I received this book for Christmas from a friend who'd heard great things-- and heck, even Bjork was a big fan! What could possibly go wrong?
It was aI received this book for Christmas from a friend who'd heard great things-- and heck, even Bjork was a big fan! What could possibly go wrong?
It was a quick read. Almost too quick, in fact. The major plot arc is set up as a fascinating collision of myth and truth, in which storytelling and reality circle one another and prepare for inevitable battle. WARNING: Spoilers ahead....
Except it was entirely evitable. Because it doesn't happen. Not much of anything does, if we're being honest. One of my major pet peeves in fiction is a dull protagonist, particularly one who is plucked from the ordinary and tossed into the extraordinary, and either doesn't notice, doesn't understand, or doesn't care about the shift. This book is a particularly egregious offender.
After finishing, I felt the need to read professional reviews, so certain that I had missed some critical development in the story. Instead I stumbled upon an interview with the author and nearly puked into my mouth. I had missed nothing, except that (light a clove cigarette, toss on your best plaid and shirt and bow tie) "that was sooooo the point". The author had literally written the book as a cut-and-paste contrast of two already-written stories--one real, based on an ancestor's memoirs; one mythical, chosen seemingly at random-- in order to satirize the foolishness of the former. No, really. The whole book is a dull joke about his great-grandfather's inanity.
I understand this kind of satire. Really, I get it. I'd like to think that anyone with a high school diploma could get the joke: a character has his face buried so deep in his silly views that he fails to see what's right in front of him. This isn't a new joke. Maybe once upon a time it was original. But today, its proper place is in a vignette. Maybe a short story. But drawing it out a little bit without any real elaboration on the theme, and then calling it a brilliant novel? That's frankly offensive to the readers' intelligence.
Unsatisfying, dull, and lazy. Hurray for postmodernism!...more
I'm ashamed to say that this is the first I've read of Alan Moore's work. I never prioritized it because I got the impression, early on in my foray inI'm ashamed to say that this is the first I've read of Alan Moore's work. I never prioritized it because I got the impression, early on in my foray into graphic novels, that his were the "Classics" of the genre; that they would never lose their value even if I took my time getting to them.
I was right, albeit at the cost of going this long without experiencing Moore's wit and charm. What a fun, outrageous, and comically violent mashup of diverse literary references! Combining this many pseudo-historical tropes into one functional whole, moreover an extremely enjoyable one, is no small feat. However, the offhanded and regularly tongue-in-cheek writing makes it look easy. Great characters, great plot-- at once classically literary and entirely its own--, perfect pacing.... The over-the-top satirical misogyny was the delicious cherry on a beautiful cake-y indulgence. I will definitely be reading more Moore, SOON....more
There is very little I can say about this book that won't spoil it. Suffice it to say that it moved me to very heavy tears. The autobiographical naturThere is very little I can say about this book that won't spoil it. Suffice it to say that it moved me to very heavy tears. The autobiographical nature of the work lends such force to its experimental-- almost searching-- voice. Gahhhh....more
What a curious little volume. While the entire anthology was extremely well-executed, I really could have just done with one big, collected, completeWhat a curious little volume. While the entire anthology was extremely well-executed, I really could have just done with one big, collected, complete narrative of"Deep Space". I want to read the rest of that story, because I think it will blow my mind. The narrative concept is wonderful in its own right, but Pham's minimalist style, crisp line work, and restricted colour pallet really bring it to life. I picked this up at the library on a whim, because sometimes I judge books by their covers and this particular cover was too compelling to pass by. I will keep my eye on the library shelves for further volumes....more
Goddamnit. Marry me, Noelle Stevenson. I read this in webcomic format as it was being written and released serially. Everything about this comic is asGoddamnit. Marry me, Noelle Stevenson. I read this in webcomic format as it was being written and released serially. Everything about this comic is as close to perfection as I think a comic can get. Sorry, world. You can stop trying now. Nimona wins all the things....more
I know that a 4-star rating makes little sense alongside a "disappointing" tag, but bear with me.
First, the notion of an all-female crew of adventurerI know that a 4-star rating makes little sense alongside a "disappointing" tag, but bear with me.
First, the notion of an all-female crew of adventurers tickles me in all the ways nineteen-year old me, Guild Wars fanatic and staunch feminist, would have loved. I love the idea. I even enjoy the characters, with Betty striking a particular chord in my heart (said everyone, I expect). With that being said, I went into this not having looked at the author's or illustrator's names, but I could tell by Page 2 that they were both determinedly Very Male. If you already see why this is a problem, skip ahead.
