I confess that I started reading this series out of order. I can't say if that affected my rating. I will say I was disappointed with this first read...moreI confess that I started reading this series out of order. I can't say if that affected my rating. I will say I was disappointed with this first read of Constantine in the graphic novel format. I have read a novel with him Hellblazer: War Lord, and I liked that more.
In all honestly, I am completely square when it comes to free love sex, drugs, and alternative religions. None of that are things I would choose for my life. Yes, that's an obstacle with this book, because they play a big part in this story. However, I believe all humans are equally worthwhile, and I care about the connection you form with a character, even if I don't necessarily agree with their choices.
John Constantine is on the run, implicated in a series of brutal murder with occult elements (when he actually saved the world in that situation and didn't kill those people). He runs into a group of earth-religion practitioners and bonds with a strange young girl with precognitive abilties named Mercury. Her mother Marj, is the poster child for an aging flower child/hippie chick. Her friends are all good-hearted, kind people who have a penchant for psychedelic drugs, earth spirituality, and living off the land. They generously take in Constantine, and he bonds with them. Constantine has led a rough, cynical life, but I get the impression that he is a kind person at heart, and goes out of his way not to harm others. When Mercury is kidnapped, he vows to get her back, even though it takes him back into the eye of the dark, occult storm he is trying to escape.
My biggest issue with this story was the graphic violence and the horrible murders that took place. I admit I am sensitive to that kind of thing. Ritual murders and stuff, and pretty much any kind of heinous murder or violence like that disturb me. This was all done by the bad guys, of course. So it's perfectly warranted to dislike them. ( I wish they had gotten more comeuppance in the end.) The Fear Machine concept was interesting, but stomach-turning. I think fundamentally, I hate when people's fears and weaknesses are manipulated, and I certainly hate innocent people getting harmed for whatever reason. Also, some aspects were confusing and didn't translate in the visual medium well. I had some question marks, even when I finished this book.
Constantine himself, is a likable character, what I'd consider an amiable rogue (and I do have a weakness for them and antiheroes). I think ultimately he does save the day, but I wish he had done so a little sooner, and the methods he used were kind of questionable and didn't make a lot of sense to me. I love the graphic novel format, but I feel that prose would have worked better for this storyline, and I might have liked this more.
Will I keep reading this series? Yeah. I really like occult detective stories. And while I didn't like some aspects of this particular volume, I am hoping that I will find other storylines that appeal to me more than this one did. Your mileage may vary.(less)
This book was a pleasure to read. The atmosphere is so classic Victorian and Gothic, the humor hit the mark, and while I wasn't sure about how success...moreThis book was a pleasure to read. The atmosphere is so classic Victorian and Gothic, the humor hit the mark, and while I wasn't sure about how successful using real-life writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and playwright Oscar Wilde as a crime-solving duo would be, it turns out to be perfect. Wilde's wit was exactly what I expected and Doyle is just as lovable as his creation. I definitely recommend this book to those who are Victoriana-inclined, and who like classic/Gothic horror.
Dancy Flammarion is quite an unusual character. A young teenager who has been on her own for a while, guided by a seraph who leads her to monsters she...moreDancy Flammarion is quite an unusual character. A young teenager who has been on her own for a while, guided by a seraph who leads her to monsters she needs to kill. I first became acquainted with Dancy in Alabaster, and I was drawn to her character. I wanted to protect her, even though she is much more fierce than I could ever see myself. In Alabaster, I wasn't quite sure of how much was real and how much wasn't, as the writing was quite surreal. In this graphic novel, I think you pretty much know that Dancy isn't living out a psychosis of what's happening to her. Sometimes graphic novels don't tell stories well, but that is not the case with this one. This story leads itself very well to the visual medium, so I am glad that they decided to make it into a graphic novel.
