Earlier this year I visited a colleague's home in Texas. This guy is about my age and also a naturalist, but otherwise pretty much my exact opposite:Earlier this year I visited a colleague's home in Texas. This guy is about my age and also a naturalist, but otherwise pretty much my exact opposite: big, talkative, persistent, Texas accent, Texas cowboy boots, raises chickens, hunts deer, *serious* birder (I am a birder, but a lackadaisical one, who could not pick a Pectoral Sandpiper out of a flock of Least Sandpipers, which, to some birders, is like not being a birder at all). So, I was flabbergasted when, seconds after inviting me in, he said, "I was looking at your Facebook profile the other day and noticed you were into Elfquest," and proceeded to point toward a full run of EQ graphic novels displayed prominently on his shelf, including this one. He said that Elfquest had played a crucial role in making him a conservationist as a kid, which was also my experience, and the experience of at least one other naturalist I know.
I relay this both because I thought it was pleasantly shocking, but also to emphasize how much this series means to a lot of people like me, i.e. quite a bit. That said, I think for a lot of us, Elfquest was over by book 4, or maybe by book 8, and everything since has been revisiting the old themes with less and less vigor and style. So before even picking up this book, my expectations were low, though my need to catch up with my Wolfrider friends was great.
Wendy's pencils are as unrivaled as they ever were in this book: exquisite line work throughout, expressive and unique faces, kinetic but clear layouts. She is a master. Color and general use of digital technologies are another story. In my opinion there is just way too much unsubtle use of gradients, blurs, and clumsy resizing in this book. There are numerous pages where it's really obvious Wendy drew several panels at the same scale and they were enlarged or shrunk to fit, with no attempt to make the line weights match up. This probably bothers me more than most people, but I think it makes some pages look like a bit of a hack job, which is maddening when the pencils being hacked up are, as I mentioned, masterpieces.
Narratively, I think there are just too many characters and too many disparate plot lines for this book to cohere very well. When did Nightshade and Strongbow have a kid and by Timmorn's blood how did anyone allow her name to be "Freetouch"?! The deepening rift between the mortal Wolfriders and the immortal elf races is compelling, though, even if it is a well worn path on the World of Two Moons, and I hope future books in the series will coalesce around this theme. In my opinion, Cutter needs to die, and perhaps all the Wolfriders need to die, for the value of mortality this series has expressed from the beginning to achieve its ultimate expression. We'll see if the Pinis are willing to go that far....more
New X-Files, new Twin Peaks, new Sandman. While this particular instance of 90s nostalgia is pretty good, let's be clear: Sandman is over, and this isNew X-Files, new Twin Peaks, new Sandman. While this particular instance of 90s nostalgia is pretty good, let's be clear: Sandman is over, and this is just an ancillary tale like Endless Nights. As such, it suffers from many of the failings one would expect from rehash: the slavish commitment to include as many of the old characters as possible, the attempt to awkwardly fit a new story into an already rich and crowded narrative universe, and ultimately, the drama-deflating certainty in the readers that we know where this ends.
It's a perfectly adequate Sandman story, and the writing is pretty much as good as I remember it ever being. JH Wiliiams' art is sumptuously zany, and Stewart's colors are if anything zanier. When I picked it up I first remarked on how refreshingly diverse the layouts were (I don't think there's a single 6- or 9-panel page in the book), but as I was reading I definitely lost track of the flow multiple times. That can work on occasion, especially when the authors are trying to make a point about non-linearity, but usually it's distracting.
