Seems that the book gets great ratings, but mostly only if the reader hasn't seen the Tim Burton movie first. I've seen the movie, but so long ago tha...moreSeems that the book gets great ratings, but mostly only if the reader hasn't seen the Tim Burton movie first. I've seen the movie, but so long ago that it didn't color my feelings too much. The book may be at odds with today's readers, used to long books with long chapters. Many chapters in the book are only two or three pages--the author uses small sentences to large effect. The comes off more folksie and down-to-earth than the movie, which dove unabashedly into the fable-like stories relayed by larger-than-life Edward Bloom.
Will, the son, just wants to get to know his absent father before he dies, and tries to get him to be serious, desperate to know who the man really is. Edward will have nothing of it, and though he spends his last years stuck in bed at the home he never felt comfortable with, he refuses to give in to his well-meaning son. I was moved by both men, and was moved by the author's choice to keep Edward Bloom's reality mostly a secret, keeping his mythos intact. Will becomes complicit in this, aiding his father's real or imagined greatness, finally accepting the man for who he is, for who he pretends or wants to be. It's beautiful, sharp, and concise, worth the very quick read. (less)
The first volume of the popular Fables comics by Bill Willingham. It's an introduction to the premise really, a getting-to-know-you volume which prove...moreThe first volume of the popular Fables comics by Bill Willingham. It's an introduction to the premise really, a getting-to-know-you volume which proves to be fun, but a bit fast and loose.
The tattered Fabletown community has existed undercover on Earth (Mundania to the Fables) for two hundred years, having narrowly escaped certain doom from the creature called the Adversary and its minions. Snow White, divorced from Prince Charming (he's a total tool, has recently become deputy to Mayor Cole (former king). She handles the dirty work of trying to keep the community from being found out by the "Mundies" or killing each other, in an administration funded only by meager donations from the fables themselves. Most fables have lost their wealth and titles and hold to the thin hope that they will somehow regain their kingdoms and beat back their enemy one day, but not one of them really believes it. Deputy White is busily doing her job when acting PI, Bigsby--the former Big Bad Wolf, reformed since the scourge--comes with terrible news. Jack of All has come to tell him that Rose Red, Snow White's estranged sister, has come to serious violence and may be dead. Jack leads them to the grisly scene, which Bigsby begins to investigate, and the story is off.
An aside: I loved how Jack is THE Jack from every nursery rhyme or fable you've ever read-it's really clever, a literal Jack of all trades, dressing him up in the perfect trickster identity. There are many more characters and threads than I've mentioned here, and other off-screen characters hinted at deliciously.
Although this first book is pretty much a whodunit, it's not a difficult mystery to figure out, and the climax is somewhat of a letdown even if you don't guess what happened (probably). But the shiny is there in the characters and their possibilities in the generous setup. Another excellent and hilarious bit I liked is the amnesty everyone was granted, absolved of misdeeds done in the other place. Basically, what happens in Never After stays in Never After. (I'm not at all sure that's what it's really called, but it cracked me up.) That bit never got old to me; it gives the characters clean-ish slates so the motley crew can attempt to do on Earth what they'd never have thought of doing back home--try to get along together. Ish.
I look forward to the next volume, which I happen to have, yay! (less)
This is my favorite in the series so far. I'd come to love janitor Flycatcher's unassuming quirkiness in earlier issues, but had no idea what his past...moreThis is my favorite in the series so far. I'd come to love janitor Flycatcher's unassuming quirkiness in earlier issues, but had no idea what his past was nor what his future held, and it now plays out in The Good Prince. It's the most gratifying and satisfying narrative of any Fable's journey thus far. The storyline seems almost an homage to the kindhearted of the world, those who could not resort to violence no matter how unavoidable it might momentarily seem; those who would rather play ball with a bunch of kids or take satisfaction in a job well-done than take on the mantle of god-like powers.
There's no shortage of adventure. The story wanders deep into enemy territory, a bit too close for comfort into Frau Totenkinder's scary mind, and there's a neat story involving the wolf cubs. We also get to see what's down the Witching Well, and what happened to some likable characters who got the shaft (no pun intended), like John and Weyland.