The artwork is beautiful. Although some imagery is dark and disturbing, I still see a lot of beauty in the manner in which Dancy's fine features are drawn and painted (as well as another young woman she encounters), and even the choices of color and design in the darker scenes. The motion of the wolves is conveyed very well, even down to their musculature and sinews. Dancy is an albino, and the artist captured this excellently, from her white hair, white skin, and to her red/pink eyes. The artwork also brings the Gothic Southern atmosphere to vivid life. It is spot on with that otherworldly feel of the South, where a bloody history and rich folkloric heritage (slavery and Civil War) has tinged the land in so many ways. Even in the daytime scenes, the hot sun seems barely able to protect against the dark monsters lurking in the shadows.
The stories are nicely sinister, with just enough menace to make for a scary/slightly disturbing read without going over the line into the grotesque and unpalatable. The lettering captures the feel of Kiernan's prose very well, and I could clearly hear the syrupy thick Southern accents as I read. I was holding my breath as I read, not sure if Dancy was going to make it out of the very sticky situations she faces. She's very good at what she does, but she's not invincible, so she faces very real threats along the way. I appreciate how things ended. I'm not ready to say goodbye to this special young lady.
I think this is a good read for those who are inclined more to classic horror, because it has such great atmosphere, and the storylines are tailored towards the older themes of horror. As I mentioned above, the Southern Gothic feel, but also a bit of the Lovecraftian sort of mythical feel. It makes me think of those occult detectives who are alone in their fight against the monsters of darkness, such as Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John and Kolchak. This is awesome because Dancy is a young woman, and she doesn't need a man to rescue her.
I have to give this one 4.5 stars because it was very nearly perfect. I hope for more Dancy adventures in the future.(less)
Three Parts Dead is a fantasy novel that teases at the senses and perceptions of the reader. Gladstone takes some fantasy concepts and weaves them int...moreThree Parts Dead is a fantasy novel that teases at the senses and perceptions of the reader. Gladstone takes some fantasy concepts and weaves them into a creation that has its own flavor and feel. It's not urban fantasy in the common sense. It's not epic fantasy, either. It's a novel that forges its own path.
Gladstone takes the sticky territory of faith and belief in a deity and asks the reader to trust him and to follow where he's going. For those readers who are believers in God and who consider themselves religious, it will take some trust not to assume that Gladstone is attacking the system of belief and devaluing it. In fact, he gives the reader something to ponder and does not do this at all. While I don't believe that my God needs my faith to keep him alive, I did like how Gladstone examines the intrinsic relationship aspect of faith. Faith requires trust in your God. Faith requires a commitment to keep believing despite what circumstances may show. In the case of this book, the character of Abelard acts as a stand-in for a person who lives a life of faith. The struggle that is inherent in living in a world in which belief in God is steadily becoming an oddity and many have rejected such an idea and consider it irrelevant. With Abelard, he faces that crisis of faith and that anguish of being confronted with the idea that his god doesn't live anymore, and the hole within that comes from that lack of communion with him. At the crux of faith is that understanding that what one believes does benefit that person, even when others lack an understanding of how this happens.
Tara represents the skeptic. The person who has trained herself not to subscribe to a faith-based way of life. Tara feels that she has it together, and has all the power within to make prescribing to faith in God unnecessary to her life. She feels with her education and her life, she is above having faith in a deity, and almost has a smug way of looking at Abelard because she sees things on a higher intellectual level and outside of his faith-based worldview. While Tara treats Abelard kindly, underneath there is a smug attitude that she'll show him that he doesn't need God. That the concept of a deity is just something that can be used to achieve some sort of end-goal. Look how well she's done. I'm not picking on Tara here. I'm just commenting on how her character acts initially in this book.
Both Abelard and Tara are younger people, who have a ways to go in their life experiences, although what they have experienced is not to be dismissed. Both have a lot to bring to the table, and I feel they learn a lot from each other, and working together, they can achieve an important purpose in this novel.
And then there is Cat. Cat's character is not as well developed as Abelard and Tara. I felt that she is in transition and hasn't learned who she is as a person, what her identity is. But in that, she is a stand-in for that person who is searching for something to ground them in their lives. Who they are and what they stand for in this life. How does faith or lack thereof tie into this?