Mostly, much like David Mitchell's Bone Clocks and Neal Stephenson Seveneves, Sandman Overture reads like (and is) the expression of an idea the author has had for a long time, and great success has finally granted him license to supersede his editorial instincts and publish it despite it not meeting the standards of the works upon which his success was built. Granted, Gaiman has had that kind of success for some time, but that's still the way it felt to me. In that way, it's much like a work in Lucien's great library of dreamed but unwritten books. Perhaps some of them are better left in the Dreaming....more
Lo recommended this to me like a year ago, and I finally got around to it. Surprisingly good, but definitely one of those comics that desperately needLo recommended this to me like a year ago, and I finally got around to it. Surprisingly good, but definitely one of those comics that desperately needs a change in illustrator. Rodríguez has a cool style, but a limited range of facial expressions, and his kind of baroque lines were a bit much for a story that's already on the extreme side. The mom and the well spirit (?) basically looked identical, which was a bit confusing. The story and setup has potential, though. Will see about picking up the next one. Also, serious demerits for use of the name "Frisco."...more
There are some things I like in this one. Flam, Drub, and Mender. Shuna leading the rebels. Brandon McKinney's improving pencils. But on the whole it'There are some things I like in this one. Flam, Drub, and Mender. Shuna leading the rebels. Brandon McKinney's improving pencils. But on the whole it's a very conventional "seize the castle" plot, without the wonderful subtexts woven through ElfQuest's previous big "seize the castle" story in the original quest (the mixed meanings of the castle, Two Edge's intentions, Leetah's hubris, etc). The fact that Two Edge reprises his earlier role is disappointing. He's been through so much, and yet the only novelty we're offered is his ability to develop an adolescent crush. He seems to be single-handedly fomenting an industrial revolution. Can't we go somewhere with that?! Winnowill is an equally dull, static Big Bad. Also not a fan of the Peace Hounds. Unbeatable monsters always feel a bit gimmicky (they always remind me of the Neo Warriors in Exosquad). They make the the plot seem more like an obstacle course than a story.
**spoiler alert** Another fun ride. Apparently some found fault with a lack of action in this tome, but seriously people, Danaerys rode a dragon. Bran**spoiler alert** Another fun ride. Apparently some found fault with a lack of action in this tome, but seriously people, Danaerys rode a dragon. Bran rode Hodor. Tyrion rode a pig. Wun wun ate many hearty vegetables. What more, I ask, could you possibly want in a novel? What? What's that you say? Resolution of plot lines? Some tiny hint at where this might all be headed? For Arya to stop treading water and start doing something awesome? Fie upon your petty misgivings! My friends, hearken to me: you must learn to love stasis, to embrace the quotidien pleasure a small man on a large pig, to feel the biting pain of your eyes rolling violently as yet another character says "jape" or "much and more" or "useless as nipples on a breastplate" and realize that yea, your suffering has transcended into ecstasy, and when yet another useless character is introduced, when yet another character survives a mortal wound, when yet another breast is cupped extraneously, you will cry out "more, you cap-donning Baltimorean god of high fantasy, more!"
Seriously though I'm pretty excited about the second season of the TV show....more
**spoiler alert** Really not enough of the characters I wanted to see in this one, and I'm not even talking about Jon and Danaerys and Stannis et al w**spoiler alert** Really not enough of the characters I wanted to see in this one, and I'm not even talking about Jon and Danaerys and Stannis et al who all kind of annoy me anyway. I'm talking about Arya and Sam! When is Arya's personality switching going to manifest itself physically? When is Sam going to shake the world with his knowledge hammer? When is Bran going to introduce us to Coldhands?
I don't know, I'm still enjoying these books but it's definitely getting to the point in the drug metaphor where my ability to feel pleasure is dwindling while my compulsive need to keep reading remains constant. And there is definitely a speck on the horizon that could very well be Zombie Cat leaping over a vicious elasmobranch. Seriously, why is she undead? Beric, whatever. We didn't really know him before he died. Cat was our buddy though. Also, is Qyburn playing Frankenstein? Because that would also be lame in the extreme. Not a huge fan of the amped up prophesizing either. Danaerys, like God, is coming. And, like God, she's pissed. We know.
The prospect of shelling out for the next one in hardcover only to be really left hanging until George busts out the next one does not fill me with joy....more
Ok, so I'm 3 books into this series. 2972 pages. Let's take stock of the Starks: (view spoiler)[ * Eddard was a lord. Now he is dead.