Don't get the impression that this is a sappy story; if anything, it does something not often seen in speculative fiction: it lets a main character come into his own via the kindness and honorability of his character. The contrast is made clearer when shown alongside the other Fables; the difficulty of walking the thin wire above the muck, and how hard it is once one falls in not to wallow, how hard it is afterward to stay unjaded and hopeful. But then, the running theme of second chances and forgiveness for even the worst Fables is integral to this comic, a real triumph. Thus far, I haven't noticed any character being portrayed as the absolute evil, though all--barring Ambrose/Fly--have made bad choices and caused others pain. Hard not to, when you're practically immortal.
If there's a moral here, it's this: Be kind to and notice the worth of the janitors of the world. They make things shine, and you never know if one might be a frog prince. But mostly just because.
This was a pure pleasure to read. I'd seen the movie many times without realizing it was based on a book by Diana Wynne Jones. I think it's good that...moreThis was a pure pleasure to read. I'd seen the movie many times without realizing it was based on a book by Diana Wynne Jones. I think it's good that I saw the movie first, because the changes could be been confusing and might have tainted the way I saw what has become one of my all time favorite movies.
Happily, there is a treasure trove of books by this author I can now indulge in, knowing what quality and imagination waits within. (less)
On my future grave, I swear, the following is true.
Once upon a time there was a book series called The Wheel of Time, which, when piled each volume u...moreOn my future grave, I swear, the following is true.
Once upon a time there was a book series called The Wheel of Time, which, when piled each volume upon the other, could reach past an elephant's rheumy eye. Once upon a time, after searching for a good new fantasy series, I began tWoT with a healthy gleam in my eye. What a blithe fool. What a tWoT.
I turned pulped wood pages by thousands, read a very-many lot-of words, until one day an annoying pattern manifested. Though I pressed on, it had become impossible to ignore the characters' skimpy appeal. The volume of unmanicured words kept drowning out the righteous words. Meandering plotlines had doubled back on each other, and I found they spelled out a mystic code to rival Davinci's own: Nyah, nyah, nyah-nyah, nyah.
Dizzied and dismayed, I knew I had entered one of the circles of Hell, voluntarily; had been there months, perhaps even years. I peered woefully ahead to the four ponderous volumes (now seven) that waited with an infinite, mad patience, and realized my own hands had helped build this hell. I knew the only way to end the madness was to shot put Lord of Chaos across the room.
With a vast effort and aching, calloused hands, I pushed the book away. The volume slammed the wall, leaving a great gash that flared alight and gaped like a page burning from the inside out. The gash in the wall became glass; a window (open!), revealing the glorious world beyond.
I stumbled to the window, fell through the gap onto dewy, crisp grass. I walked into the reward of raucous birdsong and a biting wind that said, "You are alive." Alive! That day I left The Wheel of Time far behind me.
Last week, I found the stash of nine volumes in a dusty basement box. Years had passed, and still tWoT waited. Shakily, I taped the cardboard flaps, triple taped them. I placed a long-distance call to my younger brother, a fantasy novice, who had just finished reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time. "Have you been introduced to The Wheel of Time books?" I inquired. He hadn't been. Of course he hadn't. Whenever I start to feel guilty, I remind myself: I didn't like my brother much anyway.
If only I'd found Diana Wynne Jones when I was a child, I found myself thinking throughout this book, when I came up for air, that is. But it doesn't...moreIf only I'd found Diana Wynne Jones when I was a child, I found myself thinking throughout this book, when I came up for air, that is. But it doesn't matter; I have not robbed my young self of an experience--how silly to think that way! My older self is grateful to have been whisked away to that strange land I used to know, where anything is possible and where the world is a scary garden of eerie delights with paths of pure wonderful. I only hope my library has book 2 of the Chrestomancy series available today, because my older self is as greedy as my younger self was for this kind of fictional vacation.
A note: I'd like to excise "YA" from my personal lexicon--I dislike the delineation. When this book and others of my favorites came out (like A Wrinkle in Time, Ender's Game, The Wizard of Oz), it was not thought of, and I was glad to make my own discoveries without being told what section was appropriate for my age. It made me jump back and forth from the children's section to the adult section early; going to the library was an adventure. I've probably said all of this before, and will again.(less)