Almost every story in this collection has a rocket. That might be the only unifying theme, which, I guess is a good thing. On the one hand, the rocketAlmost every story in this collection has a rocket. That might be the only unifying theme, which, I guess is a good thing. On the one hand, the rockets and the decisive, clean-shaven scientists who pilot them are typical 1950s American hubristic idealism, and the stories about aliens who have already found God and don't need our help, or Jesus appearing on other planets, are equally conservative and lacking in self-awareness. On the other hand, those clean-shaven scientists are generally some flavor of idiot or monster, from the explorers who discover an entire city designed to enact revenge on humanity for its past sins, or the "Rocket Man" sacrificing his loving family for his romantic obsession with space. You might say these stories are almost entirely about white men (and they are, mostly), but women and girls headline the story about aliens invading through humanity's children, and "The Other Foot," in which black Americans who have colonized Mars learn that everyone else has destroyed Earth and now begs to be their servants, is very explicitly about race. While reading many stories (e.g. "The Other Foot") I kept thinking Alice Sheldon would have had a darker take on it, and yet other stories involve children fantasizing about eating their parents. So. I'm not doing a good job generalizing. Except about the rockets.
There's definitely an anti-authoritarian thread here, especially for a book published in the 50s. At least two stories are about kids overthrowing the dominion of adults, and while most are as enthralled with the technology of the future as most science fiction and popular media of the time, they are fare more worried and ambivalent about technology's moral implications.
"The Other Foot" was particularly interesting to read while also reading Carolyn Finney's Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, a book about how and why African Americans have been disproportionately lacking from American environmentalism and the American wilderness (both the place and the idea). Parts of Finney's book illustrate the deep and conflicted history many black people have with American landscapes, but in "The Other Foot," black Americans have made a new landscape on Mars. When a white man appears in a rocket from Earth, they learn that all those places, the towns where they were oppressed, the forests in which their family members were lynched, are gone, not transformed or reinterpreted, but obliterated by nuclear holocaust. Bradbury depicts this as an antidote to the vengeance some in the town want to exact on the white visitors, and to the fear felt by the rest. He writes, "Nothing, nothing of it left to hate–not an empty brass gun shell, or a twisted hemp, or a tree, or even a hill of it to hate." The town decides to reject the white people's offer to be their slaves in favor of a new start, "on the same level."
I'm sure this seemed progressive for a white man writing in the 1950s, and it still seems progressive to this whitish man reading in 2015, but there are other potential interpretations. Is a tale of obliteration sort of an easy way out for a white author, or maybe a dismal appraisal of what it would take to equal the racial playing field? The white man in the rocket is contrite for the sins of his ancestors, but the forgiveness he receives seems too easy, absurdly easy, to take seriously. And what of the destroyed land? Is the story proposing that we can only deal with a place of poisoned memories by abandoning it for the frontier? Is that not the most conservative, outdated, and immoral of American interactions with the land, that we should use it up and then move on to use up somewhere else? It's certainly an interesting piece, particularly because of these issues.
A good collection overall, and my first encounter with Bradbury since readying Fahrenheit 451 many years ago (I remember not a jot of it). ...more
The best of the set of Image books I purchased recently, this one mostly due to the presence of spaceships on the cover. Hardman's faces are a bit tooThe best of the set of Image books I purchased recently, this one mostly due to the presence of spaceships on the cover. Hardman's faces are a bit too realistic for my taste, but his hatching and rough, blotchy inking give the world a grimy, lived-in feel, which suits this story of rebellion and historical reconstruction quite well. If there's a problem with the art it's mainly that the two time periods don't receive different visual treatment so it can be a bit jarring when the story moves from one to the other.