* Catelyn was a lorOk, so I'm 3 books into this series. 2972 pages. Let's take stock of the Starks: (view spoiler)[ * Eddard was a lord. Now he is dead.
* Catelyn was a lordly lady with a loving, honorable husband and 5 beautiful children. Now she's a widow, her kids are all dead (or so she thinks), and she, also, is dead. Bonus: she's a zombie.
* Sansa was an annoying, helpless, spoiled preteen. Now everyone she's ever loved is dead, but she remains annoying and helpless despite it all.
* Arya was an endearing highborn tomboy. Now's she's a murderous urchin, but still endearing.
* Jon was a bastard. Now he's a lord. But he's still a bastard.
* Rob was a nondescript dude. He's still that, except now he's dead.
* Bran was a little boy with two eyes who liked to climb. Now he's a slightly older little boy with three eyes who hangs out with frog-eaters, mind melds with animals, and is looking to get lessons from another three-eyed mind melder who might be undead.
* Rickon was a side note. He remains so.
I keep wondering whether these books are sexist or not, which usually boils down to the question of whether or not female characters have agency. I don't know if that's a reasonable test of gender bias, but that's where my mind goes. It's certainly true that most of the female characters rarely make decisions that influence the narrative, but I think that's equally true of the males. Some exceptions I can think of include Arya escaping Harrenhall, Catelyn freeing Jaime, Danaerys freeing slaves. Cersei, despite being one of the most overtly willful women in the story and the most vocal about gender bias in her society, seems to have little real power. She wanted to spare Eddard, he ended up dead. She wanted to save her kids, Joff ended up dead. She wants to marry her brother but her dad keeps wedding her off for political reasons.
Another possible way to approach the issue might be to ask whether the books sanction male chauvinism. I don't think you can read these books and believe that men are intrinsically superior to women, because there are plenty of idiotic men and plenty of capable women. As I wrote in a previous review, I do think these books objectify women much more than they do men, which at the very least is distinctly gynophilic (a new word I just looked up!), and probably allows some hetero men and lesbians to indulge in fantasy that many women might find demeaning. That said, though, speaking as a heterosexual guy, I find most of the sex in these books to be more ham-fisted than arousing. However, I doubt Martin did that intentionally. I guess "ham-fisted" could qualify as arousing if you have some kind of ham fetish. Let's just stop talking about this. (hide spoiler)]
Anyway, these are all comments on the series. This particular book was no better or worse than the previous ones, which is another way of saying it still kept me up reading until 2am most nights. I wish Martin would work in a few more comic relief characters like Dolorous Ed, though. Jaime and Brienne were good for a few laughs. More of that, please.
I'm finding one of the most amusing parts of this series to be moments when I have to stop and wonder whether or not a sentence implies a fatality. Like, "..and then a boulder fell on him." Did he say how big the boulder was? Where, exactly did it hit him, and who, exactly, is "him" referring to? Fun times. Also, am I the only one who looks ahead at chapter titles to see if a character really died? I know, cheating. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
As fun as the first, with all the same caveats. I like how magic is slowly creeping into the world, though I found the little prognosticating swamp boAs fun as the first, with all the same caveats. I like how magic is slowly creeping into the world, though I found the little prognosticating swamp boy kind of annoying, as prognosticators tend to be. I like my gnostication thoroughly unprefixed, thank you very much. On to the next......more