The world-building is its own character. Gladstone doesn't give much of a frame of reference, because Alt Coulomb, the home of Kos The Everburning feels modern and ancient. The city's very machinery is powered by the god they pay homage to. You have touches of modernity, and even with Tara's agrarian origins, it feels as though the story is set in the present, but in a different world. The idea of Justice and the Blacksuits was another concept that was both alluring and unsettling. I have to say that with the teasing touches that I get in this book, I end up with more questions and wanting more of this world-building. This world that Gladstone created could easily sustain several books.
I absolutely loved the idea of the gargoyles. How they had made their mark both literally and figuratively on the city. The buildings were scarred by their talons. The descriptions of their unworldly and intimidating beauty spoke to me as a visual artist.
The concept of craft and magic was also alluring in this story. The manner in which Tara used her powers. The concept of altering reality through the use of craft. The idea of the God Wars, a background piece of history which proves integral to the plot, but is not described in great detail. This is another area that could easily be picked up if the author chooses to write more stories in this world.
It's so hard to condense my thoughts into a review because this book had my mind running. Some aspects lost me a bit and I would find my mind wondering. But then another scene or concept would grab my attention and refuse to let go of it. I guess that's why I couldn't give this five stars. Part of me wasn't fully satisfied with the story. I felt like there were two many goals with this story and the author wasn't sure what kind of novel he wanted to write. Part mythical fiction, part occult detective novel, with some probing insights into human psychology and the power of belief. What I was glad about was that he didn't take this opportunity to attack organized religion. That just gets old. I think that there is so much more to probe into when it comes to matters of faith than just beating the drum about how the church manipulates and takes advantage of believers. I think we know that this is possible and happens more than any believer would like. Let's put that aside and explore other aspects of belief and how this can clash with other worldviews, or how belief is not as foreign and unfruitful as we might assume. While Gladstone only scratches the surface here (since this book isn't 1000 pages), he delivers something thought-provoking that I could appreciate.
Three Parts Dead has something to offer the genre of Fantasy. I would recommend it.(less)
War Lord manages to be shockingly dark and laugh out loud funny in various parts. John Constantine is an amusing and fascinating fellow in this book....moreWar Lord manages to be shockingly dark and laugh out loud funny in various parts. John Constantine is an amusing and fascinating fellow in this book. He gives out this vibe of the bumbling ineffectual, who could give a flip about anything. However his ability with magics and the arcane is inestimable. A drunk, chain-smoker, and a bit of a lecher. His sense of morality doesn't seem to fit into the boxes that you might usually ascribe characters. However, he does have a sense of honor, just believes in doing things his own way. All in all, hard to pin down and not one to be taken for granted.
The storyline itself is very harsh. It's about war, and the fact that many use war to profit. That's no secret, but seeing it written down on paper emphasizes the wrongness of glorifying in human suffering, causing it for one's own ends. In this case, a dark cabal is stirring up violence to awake an ancient War Lord to bring about the apocalypse, so they can rule. However, that's not going to go over well, not with Constantine on the opposite side (even if he dislikes the fact that he has to choose sides).
I found myself laughing at some of the admittedly coarse humor. But it was very funny. I loved the side joke in which Constantine remarks about the parallel worlds that exist, one in which he has black hair and wears a black coat, and lives in Los Angeles. That might sound familiar to some folks.
Some parts are off-putting, even repulsive. The dark magics are rather disturbing (in the fact that some folks might choose to go down those roads). However, those who like reading fiction about the arcane and esoteric might appreciate this book. There's even a cameo by a descendant of Aleister Crowley. Some stuff went over my head as far as the Hidden World, but I'm okay with that.
I can't give it a high rating because it has a very slow start and the pace was too uneven in parts. Not to mention the fact that the atrocities committed to see the dark purposes of the cabal to fruition didn't sit right with me (even though they make sense for this book). However, it was a good read and I enjoyed it. So it's easily 3.5/5.0 stars.(less)
I hate giving two star ratings! Three stars might be generous on my part, because this one didn't come together for me. I did like the werewolf charac...moreI hate giving two star ratings! Three stars might be generous on my part, because this one didn't come together for me. I did like the werewolf character a lot though, so it makes me want to give it more than 2.5 stars. Dilemma! BBB doesn't allow fractions below or above .5 star ratings, so I'll go ahead and give it 3 stars.