The storytelling is where this book shines. As the IGN blurb on the back points out, exploration of the world is entirely through the characters, and since everything looks very human and familiar, it is only through their experiences that we really even grasp what planet they're on. At the end of this first volume, I actually have questions about these characters that I want answered. That is an *incredibly* low bar for literary quality, but as far as I can tell that's the state of comics today, or at least of comics with space ships and pretty colors. Would certainly read more if I come across them....more
One of several Image titles I picked up in a bout of guilt after having perused my local comic book shop several times without patronizing them. WhenOne of several Image titles I picked up in a bout of guilt after having perused my local comic book shop several times without patronizing them. When I got home I realized I may have betrayed some subconscious patriarchal sensibilities, since two of the books had armed men protecting women on the covers and the last was basically pinup art. Maybe I just need to get over myself. Anyway, this was written by the same author as Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope but with a different artist, so after Low I had hopes that maybe the same decent storytelling wouldn't be hampered by inadequate art, and indeed, that seems to have been the case. Scalera has cartooning and comics chops, and there were zero "What am I even looking at?" moments or navigational problems. Color is pretty wild and intensely varied, and I think that was most of why I picked it up. The story is fun, if kind of unoriginal (rag tag team hops between alternate realities but *shock* jumping is actually bad for the Universe). The whole distracted-dad-can't-keep-his-family-together-theme is a bit tiresome and maybe a bit patriarchal (now I'm over-compensating, right?), but maybe the series finds other narrative fodder in later volumes....more
This is a pretty excellent example of how great illustration is not the same thing as great comics. Tocchini's art is *beautiful*, almost every panelThis is a pretty excellent example of how great illustration is not the same thing as great comics. Tocchini's art is *beautiful*, almost every panel its own exquisite gesture of light lines and deep color, but... a fair number of those panels barely make any visual sense, and some make none at all. Tocchini also seems totally uninterested in facial expressions, which, in a tale about families torn apart and the world ending, you'd think would be kind of a requirement. He's basically just got the whole European fantasy comic vibe going on: an endless series of half-naked women, who are naked for pretty much no reason for 90% of the story and (along with the more clothed men) have the emotional range of an end table.
All of which is kind of a shame, because this is actually a pretty fun, simple adventure story that could work well if it could convince you the characters were actually people. Despite the exploitative art, women drive a lot of the plot, and I actually kind of want to know what that probe found. I just don't want to know enough to endure more of the artwork....more
Ugh, I did it. I read the sequel. And... really liked it. This one's kind of less derivative than the first, though I feel like it's still drawing froUgh, I did it. I read the sequel. And... really liked it. This one's kind of less derivative than the first, though I feel like it's still drawing from Game of Thrones a bit, which itself draws from etc etc. Whatever. This is clearly not a book intended to make you think, because if you think about it too much, you realize how horribly essentialist it is beneath its rhetoric of democracy and equal rights (where are the fully-realized characters that are not Golds?). So if you can squelch the thinking parts of your brain and allow this book to tickle the spaceship-loving parts of your brain, it's great. I will be reading and probably enjoying the last one....more
I'm sort of alarmed that my brother gave me this and Dylan Horrocks' The Magic Pen for my birthday, both books by comics artists I love who are now miI'm sort of alarmed that my brother gave me this and Dylan Horrocks' The Magic Pen for my birthday, both books by comics artists I love who are now middle-aged, both books about middle-career artists dealing with stagnation and to some degree sexual frustration. What are you trying to tell me, Tomio?!
The Sculptor is probably the most fully-formed work I've read from McCloud. It's a beautiful love story, and while it would probably be a bit maudlin as a film or a novel (make that really maudlin), comics is a medium that handles simple extremes well, maybe because of its history as adventure fodder for kids, maybe because it's so quiet, maybe because there's so much more action and emotion to interpret in the art that the plot can be comparatively simple. I fell in love with Meg a bit, which I think speaks to the fact that the whole works. Or it speaks to the fact that I'm a sap.
It is, I have to say, a bit hard to read McCloud without thinking back to Understanding Comics and his nerdy classification of panel types and cartooning styles and such. So many of his transitions read like examples from UC (particularly the aspect-to-aspect transitions that lead most chapters and time breaks), as do many of the manga idioms he employs (the way most of his corner panels bleed to the edge of the page seems very Japanese to me, though I'm not sure why). UC taught me to think about these things, and I appreciate McCloud's masterful use of them, particularly in scenes like the beginning where Harry reveals his identity or shows David non-existence, but it is a bit demystifying to see your professor use all the techniques he taught you about.
Anyway, a beautiful little book, though I hope McCloud and Horrocks have worked out there stymied artist stuff and are on to other things.
I didn't know about Manic Pixie Dream Girls until reading other reviews of this book. Now I feel bad, or ambiguously bad, since the term has had so much backlash and backbacklash. In McCloud's defense, Meg does address this stereotype explicitly, but that doesn't really keep her from embodying it. Meg has plenty of personality but I'm not sure she has much of an internal life in this book, so maybe the label is apt. Is that a problem if the book is mostly about David? What would the book be like without Meg, and what would the book be like if Meg and David were given equal treatment, or if the book was called The Actor and was about Meg?