This series is essentially boilerplate fantasy: medieval setting, court intrigue, magic, even some dragons thrown in at the end (it's not a spoiler ifThis series is essentially boilerplate fantasy: medieval setting, court intrigue, magic, even some dragons thrown in at the end (it's not a spoiler if there's dragon on the cover). The fantastic elements that might be original for some readers were rehash for me: animal bonding (ElfQuest), addictive magic / drug metaphors (Buffy), telepathy (everything). In other words, not so fantastic, which begs the question, why read three long books with covers adorned by bare chests and pastel colors if they don't have any real magic inside? Well, one, my capacity for inertia, but also the solid, likable characters: the Fool, Burich, Kettricken, maybe Nighteyes, and in this book Kettle and Starling. Again, tropish, but appealingly tropish. Note that Fitz, the first-person protagonist in this series, is not on that list, which becomes a serious problem for the long stretches he spends alone, endlessly digressing on his state of mind. (view spoiler)[Actually, the concept of Forging (removing humanity from a person without taking their life) was kind of interesting, and I was hoping this book would delve into the mystery of the White Ship and the Raiders a bit more, but alas, it was "resolved" as a mere footnote in the last few pages. (hide spoiler)]
If you're some kind of fantasy nut and actually haven't read this series, you'll probably enjoy. If you're just wondering what fantasy nuts are so nuts about, just read Lord of the Rings.["br"]>["br"]>...more
Much like the first one, this book wasn't mind-bendingly wonderful or anything, but but it scratches the itch caused by fantasy deprivation without toMuch like the first one, this book wasn't mind-bendingly wonderful or anything, but but it scratches the itch caused by fantasy deprivation without too much eye-rolling. The main exceptions were scenes where the Skill and the Wit were somehow in conflict. Describing how two imaginary, completely mental processes some how conflict in very literal ways always ends poorly....more
Not bad! While I dearly love fantasy, recent forays into the genre have left me bored or just groaning, but I'm happy to report this book did neither.Not bad! While I dearly love fantasy, recent forays into the genre have left me bored or just groaning, but I'm happy to report this book did neither. The magical elements, largely telepathy and mind control, were not squandered on fireballs or transfigurations but deployed rarely and always in service of the plot and the characters. Ancillary characters like Burich, Verity, and Lady Patience were well-crafted, though some were quite flat (Galen, Shrewd, perhaps even Chade). The prose didn't wow, but neither did it strain my eyeballs from over-rolling. Elderlings, Red-ship Raiders, the Fool, and further intrigue lured me into acquiring the rest of the series. Hobb basically fulfilled all the requirements of the medieval fantasy bildunsgroman with some style, but did not exceed them. B+. Maybe A-. Looking forward to the next one....more
I started watching the HBO series because a friend said it was ok. I continued watching the HBO series because my need for serialized escapist media II started watching the HBO series because a friend said it was ok. I continued watching the HBO series because my need for serialized escapist media I can consume while making dinner is greater than my need for believable dialog. I watched the last 4 episodes in one night and then rewatched the entire series and then started reading this book because I am just a sucker for political intrigue and swords and hints at unrealized magical awesomeness.
If you are not that kind of sucker, you will probably not enjoy this book. The writing is adequate, but never fulfilling in its own right. Occasionally maddeningly repetitive. Can't horses make any sound besides "whickering"? I swear to the gods, old and new, if Martin continues to use that damn word in every other paragraph for the remainder of the series I will ask him whether he'd like to keep his hands or his brain. The details of the world and the machinations are certainly wonderful, with lots of imaginative places (The Eyrie, Riverrun, The Wall), but there are just as many moments that feel a bit... juvenile. Like, teenage-boy-who's-room-smells-kind-of-funny-and-you-know-exactly-why kind of juvenile. Like, ok, it's a different world, women are treated poorly, thirteen-year-old brides have to bear children, etc. No need to get judgy. But why do we need to know about Danerys's lactational state as (view spoiler)[she walks into Drogo's funeral pyre (hide spoiler)]? Why do we linger on her chest while we never hear about Jon's uncomfortable shrinkage as he tries to take a leak off the Wall? I'm not trying to say these kinds of details are wrong. I'm just saying there are some moments of maleness, so be advised.
