myrtle set us up for what's to come.
Yes it’s a crummy book, but it's not horrible. And kids love it, so that's gotta be worth more than one star (but only just)....more
More often than not Dark Knight Returns is considered one of the greatest graphic novels -- if not the greatest. I can't deny its importance to the foMore often than not Dark Knight Returns is considered one of the greatest graphic novels -- if not the greatest. I can't deny its importance to the form (and to the myth of Batman -- responsible as it is for Bruce Wayne's shift into the "Dark Knight" era), but having taught it a handful of times and read it for "pleasure" a few more (this reading having been prompted by Christopher Nolan's disappointing trilogy capper, The Dark Knight Rises) I feel that it is a vastly overrated work.
And Frank Miller is delusional.
In fact, I will go so far as to suggest that we're damn lucky Frank Miller can express himself in words and pictures (and get rich doing it) because if he couldn't express himself artistically (or was a failed artist like a certain Viennese painter), I'd put money on him walking into a theatre or a Sikh temple or a political round table and opening fire.
The Dark Knight Returns is an ugly manifesto for vigilantism; it is the mad nightmare of a right wing kook who sees the world in ways that it simply isn't; it is an apologia for the first strike; it offers chaos and evil and calls it anarchy without any understanding of what anarchy is; it is a jingoistic, Soviet-era piece of Cold War propaganda; it is an attempt to rationalize violence as the proper response to violence; it attempts to reinforce the myth that a "good man" (or country?) can do bad things to bad people and the act cannot, therefore, be bad; yet it offers the tools to undermine and deconstruct the delusions of its author with what seems to be total obliviousness.
There is no depth to the characters in this book. Batman is an ugly thug, a giant meat head, a bludgeon, a nasty beast of a man who revels in the torture and maiming of the "evil" denizens of Gotham. He's the ultimate rich bully, the bully who gets away with his bullying -- even today in our hyper-aware bullying police state -- the bully whose bullying is "okay" because it is targeted at other bullies or because the bully is too beautiful and rich and popular to really be a bully. Miller's Dark Knight isn't complex in any way -- certainly not in the way many of his antecedents have achieved. He is ugly and nothing more. His parents died violently, so he became a weapon against criminals. It's as shallow as it is simple.
Miller also gives us the shabbiest expression of Superman ever to hit the comics. Just like the Batman, there's no complexity to the Man of Steel. He's a Boy Scout who follows the law and does what he's told by his leaders, so he's a target for Miller's ham-fisted criticism. Miller tells us Superman is weak and less than Batman because he can't do what must be done the way Batman can. Superman doesn't torture and maim; Superman doesn't kill; hence, Superman is a pussy.
I closed the cover of this book moments before I started writing this review, and I can tell you that it's been a long time since I've felt so disgusted by the work of an author. It gets worse for me each time I read this, but like a moth banging into a window I can't stop returning to this, trying to see what I miss that everyone else sees. My disgust gets worse each time I read it, yet I can't stop my examination of how this nasty tale could have led to our fascination with The Dark Knight. How could an idea that has had some truly excellent manifestations (such as Nolan's Batman Begins or Jeph Loeb's Batman Hush) come from such awful source material? How can people like this book? What the hell am I missing? It's a mystery that only the World's Greatest Detective could solve. Too bad he was nowhere to be found in The Dark Knight Returns....more
Since joining goodreads, I’ve been baffled by the Neil Gaiman love fest. American Gods, Neverwhere, Stardust, The Graveyard Book, they appear to be unSince joining goodreads, I’ve been baffled by the Neil Gaiman love fest. American Gods, Neverwhere, Stardust, The Graveyard Book, they appear to be universally loved, and I’ve been skeptical of this emotion that borders on worship. These books are good and all, and I recognize their general accessibility, but I don’t personally find any of them mind blowing literature. Gaiman’s prose is no match for China Mieville’s or Iain M. Banks’ or Ursula LeGuin’s (and countless others who write speculative fiction), and the way he recasts mythology into contemporary settings is more clever than inspired. The love accorded Gaiman, therefore, feels disproportionate to the quality of his work – at least to me.
Lately, however, I’ve been reminded that I once loved Neil Gaiman, and that reminder was my return to The Sandman Preludes and Nocturnes. Like his other fine work, The Wolves in the Walls, The Sandman series plays to Gaiman’s greatest strength: his ability to conjure beautiful images from artists. But it also elevates many of the things that Gaiman is usually only able to do adequately. His writing, when confined by thought and dialogue bubbles, is inspired (mostly because its goal is to be natural and believable rather than aspiring to literary greatness); his contemporizing of mythology is much more palatable (happening, as it does, in a comic book universe predisposed to gods and heroes); and his naturally cinematic pacing works better in a graphic format. Yes, indeed...graphic novels are Neil Gaiman’s best form.
Sleep of the Just – This may be the greatest first issue of a comic ever written. The capture of Morpheus/Dream/Sandman (or whichever name of his you prefer), the sleeping sickness, his inevitable (and beautifully patient) escape and vengeance guarantees that any fan of fantasy or comic books or fantasy and comic books must continue with the series. Even better, though, Sleep of the Just could have been its own stand-alone issue, and that would have been good enough. There are few single issues of a comic that are so fulfilling. I buy it all, and everything I had to know was given to me. Luckily, Gaiman left me with plenty beyond what I wanted to know. My personal favourite: the introduction of Sandman’s helm. Killer.