Although rather gruesome, I think this would appeal to fans of classic horror, such as Dracula and The Were-Wolf. Quite dark and morose, so be warned....moreAlthough rather gruesome, I think this would appeal to fans of classic horror, such as Dracula and The Were-Wolf. Quite dark and morose, so be warned.
Joe Golem and the Drowning City is a lovely sort of homage to HP Lovecraft and the Jewish golem folklore tradition. One wonders how they can exist tog...moreJoe Golem and the Drowning City is a lovely sort of homage to HP Lovecraft and the Jewish golem folklore tradition. One wonders how they can exist together harmoniously in the same work, but Mignola and Golden do exactly that.
New York City is a very different place from the one we know and love in this book. Some sort of ecological disaster turned half of the city into what is essentially a Venetian-like, water-logged environment. Downtown flooded, and those who lived there are cut off from the denizens of Uptown and forced to fend for themselves. Like humans are apt and known to do, they adapt to a semi-aquatic lifestyle, living on the top floors of the taller buildings, constructing bridges and mazeways between buildings and using watercrafts to navigate the flooded streets.
This novel is initially about two of its citizenry: An elderly magician named Felix Orlov, who can communicate with the dead, and his unofficially adopted daughter, fourteen-year-old, redheaded, former street kid, Molly McHugh. Their somewhat harmonious lifestyle is brutally interrupted when strange, inhuman creatures abduct Felix, failing to capture Molly when she is saved by a big, rough-looking man named Joe. Joe is special, more than they realize initially. His colleague is the ancient British gentleman, Simon Church, a man who has adapted his failing organs with mechanical parts (added a steampunk-like flair to the story). He also uses a mix of science, machinery, and magic to monitor the supernatural barometer of the city. He happens to detect a very large spike in activity the day that Felix is kidnapped, and Molly teams up with them both to find out what happened to Felix and to save him and save the world in the process.
This is a rather solemn tale. Joe's past is very tortured, and along with Simon's regrets about the past, and Felix's special legacy, the storyline is fairly dark. Molly is a spunky and energetic young woman, who's seen more bad things than a person of her age should. She has trouble trusting, with good reason. We feel her pain as she is helpless against forces that pull the man who is as close to a father to her as any man could be away from her by events beyond their control.
In addition to the somber tone, the Lovecraft-type storyline adds a cosmic horror to the story. While I am personally a bit alienated by Lovecraft's concept of an ancient, extra-dimensional cosmos and its denizens (which are indifferent to our moral concepts and even our right to exist as humanity), Mignola and Golden add an emotional context that makes this typical idea more relatable and almost heartfelt.
One of the downsides to this book is the villain truly never feels invincible or formidable. He comes off more as a petulant child who is playing with matches (dabbling with magics and science far beyond his ken), than a disturbing force for evil. He felt like a paper tiger, which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I need a villain who is truly formidable--one that I question if the hero will be able to prevail against. His creations were disgusting, and while repulsive and off-putting, they don't add much in a positive way to the creepy tone of the book.
Despite being somewhat disappointed with the villain, I was drawn to Joe's character, his painful struggle, his search for identity, and the integration of past and future. I also liked Molly. She feels like 'me' in the sense that she is the everyday person put in bizarre and non-ordinary circumstances. I think a good weird fiction tale needs that kind of protagonist.
Mignola just does it for me, with his stories and his creations. His collaborations with Golden have been unilaterally successful so far, and I add this one to the list. I hope to see more of Joe Golem and Molly McHugh, and more of the Drowning City. Recommended to weird fiction readers, and avowed fans of classic horror motifs and loving homages.(less)
Pretty darn good supernatural/horror novel about a dangerous, evil book that has the potential to wreak great havoc in our world. For those who like t...morePretty darn good supernatural/horror novel about a dangerous, evil book that has the potential to wreak great havoc in our world. For those who like the whole dark book motif, and Lovecraft devotees out there (you know who you are), this book will probably find your favor.