Sigh. I did enjoy the book. Now I just feel worse about doing so....more
Never really got into it. Memoirs might not be my thing. Falconry, hawks, the relationship between these things and White's unfortunate life and fictiNever really got into it. Memoirs might not be my thing. Falconry, hawks, the relationship between these things and White's unfortunate life and fiction, those were interesting to me, but the grief and recovery were not, maybe because I haven't experienced anything like it. There were a few passages on the meaning of wildness and the value of recognizing other, non-human wills in the Universe, but that didn't feel like the thrust of the book....more
Well, I'm going to be up-front and admit I sped through this and enjoyed every sentence except for the one totally extraneous sexy bit which *could* hWell, I'm going to be up-front and admit I sped through this and enjoyed every sentence except for the one totally extraneous sexy bit which *could* have had something to do with the plot or the characters or water but didn't. Like Windup Girl, this is set in a sort of post-collapse future, but one within reach of our lifetimes, in which America is disintegrating west of the Rockies as the region's minimal water has become too minimal to partition peacefully. It's Cadillac Desert: The Scifi Sequel, and indeed that book makes a significant appearance here.
Like so much speculative fiction, this book is basically a good premise and some serviceable characters bolted together by reliable plot devices, with, alas, many acre feet of symbolic potential left totally squandered. I wanted to riff on flood irrigation there, but that would imply that this potential is used to ill effect, when in fact, Bacigalupi seems totally uninterested with emotional scarcity, with how individuals address glaring problems that have obvious solutions with complete denial and ultimately suffer (just like governments and societies do), with the personal consequences of taking life's essentials for granted. If there's any kind of ideological underpinning it's that ruthless pragmatism trumps idealism and only the powerful and "clear-sighted" survive, which is fine, but less than what this novel could have been. The first page of sweat stuff had me thinking this was going to be a bit more meaningful, but in the end I think it was merely fun.
Ugh, this seems to be the pattern of my recent reviews: enjoy the book, then find all the reasons I should not have enjoyed the book....more
Hicksville is probably my favorite single graphic novel, so I was delighted to receive this book as a gift a few weeks ago. It seems to largely concerHicksville is probably my favorite single graphic novel, so I was delighted to receive this book as a gift a few weeks ago. It seems to largely concern the risks and responsibilities of authors (and readers) of fantasy: how deeply do we indulge, how much freedom do we allow ourselves, what are the moral stakes. I liked that (though I think it could have delved a little more deeply into the risks), and Horrocks' outstanding cartooning, but there's also a lot of midlife crisis artist's block and sexual frustration (not to mention a whole lot of green naked ladies that, while appreciated by this gynephilic reader, makes this book a bit tricky to read on public transit, at least for uptight self-conscious gynephiles afraid of looking excessively pervy, exemplum gratis yrs. trly.), and that, I don't know, wasn't exactly tedious, but was not quite as interesting to me as the storytelling stuff.
I really loved the original Lady Night / Lou Goldman bits, as I did in Hicksville. Part of me would love to see those stories fleshed out, but another part of me think Borges was right and the best books are best only alluded to by other books.
I hope Horrocks finishes and publishes Atlas some day!...more
Jon's mental health issues are a bit frustrating, not sure why. Not fleshed out enough? They make him a bit more fully human than Suzie, so I feel likJon's mental health issues are a bit frustrating, not sure why. Not fleshed out enough? They make him a bit more fully human than Suzie, so I feel like she kind of fades into the background in this one. Still funny, though I fear this series is going to suffer the same fate as Y: The Last Man: good for the laffs, but no real plan for the plot....more
As much as I enjoy Austen, it's hard for me not to become a bit frustrated with the characters and the author for their lack of 21st century feministAs much as I enjoy Austen, it's hard for me not to become a bit frustrated with the characters and the author for their lack of 21st century feminist principles, and then to become frustrated with myself for experiencing frustration over such an absurd expectation, and then to become further frustrated when I realize I am about the 50 millionth reader to experience these frustrations and that most of these readers have just gotten over it and enjoyed the story, you know, some time in high school when they first read it (and then, of course, I become self-conscious about my use of the word "feminist"). That said, I think Emma might be particularly frustrating because she is so close to being a feminist protagonist: she's willful, intelligent, talented, she has her own opinions and acts on them. And yet, every single opinion she has and every single action she takes ends up being wrong, and on every occasion Mr. Knightly has a chance to voice his take on the issues, he is inevitably right. Things don't really go well for her until she realizes Knightly's superior judgement in all matters and that she should just do what he wants (i.e. marry him).
Anyway, weird anachronistic moral judgement aside, fun stuff. Not quite as fun as P&P for me (where's the anger?), but whatever. Mr. Woodhouse's hypochondria was pretty great. Ak tells me this is the Austen novel most lauded by critics, though it's hard to say why. Time to see what Gwynneth Paltrow and Alicia Silverstone think....more
I gave it 100 pages and decided I did not give a flying fig what was going on in Area X, what was going to happen to any of these characters, or why aI gave it 100 pages and decided I did not give a flying fig what was going on in Area X, what was going to happen to any of these characters, or why an author would spend so much time *just* cultivating a vague sense of unease....more