For the record, I *did* enjoy the book, and I'm addicted enough that I am forcing myself not to read the next one immediately just so I can last until the second season starts. Frankly, though, the TV series is better. Cersei's furrowed brow and half-smile alone granted her more humanity than Martin did in 800+ pages, and fleshing out minor characters like Syrio Forel added dimension to protagonists like Arya. Lysa Arryn was at least 10 times more insane sitting on her throne suckling her 6-year-old boy then she ever was in the book.
The art continues to be phenomenal in this installment, but the plot also continues to be conventional, with little progression for our main characterThe art continues to be phenomenal in this installment, but the plot also continues to be conventional, with little progression for our main characters....more
My sister's primary critique of The Lord of the Rings is that it's "a guide to walking." The Deed of Paksenarrion is a guide to walking minus all theMy sister's primary critique of The Lord of the Rings is that it's "a guide to walking." The Deed of Paksenarrion is a guide to walking minus all the cool magic and action and suspense and world-building that make LotR worth the slog through the boring bits. I don't know, maybe this book picks up in a few hundred pages, but 100 pages of training, marching, and practically zero character development didn't make me want to find out....more
This book is nerdy in a bad way. The first sign of nerdiness is the premise: the mythological gods were real people but with amazing magical powers, aThis book is nerdy in a bad way. The first sign of nerdiness is the premise: the mythological gods were real people but with amazing magical powers, and they live on in a diminished state, awaiting the birth of a gate mage, one with the power to transport them back to their faraway mystical home. I actually thought that sounded pretty cool, but I am a nerd. Louise (also a nerd) thought it sounded pretty lame, and I can see where she's coming from: recycled mythological ideas grafted onto a YA bildungsroman. Sandman + Stargate + every YA book every written, anyone? Definitely a strong whiff of fan fiction (yes, I skimmed the afterword where OSC describes the distant origins of his idea; doesn't make it feel any less derivative)
Second sign of nerdiness: expository dialogue. I accept that most sf/fantasy requires some exposition, and even when it doesn't require it I'm willing to forgive a great deal of telling instead of showing. But the kind of heavy-handed pseudo-narration that occurs between characters in this book crosses a line into the literary equivalent of xtranormal.
Third sign: desperate attempts to seem current by over-referencing brand names. "Google" might be a verb to some, but it still seems awkward when written. "Googlemap" is definitely not a verb, and simply looks ridiculous in print. If the story doesn't concern the particulars of a brand, I don't feel like it belongs in the book. If a character is contemplating the nature of Google Maps, for example, then sure, mention the brand. Otherwise, plain old "map" is a perfectly good verb.
Overall, the story was diverting enough to keep me reading, so if you're a diehard OSC fan you'll probably enjoy it. I don't feel compelled to continue the series....more
Elves be dyin'! The volume concludes the Shards storyline, and yes, some characters get the ax. One *really* gets the ax. Wendy's return to pencils haElves be dyin'! The volume concludes the Shards storyline, and yes, some characters get the ax. One *really* gets the ax. Wendy's return to pencils halfway through this was welcome, but didn't entirely save Shards from itself. In the end the whole run wasn't about much more than getting back the castle... which the elves had already done. The stakes were known, and a couple fireworks like offing an elf or two didn't do much to disguise that. Which is a shame because this story could have been about a lot more, like how / if the elves fit into a world that is suddenly dominated by humans, or Rayek's evolving selflessness (culminating in his massively selfless concluding act). Like the rest of the books in this storyline, this one isn't bad, but it feels like a struggle to regain that old magic....more
Castle Waiting is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Jeff Smith's Bone series, so I've always wanted to check it out. Like Bone, it's kid-orieCastle Waiting is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Jeff Smith's Bone series, so I've always wanted to check it out. Like Bone, it's kid-oriented fantasy with likable characters and harmless banter, but unlike Bone, there's very little mystery, none of the darker themes that leave lasting imprints, and, well, just not a lot of the kind of magic that makes comics special. Why is the protagonist pregnant? Why does her kid of a pig nose? What exactly is wrong with this world, or everything just hunky dory all the time? I probably won't continue reading to find out....more