Even though there were some things that I wasn't fully pleased with execution-wise, on the feeling level, this is a five star book for me. I'm going t...moreEven though there were some things that I wasn't fully pleased with execution-wise, on the feeling level, this is a five star book for me. I'm going to be thinking about the ending for a while. It's been a crazy ride with this series!
Interesting storyline, although a bit draggy. Jackie has one of the worst mouths I've ever encountered on a heroine thus far. Oh, and there is some ve...moreInteresting storyline, although a bit draggy. Jackie has one of the worst mouths I've ever encountered on a heroine thus far. Oh, and there is some very brutal violence in this book.
Midnight Riot is the kind of book that people like me, absolute anglophile and devoted BBC lover, couldn’t help but like. The humor and the texture to...moreMidnight Riot is the kind of book that people like me, absolute anglophile and devoted BBC lover, couldn’t help but like. The humor and the texture to the narrative in this book reads delightfully British, but in a fashion that suggests that England isn’t just Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. It’s also Doctor Who, Blake’s Seven, Being Human, Law and Order: UK, and Luther. It’s upper crust and working class. It’s a mix of past and present. Even deeper, it’s the everyday lives of Britons, not all Northern European either.
It was so refreshing to have a hero who is mixed-race, but seen as black by some; and to others, ethnically uncertain. He couldn’t get on the tube without getting nervous looks from some people who had made up their mind what his place in their world was, without asking him about it. On any given day, due to how much sun he gets, some might think he’s African, or some might think he’s Arab. Peter is unselfconscious about his ethnicity, although very aware that not everyone is comfortable with it. His mother is Sierra Leonan, and her culture infuses him, from her attitude towards hard work, to her frugality, and her penchant for making food so spicy that he has to drink a liter of water to douse its fire. His father is a white former musician with a thirty year heroin habit, and that colors the narrative just as much, for we are not in a small degree who our parents make us. That is either due to rebelling against our parents or through a childhood of being shaped by their rearing. As a reader of black heritage, I have to say that it’s good to see stories that feature characters of black ethnicity. There are a lot of our stories to tell, and they don’t seem to see the light of day, and not in the diversity that reflects the black African disapora. I hope that more leads in urban fantasy novels in the future are of color, because it adds something to a read to see someone who is like you, at least in some small way.
I enjoyed Peter’s character. He’s an insightful narrator, and full of wit. I liked seeing London through his perceptive gaze.
The police procedural aspects were great. Better than watching an episode of a BBC cop show, because Peter explains the ins and out of the Metropolitan Police to a degree I have never caught onto in my varied viewing pleasures. Peter’s acceptance of the workings of enormous wheels of bureaucracy turning in the Met makes what might have been boring, very fascinating, especially with his deadpan humor delivery (classic British wit). As I read this novel, I felt as though I had learned a lot more about the police in the UK, which is similar but different to the US.
The paranormal aspects were good and rather unique. I like how magic is presented here. The way it leaves an essence (called a vestigium that has a taste, feel, and smell) that Peter is able to pick up. When he’s recruited as an assistant and apprentice wizard to Thomas Nightingale, for a part of the Met that deals with the odd and magical crimes, he finds the niche he’d been searching for, with this inquisitive mind, and his insight into science. He doesn’t take things at face value, but he’s open-minded enough to accept that London has denizens that are not human, such as vampires, trolls, and malevolent ghosts who draw energy from those they possess, leading to their gruesome and violent deaths. It was interesting to watch Peter and Nightingale use a mix of police investigative techniques and magic to solve the inexplicable attacks of violence that seemingly normal London citizens are perpetrating against each other. He also comes to realize that the rivers of London are alive, gods and goddesses, if you will. And Peter needs their help to keep the peace in London, but also to resolve the territorial disputes between The Old Man of the River and Mama Thames, who both believe that they have a right to rule the Thames, and their tributaries.
Ben Aaronovitch has already secured his place in pop culture as the writer of Doctor Who novels. It’s great to see him put the fruits of his imagination to the page with this first in the Peter Grant series. After falling for Peter Grant, and his unforgettable narrative of London, he is going on my must read list.