Set in a near-future, dystopian, terror-obsessed police state, Batman: Year 100 examines the role of secrecy and privacy (i.e., of alter egos...more3.5 stars
Set in a near-future, dystopian, terror-obsessed police state, Batman: Year 100 examines the role of secrecy and privacy (i.e., of alter egos) as it re-envisions this classic vigilante-superhero. Initially off-putting artwork grew on me over the course of the story, particularly because the details never got lost in the murk. (less)
Whiskey tango foxtrot? This was a colorful, inventive, absolute clusterf*ck of a comic that might be about the ethical quandaries involved in the Big...moreWhiskey tango foxtrot? This was a colorful, inventive, absolute clusterf*ck of a comic that might be about the ethical quandaries involved in the Big Science of the Cold War. Or it might just be a geek's fever dream. Who knows? That's part of the problem. Is the writer just too smart for me to figure out? Maybe, but I doubt it. Instead it seems like this comic generates a lot of heat, but not much light.(less)
I didn't know what to expect when I checked this out from the library, but I was pleasantly surprised, at least until the very end. Murphy takes The T...moreI didn't know what to expect when I checked this out from the library, but I was pleasantly surprised, at least until the very end. Murphy takes The Truman Show as his model, but ups the ante by making the star of his reality show a clone of none other than Jesus Christ himself. Throw in a Herod-like media mogul who has no problem killing newborns and manipulating adults to achieve his banally evil ends, a conflicted 6'7" ex-IRA terrorist-turned-bodyguard who is the crux (no pun intended) of the story, and an in-your-face punk ethos which challenges every middle-class assumption, and you have the most engaging engagement with the gospels since Jésus de Montréal.
As a spiritual agnostic and former instructor of world religion with one foot in Chrstianity and the other in Buddhism, I found Murphy's religion-bad/science-good dichotomy overly simplistic (to say the least), but I appreciated it nonetheless with my tongue firmly in cheek. After all, I'm reading a comic, and not a serious work on theology or the philosophy of science. The glibly certain and nihilistic ending undermined the overall effect of the rest of the book, and brought the review down by a star, but until that point I thought the book rocked.
Many reviewers have questioned the realism of gullible TV audiences, limitless corporate power, and knuckleheaded Christian fundamentalists, and I honestly don't know what world these people live in; they must not shop at the same grocery stores as me. And while I think Yeshua ben Miriam would take exception with Murphy's atheism, I also suspect he would be down with the radical message of a punk rock Jesus: to break past those aspects of religion, media, politics, etc., that enslave our spirits and to seek truth wherever it is to be found. (less)
Meh. Took a good initial premise and more or less squandered it. (view spoiler)[Telepathic powers and Native American shamans are the least of the dis...moreMeh. Took a good initial premise and more or less squandered it. (view spoiler)[Telepathic powers and Native American shamans are the least of the distractions from the original leitmotif of resistance and rebellion. Now we find that no only has the evil corporation been reorganizing society around genomically-informed cost-benefit analyses, but that it has also been working on cloning. And not merely human cloning, but posthuman, transgenic cloning, the mixing of human DNA with that of other species. In the case of the protagonist and her clone sisters, the DNA of a sparrow. (hide spoiler)] I kept wanting to like this book more than I did, because it is fun enough and the author seemed good intentioned, but when I got to the final section, where the author resolved literally every loose end (and we're talking BIG loose ends, what used to be called the denoument and stuff) in less than fifteen pages, I couldn't be charitable any longer. (view spoiler)[Some of those loose ends include: Shutting off the global system for killing people using viruses encoded in their barcodes by means of an algorithm that the protagonist's discovered-minutes-before autistic bird-clone-sister remembered from infancy. Finding out via the news media, who have been singularly inept until this point, that the aforementioned barcode viruses die after six months anyway, so whew, dodged that bullet. The ACLU sues the government so that people (presumably losers and freaks, since most normal folks love their 'toos) can refuse to be tattooed. Clap clap, erm. Evil corporation running the country? No problem—the idealist ex-senator will run for president, and that will save everything. Huh? Can anyone take that seriously after the 2008 elections? (hide spoiler)] Yeah, lots and lots of loose ends. Seen better endings in overlong Stephen King novels.(less)
Right off the bat, the title intrigued me because of its potent, and somewhat idiosyncratic to my upbringing, associations. I grew up in a fundamental...moreRight off the bat, the title intrigued me because of its potent, and somewhat idiosyncratic to my upbringing, associations. I grew up in a fundamentalist Protestant Christian home in the late 70s, and my dad was into the televangelists, charismatics, and late-Great-planet-Earth types.
Exhibit A: a picture I found on a pamphlet in his bathroom drawer when I was a kid:
Since that time my dad has been caught up in the apocalyptic notion that one day everyone will have a barcode "stamped" on their hand and forehead, encoding all of their vital information and making life outside of the Satanic, totalitarian "one-world-government" nigh impossible. This was predicted in (his reading of) Revelations 13.16–17:
It [the second beast] also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
Well this book takes that apocalyptic meme as its starting premise. People have gotten used to being tracked, chipped, and inventoried for the first quarter of the 21st century, and so for most folks the move to tattoo every adult (seventeen and up) with a barcode is seen as business as usual, and in fact, for many, convenient and patriotic. For the young protagonist, though, there is something sinister about the tattoo, and she is rapidly embroiled in a conspiracy involving corporate tyranny, individual freedom, social pressure, and very real hazards resulting from the genomics revolution and a re-envisioning of the meaning of being human.
