This graphic novel really couldn't impress me that much. The straight visual quality is good but, despite the fairytale origins this story's meant to...moreThis graphic novel really couldn't impress me that much. The straight visual quality is good but, despite the fairytale origins this story's meant to be drawing on – an immediate attraction, to me – the majority of the graphics are sadly simplistic. The graphics are the meat of a graphic novel, right? – and no matter how good the mashed potato text is, you can't have a good meal without a juicy (soy) steak, rich and chewable to the eyes. Compared to the finer graphic novels, there seems to be a lack of revelry-in-detail here as far as the visuals go. If I were the artists, I would have wanted to embellish a lot more thoroughly with any well- or lesser-known fairytale/fable reference that For that matter, the same is true for the plot. A fake-murder whodunit with the 'chance' (thus totally predictable) creation of a man-woman detective duo, sprinkling behind them the bean-seeds of romance – sprouting, needless to say, from the male character ("Bigby" Big Bad Wolf) and, till he states it explicitly, overlooked by the powerful and businesslike female (Snow White, Director of Operations and icicle of fury if you mention 'dwarves').
What else let me down? Crappy, fails-to-be-suave-when-recycled murder mystery dialogue. The last chapter, the supposed big reveal in more ways than one, is particularly bad on this. An example:
"Then get ON with it, Mr. Wolf. TELL your story. I can't tolerate the SUSPENSE." "When the Lord Mayor of Fabletown COMMANDS, I can only OBEY. – My suspicions about he TRUE nature of this case were raised the very MOMENT I first learned of it."
And so on. Here's one of my general beefs with graphic novels: why do the authors feel the need to emphasize in the script the words that we'd know have weight in the run of the sentence, anyway? Regular novelists do it as well, to varying degrees, but do we need it in every single speech bubble of the graphic novel format? I feel as though it engenders a more childlike treatment of the reader than is usually appropriate.
Altogether, I also think Willingham could have gone much, much deeper into the world he tries to recreate. It's a fantastic idea, in my opinion: a secret community of fairytale characters, cooling their heels in New York after some mighty power has forced them out of their various kingdoms. I can't even begin to imagine all the fun you could have with that. Unfortunately, this first volume strikes me as only minimally creative, tossed-together with only the most well-known characters – did I miss anybody, though? If so, I'd be delighted for someone to correct me on this. These characters feel superficially developed, their respective myths incorporated rather too obviously (finer technique would have contributed so much more wit) ... it just feels like a waste of the idea. Not sure how else I can say it.
What I did love are the end-of-chapter page graphics. I wish I could copy-enlarge and collage these all over one of my walls. Also, I wish I could give five stars to this page alone from Chapter Four:
(Pretty blonde lady approaches a sulky-looking child)"Hi, Pinocchio. I haven't seen YOU in a while. Enjoying the party?" "No. I am most certainly NOT having a good time. I never Have a good time at this ridiculous celebration. " "Then why do you come each year?" "Because, sooner or later, that blue fairy, who turned me into a REAL boy, is going to show her face at one of these things, and I'm going to kick her pretty azure ASS." "Why? I thought you WANTED to become a real boy." "Of COURSE I did. But who KNEW I'd have to stay a boy FOREVER? The ditzy bitch interpreted my wish too LITERALLY. I'm over three centuries old and I STILL haven't gone through puberty. I want to grow up, I want my balls to drop, and I want to get LAID."
Rather a sexist portrayal of the "real boy", don't you think? Still, I have to admit that I laughed. The sequel really should a sub-plot romance between Nocchy and, say, Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood. That would be adorable.
Perhaps, and again I'd love to hear other opinions on this GN - I'm looking for something in Willingham's tale that he never intended to put in it. It's a fun modern re-interpretation, the kind of story that I can see becoming a postmodern 'classic,' if the lost art of oral storytelling were to ever resurface. Such stories don't need complexity, they only need recognizable figures and a relatively engaging plot, which I'd say Fables has got. Since I have the deluxe edition anyway, I am going to read Volume II. Hopefully I'll be able to enjoy it more, knowing what kind of thing to expect.(less)
**spoiler alert** Finally, finished Jhereg! Yay. Running alongside Vlad on life-threatening missions was fun, and I'm certain it's going to continue t...more**spoiler alert** Finally, finished Jhereg! Yay. Running alongside Vlad on life-threatening missions was fun, and I'm certain it's going to continue to be fun through the next two in this volume....
UPDATE: Okay, here are my thoughts on the first book I've read in the Vlad Taltos series. First things I'll get over with are what didn't necessarily impress me. This book contains, for lack of a better term, a lot of 'tell-don't-show' style information: "Wow, Vlad/Boss, how did you figure THAT out?" "Genius explanation by Vlad." "Shit, Boss. That's bad, but you're brilliant." I'm not saying Vlad is too perfect as a character, far from it - it's just that his revelations somehow got a tad dry by the end. Don't know exactly how it could have been done differently, and maybe I'm just not used to it because I just haven't read enough crime novels lately.