Imperfect Hosts – A kick ass follow up episode that includes a taste of Sandman’s powers, the characters that populate his Dreamworld, and the beginning of his search for the three artefacts stolen when Burgess captured him instead of Death. This episode is most notable, however, for the way Gaiman weaves his Sandman into the existing universe of DC. I am not a DC fan. I read Batman and Superman because they are cultural requirements, and what I know of the DC Universe is filtered through the pages of those books, but Sandman was a rare piece that warped and wefted its way into the DC universe without letting itself get bogged down in DC’s usual shabbiness. Imperfect Hosts is where this all begins to happen.
Dream A Little Dream of Me – A weakened and vulnerable Morpheus is busy looking for his sandbag, the first of the three stolen artefacts that can restore him to his former splendour and power. So he tracks down John Constantine, the Hellblazer, who bought the sandbag years before and put it into storage, but the sandbag is gone, stolen by Constantine’s ex-lover, Rachel, a heroin addict who needed money for a fix. She never got it; instead, the sandbag took control of her mind, throwing her into a forever nightmare that included the transformation of her father into a room sized, living, breathing, tortured, mass of flesh. Dream a Little Dream of Me is a horror show that hints at the depths of nightmare Dream will combat in future issues, and it embeds Morpheus more deeply into the DC Universe. It’s a satisfying chapter in Morpheus’ rebirth, and this is where the patient build towards the story’s literary quality begins.
A Hope In Hell – This is the one issue that really doesn’t thrill me too much. Morpheus goes to Hell and meets up with Lucifer, Beelzebub and Azazel – Hell’s triumvirate of Dark Lords – demanding the return of his helm. He ends up dueling Choronzon for his helm in a "reality" battle. Each takes a turn in the shape or form or concept of something or other. Each incarnation is slightly tougher than the opponent’s until the victor’s incarnation can’t be beat. Morpheus defeats Choronzon as "hope," which totally sucks. Hope?! Please. I can see hope as a stage in the battle, perhaps, but as the ultimate incarnation of victory? No way. Hope can be good, but it’s also an emotion that can derail thought and action -- and that makes hope potentially bad and self-defeating. Still, Lucifer was cool and his parting words about Dream give us plenty to look forward to in the series to come: “One day, my brothers...One day I shall destroy him.”
Passengers – A creepy start to the search for Morpheus’ last artefact – the Ruby of Dreams. A decrepit Doctor Destiny is sufficiently mad when he escapes Arkham Asylum, Morpheus runs into J’onn and Scott Free from the JLI, and the Doctor Destiny corrupted Ruby throws Morpheus into a catatonic stupor on the floor of a storage garage in the middle of nowhere, all setting the stage for the most terrifying chapter of Volume One:
24 Hours – Bloody, nasty, marvelous. Dreams in the hand of a corrupted man become corruption, and the whole Earth suffers. This is the best issue of The Sandman in Preludes and Nocturnes, so I'll let it speak for itself. But be warned: this one is not for the faint hearted.
Sound and Fury – This is a satisfying resolution to Dream’s return to power. Sandman shows John Dee mercy, he bestows the Earth with a night of pleasant dreams, and he returns to his Dreamscape to rebuild his kingdom. It’s not quite as powerful as 24 Hours, but it does what it needs to do.
The Sound of Her Wings – Death is a beautiful thing. If there were no other reason to love Neil Gaiman, this realization would be enough because Death really is a beautiful thing -- both in the comic and at the end of our lives
I’m glad I revisited Gaiman's greatest moment. Maybe now I can enjoy his new stuff more and appreciate him as much as so many of my friends do....more
I gave The Joy Luck Club two stars, but that ranking is based solely on my personal enjoyment of the novel. I feel, quite honestly, that I do not haveI gave The Joy Luck Club two stars, but that ranking is based solely on my personal enjoyment of the novel. I feel, quite honestly, that I do not have any business judging the quality of Amy Tan's most famous work.
I am a white, bearded, slightly overweight, off-kilter, stay-at-home Dad/author who teaches part time at a Canadian university and full time at home. I love dark and violent American literature. I love speculative fiction. I love Aubrey/Maturin. I love Shakespeare. I love Keats and Byron and Blake. I love the Lost Generation.
What I know of China comes from indoctrinated Cold War disdain, my Marxist world view, martial arts movies, a few trips to Epcot center, my love for Asian cuisine, M*A*S*H*, bad television documentaries, and the contradictions that adhere to that bizarre list (oops! I almost forgot Big Trouble in Little China). So I recognize that I see The Joy Luck Club though a massive filter. There are countless removes between me and those beautiful ladies doing their "tiger-mom" bit between games of Mah-Jong and good eats.
I appreciated the window into an experience that I wouldn't otherwise have in my world; I sympathized with their stories and struggles; I pulled for their happiness and that of their daughters; I kept reading dutifully. But I never really felt myself understanding any of these women despite my desire to do so.
My two stars are my failure rather than Tan's. She did her job well. It just wasn't my pot of green tea. I wish it were....more