Good young adult book, a quick read for a good reader. Not too challenging, in terms of writing, but engaging and thought-provoking, particularly in regard to the consequences of contemporary policies and discoveries for the world which will be inherited by the book's primary audience.(less)
Really enjoyed the premise, a police procedural set in a near future wherein most USAmericans live, work, and love virtually, remotely inhabiting the...moreReally enjoyed the premise, a police procedural set in a near future wherein most USAmericans live, work, and love virtually, remotely inhabiting the synthetic "surrogates" of the title. Equally hated the artwork, except for the graphic design pieces between chapters. (less)
**spoiler alert** I really wanted to like this alternate history version of Batman, set in a theocratic America with its origins in Oliver Cromwell's...more**spoiler alert** I really wanted to like this alternate history version of Batman, set in a theocratic America with its origins in Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth of England. Unfortunately, as noted in Sam Quixote's review, the plot is "mind-numbingly boring." Father Bruce Wayne loses his religion as he discovers his parents were murdered, not by a lone nut, but by a politico-religious conspiracy at the highest levels. Lots of familiar DC heroes are introduced and killed off along the way. I guess this could have been worse—it could have been the other Batman/Holy Terror.(less)
Unsettling and grim view of a megalopolitan near-future embodying all of the social concerns of the late 1960s and early 1970s, many of which were sub...moreUnsettling and grim view of a megalopolitan near-future embodying all of the social concerns of the late 1960s and early 1970s, many of which were subsequently ignored and now seem to be coming more or less to fruition right on schedule. Not a police state-type dystopia, but one of the planned-society-so-humanity-can-eke-out-an-existence-in-the-face-of-converging-long-emergencies variety. A little too hopeless for my taste, with characters that are little more than "dumb, resigned victims" (to quote Algis J. Budrys who was referring to another of Disch's novels), and the New Wave, modernist, out-of-sequence plotting obscured more than it revealed. I wanted to like this book more, both because of its reputation as an sf classic and also because of how much I thoroughly enjoyed Disch's short fiction. Alas I didn't.(less)
I find myself agreeing and disagreeing in roughly equal measure with this critical review of the graphic novel adaptation of the cinematic adaptation...moreI find myself agreeing and disagreeing in roughly equal measure with this critical review of the graphic novel adaptation of the cinematic adaptation of Philip K. Dick's autobiographical, paranoid druggie classic. I agree that the comic "has a very artificial and lifeless feel" in part because it hasn't really been adapted to the comics/graphic novel/sequential art medium; instead, it looks as if the film stills have simply been cut-and-pasted into a book template and left at that. I do think that this graphic novel, even in its current artificial and lifeless incarnation, is valuable, however, because it allows the reader who is also familiar with the original novel and the film to bring together the textual and the visual, to triangulate so to speak, and in so doing to obtain a clearer picture of what Dick was attempting to tell us. For me at least, the original novel on its own was less than stellar and somewhat confusing (like many of Dick's books, alas), and the film, while one of the better and certainly more original cinematic adaptations of PKD, is also a bit cryptic, and so this graphic novel, lying as it does somewhere between the worlds of print and cinema, provides a helpful bridge to flesh out Dick's vision more fully. (less)
It isn't too much of an imaginative leap to the world of The Hunger Games from the political and social realities of the early 21st century USA. Take...moreIt isn't too much of an imaginative leap to the world of The Hunger Games from the political and social realities of the early 21st century USA. Take the contemporary fetish for "reality" television (or, more accurately, humiliation television), the open secret of USAmerican love of war (especially the at-a-distance, shock-and-awe variety), and the desire of many for televised capital punishment, and you have the Games themselves, more or less. As astute bloggers have noted elsewhere, from the perspective of nations and peoples on the periphery (those currently fighting riots over food prices and austerity measures) we in the U.S. already live in The Capitol with our relatively decadent lifestyles and ultra-shallow concerns. As the globe warms, cheap oil becomes difficult to obtain, and lifestyles impossible to sustain, it isn't hard to imagine this center contracting to its fictional locale in the Rockies while the remnants of the U.S. join the rest of the world in providing raw materials for the enjoyment of the few.
Heavy stuff for a young adult novel. Luckily it is leavened with enough young love, self-searching angst, and interesting plot twists to make it appealing to even the least politically and ecologically aware reader. I think the reason that novel has been so explosively popular, though, is precisely because it speaks to those concerns that our young people have about the world they are inheriting. They, after all, are the heirs to the long emergency, a future of climate change, powering-down, diminished opportunities, and other converging catastrophes. (less)
**spoiler alert** Typical PKD, which means it is nearly impossible to summarize (or, frankly, make much sense of). We're confronted with a future worl...more**spoiler alert** Typical PKD, which means it is nearly impossible to summarize (or, frankly, make much sense of). We're confronted with a future world in which New Men (evolved humans with oversized craniums) and Unusuals (less evolved humans with psychic powers) vie with one another for control of the destinies of six billion Old Men ("normal" folks like the reader). An everyday working stiff, Nick Appleton, inadvertently gets involved with the lusts and machinations of these two factions after he shares an illegal drink with his boss and meets a pretty young thing with whom he immediately falls in love (forgetting about his wife and son in the process). Meanwhile, Thors Provoni, a man who left the Earth ten years before, is returning with a ninety-ton, million-year old, nigh-omnipotent amoeba from Frolix 8. The head honcho, an Unusual named Willis Gram, can't figure out whether the Frolixan or Appleton is the bigger threat, the former to his iron-rule and the latter to his lust for the same girl, and so the expected paranoid shenanigans ensue. Fun and puzzling, like most of Dick's work.(less)