The other thing which I was more disappointed with was the very ending itself, with the return to Vlad's contemplation of whether his past life as a Dragaeran greatly affects who he is now. It's presented (apparently) for the sake of a moralizing conclusion, which was totally misplaced in my eyes:
" ' You know, Aliera,' I said, 'I'm still not really sure about this genetic inheritance through the soul. I mean, sure, I felt something for it, but I also lived through what I lived through, and I guess that shaped me more than you'd think. I am what I am, in addition to what I was. Do you understand what I mean?' Aliera didn't answer; she just looked at me, her face unreadable. An uncomfortable silence settled over the room, as we all sat there with our thoughts. Kragar studied the floor, Cawti [who provided her husband with his current 'revelation' about ten chapters ago] caressed my forehead...."
Enough about the downsides. I greatly enjoyed the depiction of this universe, which I can't help linking intrinsically with the Star Wars galaxy. (Vlad should build himself a podracer so he can stop teleporting.) The addition of sorcery and witchcraft, however – with a neat distinction between the two – makes it unique, less hokey than 'the force.' The detailed weaponry is also, I must admit, rather intriguing. So is the link that Aliera, Morrolan and Vlad have with their particular weapons, which have really cool names. I mean, I seriously want to carry on a kick-ass fight with a two-foot length of gold chain called Spellbreaker. I'm not kidding.
I will wrap this up with my hypothesis that Brust has strictly personal reasons for giving Vlad Taltos a moustache. Namely, Vlad is a bit of a Mary Sue. Just look at some concept art for Vlad:
And look at Stephen Brust:
Poor Stevie. All he's got is a parakeet.
I can't help being amused, but I honestly feel empathy for the guy. Who wouldn't want to be Vlad Taltos? And who has more right to be than the person who created him in the first place?
One thing I have to admire, I can not predict the twists that these books' plots take. I'm not much good at predicting plot twists anyway, but in the case of the Vlad Taltos books I doubt it's just me. I think it proves how well-versed Brust is in the science of intrigue, and how artfully crafted this entire world is.
So, Vlad and Cawti met up in this one. That was fun and frisky. Cawti's an excellent character, not least because she is equal or possibly superior to Vlad in every conceivable way. I'm glad that Vlad doesn't fall in love with some wimpy female and awaken his 'soft side' to protect her. That would have weakened the action.
In the sidelines, Vlad and Loiosh's bickering continues to be amusing, and after the hundredth "Shut up, Loiosh" it doesn't really even get stale. Not much. It just makes one feel how well they know each other. I still hope we'll hear them having a real psionic heart-to-heart one day, not just their banter between Vlad's other conversations.
I will maintain that Sticks is the best character in Yendi. "There's no future in it, Boss." (less)
I ... um ... I don't think I can give this a starred review. Rating does not compute, because it didn't feel quite like a "real" book to me. More like...moreI ... um ... I don't think I can give this a starred review. Rating does not compute, because it didn't feel quite like a "real" book to me. More like ... a primitive attempt to create a virtual reality experience. You see, you hear, you smell, you taste, explicitly and that's the whole point, the only reason for being there. Fun, for sure, but not to be judged exactly by my usual standards. So here goes the attempt to word my thoughts on these Amorous Exploits.
What are you in for if you read this book?
- The arousal of children and adults together. WTF? It's not sick, not abusive, not really even pedophilia. In fact it seems like mature females touching little boys and girls might have been a form of nurture and comfort in the Victorian period. If you are willing to detach yourself from the modern horror of sexually abusing children, you realize there is nothing 'morally' wrong or disgusting or hurtful about what Apollinaire is describing in the earlier chapters. I'm curious to find out the historical authenticity of such a practice. (But where on Earth would one find that out?)
- Bestiality. WTF? We're all animals ... technically ... he was stretching it a tiny bit on this one, for me. Geese aren't dildos. The dog wasn't big enough? Excuse my grammar for a sec. LOL.
- Incest. WTF? And lots of it. Both sisters and an auntie become Roger's fellow explorers. I think mummy is the only one who avoids deeper relations with him, and that's not for Roger's failure to be attracted to her. Presumably, he'll become every bit as "imaginative" as her husband, and who knows? An Oedipus-on-purpose scenario is not out of the questions. By the way, the back-cover description is inaccurate. He fucks his sister first.
And except for the peasant scene, they're all so polite and (I get the impression) sincere about it. It's kind of lovely to read how Roger woos woman after woman, his nice seductive phrases never getting stale, false or repeated. (Well, maybe repeated a bit, but they all want the same thing anyway, dammit.) There's this combination of burning desire and overarching respect; Roger never gets close to raping anyone, so far as I can gather. Almost everyone he approaches (thus, almost everyone with a vagina) is remarkably willing to comply for mutual enjoyment. This book makes no claims to realism. Oh, man. I just realized how messed-up the unities of time are in this thing. But it's all to good effect. Good thing it's a mere fifty pages, because you can't really stop once you start.
I liked reading about the experimentation of himself and his partners. They discover new levels of experience together, dominating the union only by turn. It felt - I dunno, more innocent, somehow. And holy crap, Apollinaire, if you can achieve any feel of innocence, in a work like this, maybe you deserve five stars after all.
What's funniest about this kind of book is how quickly it grows on you just speaking for myself - on me. There is the initial "Holy #$&%" moment, the muffled, half-dismayed laughter, and then the expanding sense of "Okaaay...." And then I read on and do it again.
Overall, judging by Rakehell, Apollinaire treats erotica as a genre that should be as worthy of literary reading as it's possible (again, for me) to imagine. True, there's no plot to speak of, but the imagery is actually quite lovely. Though it's eyebrow-raising stuff for the uninitiated, it's a decent introduction to smutty books. Read, laugh, learn with Roger (maybe?! oh dear, I shouldn't even post that), feel, and go with the flow. I'm not sorry I did.
I have been enjoying these tales as thoroughly as their serially-published predecessors ( in 44 Scotland Street, which I've yet to review). Based on b...moreI have been enjoying these tales as thoroughly as their serially-published predecessors ( in 44 Scotland Street, which I've yet to review). Based on books 1.5, I'd recommend the Scotland Street series to just about anyone. The burgeoning independence of Bertie, the emergence of Big Lou's smug yet admirable personality, the bluster of Bruce, the incorrigible wisdom of Domenica and her pseudo-motherly relation to Pat - it's all wonderful candy reading. Sadly, now that I'm back at university I had to leave it in my Newfoundland library and await the fortuitous day I'll find it here in Sackville. A full review to come, eventually …. (less)
I caught only vague snatches of Poirot, televised versions, during my formative years. My parents, once in a while, pulled out their dusty videotapes...moreI caught only vague snatches of Poirot, televised versions, during my formative years. My parents, once in a while, pulled out their dusty videotapes with David Suchet; I knew the impressively-mustached face, was familiar with the smug French accent so naturally belonging to it. Until now, unfortunately, I'd never read any of Agatha Christie's Poirot. I was loyal to Sherlock Holmes, or so I thought. I had no idea what I was missing. Make no mistake, I still adore Holmes, but I also find I'm delighted with Poirot.
Peril at End House takes place well into the (interminable - so sorry, Ms. Christie) series. It's still an excellent place to start, at least if you mean to get hooked. For one thing, it's narrated by Hastings, whose occasional puffs of dry wit help to balance Poirot's overbearing self-satisfaction. He harbours the same blend of great admiration and almost parental forbearance that I feel for Poirot. Comme ça:
."... I've been hearing all about you and what a wonderful chap you are. Never had a failure, they say." "That is not true," said Poirot. "I had a bad failure in Belgium in 1893. You recollect, Hastings? I recounted it to you. The affair of the box of chocolates." "I remember," I said. And I smiled, for at the time that Poirot told me that tale, he had instructed me to say "chocolate box" to him if ever I should fancy he was growing conceited! He was then bitterly offended when I used the magical words only a minute and a quarter later.
For another thing, the mystery is so full of choice twists and turns that one could scarcely predict the next, never mind get bored. I have yet to see if most others in the series can match End House plot-wise, but at least I know from this one that there's high potential. The ending is fantastic. True to the preferences of some readers (i.e. my romantic idealist mother), every character and element is well accounted-for.
When I read mysteries, and that's not been terribly often, I admit that I'm not the type to try to solve the crime before it's revealed. I'm blockheaded that way, I guess. What I do enjoy about Conan Doyle, and now about Christie, is the vivid brevity with which they create their characters. Most of these characters, all the suspects really, are puppets, but they are satisfactorily-made puppets, and we want them to be just so. We want to focus not on the suspects, but on the Godlike one among them. Like Holmes, Poirot is such a magnificent bastard that he's become an archetype in himself. For all that, he is still something of an enigma. We feel we know who Poirot is, but it's those little grey cells of his! - we can't fathom how he ticks. That is what draws us back. The mystery is cleverly crafted, the action moves quickly, the stakes are high, but none of these matter much.
I think I'll have to get a public library card here in the university town so I can keep feeding myself with the insufferable excellence of this Poirot. (less)
I goddamn loved this book so much. One of my housemates provided it to me through an Exmas book exchange, and I read it with total glee over the durat...moreI goddamn loved this book so much. One of my housemates provided it to me through an Exmas book exchange, and I read it with total glee over the duration of my holiday. The energetic plot, the ... loveable-in-spite-of-themselves characters, the wry dialogue, lightly-treated crumblets of philosophical meditation, and relatively obscure cultural/literary references (I'm certain I didn't get them all, but I got enough to thoroughly delight me) -- there was nothing I can think of that I wouldn't praise about this novel. This is my first book by either Gaiman or Pratchett, and I'd happily look at their solo work.(less)