There are several moments in the comic that made my feminist heart groan. In this particular instance, it's not exactly that the creators resort to offensive stereotypes about women (though the T&A do come across loud and clear in the art, sorry ladies), but more that they project incredibly masculine behaviours, mannerisms, and speech style onto attractive female bodies and calls it Passing. With all apologies to Mr. Wiebe, real women do not use the term "bitch" NEARLY that often, even in the jocular spirit of reclamation. At times I could almost hear the undoubtedly hip and smooth comic book writer's voice through the characters' mouths, falsetto and all. All this isn't necessarily to say that female characters written by males need to sound identifiably feminine, but certainly if is it going to be promoted as an example of a feminist perspective in comics (strong female characters, etc), as it was to me, then it ought to do more than just pass the Bechdel test.
Second, the character art is phenomenal. Just kill-me-now-for-I'll-never-be-able-to-draw-humans-so-spectacularly levels of GOOD. And given that this series seems to be about One Half character-driven, this is a great thing. Their personalities shine through every subtle expression and gesture. Even the linework feels spunky. The problem is that the Other Half of the series seems action-driven, and the artist could use some serious work on his action, movement, and place expressions. The spatial localization of the characters within a scene is incredibly unclear throughout, and fight sequences are over-drawn, to the point that it's hard to differentiate the action of interest from the mess surrounding it. There is one action shot in particular that tore me completely out of the experience because of how jarringly difficult it was to visually interpret the scene. I hope the artist improves on this deficit in later volumes.
Yet despite my complaints, this was a truly fun and enjoyable little slice of adventure. There were some clever moments, some laugh-out-loud dialogue and character expressions, and even a glimmer of depth from the protagonists that I hope will be explored in future volumes.
A fantastic, fascinating premise that is ripe for exploration, torn down by a sloppy, dull, disappointing execution. The art, flow, design, plot, andA fantastic, fascinating premise that is ripe for exploration, torn down by a sloppy, dull, disappointing execution. The art, flow, design, plot, and writing are all decidedly mediocre, even amateur. Two stars for a great concept, but that alone does not a book make....more
I'm learning that Margaret Atwood has a particular talent for building morally ambiguous dystopian futures out of discomfiting present realities, andI'm learning that Margaret Atwood has a particular talent for building morally ambiguous dystopian futures out of discomfiting present realities, and I absolutely love that she does so from a strongly social, feminist perspective, filling a distinct gap in male-dominated futurist writings.
This novel is deeply unsettling, and I mean that as a compliment. Atwood paints a portrait of a society in which religious fervor and "traditional" roles have been pushed to their extremes, the former bolstering the latter. It is an America taken over by fringe conservative religious extremists, in which powerful white men dominate access to wealth, wives, property and sex, while fertile women from the lower castes are claimed as breeders and women of colour are re-assigned to servant roles. Every cog in this terrifying machine is kept in place by the belief that any other role would be worse, any other society less harmonious; the nightmare is in the appreciation of the shards of truth in those beliefs and the challenge of revolution in the face of such ambiguity (sound familiar?).
There are clear echoes of 1984 here, except that the subjugated are primarily women. The protagonist, moreover, is not the leader of rebellion; the strong-woman role falls to another. Instead, the protagonist's actions vacillate between outrage and complacency, willful ignorance and self-loathing, often all at once. She serves as a proxy for the reader, forcing questions about the ways women see themselves in relation to the world and how those perceived relations alter the boundaries of agency, worth, and purpose--in ways that, Atwood suggests, are not entirely shared by men.
That said, the men in the novel are not moral caricatures themselves. In fact I'd be very interested to read a male reader's understanding of and feelings about the novel. I personally feel that Atwood hits feminism in the productive sense (i.e., awareness of and rebellion against the inequalities that affect all genders) rather than devolving to the sort of hyperbolism (i.e., rebellion against men) that too often takes the spotlight at the expense of the very empathy that true equality demands. It's a complex problem of overwhelming scope, and valuable solutions will require an equally complex weave of black, white, every hue of the visible spectrum, and probably some from the invisible as well. The Handmaid's Tale is a beautiful and admirable attempt to unravel some fraction of that weave, conveniently wrapped up in a highly accessible story. Definitely recommended....more
I read a review that suggested this book was so popular in Germany because it recasts Hitler as a bad joke and thereby takes some of the power out ofI read a review that suggested this book was so popular in Germany because it recasts Hitler as a bad joke and thereby takes some of the power out of the "don't talk about the war!" discomfort left in his wake after WWII; a schadenfreude that was heretofore NOT OKAY in German culture. I respect this book for providing that, and give it three stars in acknowledgement of what it clearly has to offer German readers.
However, I question whether it should have been translated to English and marketed to North American audiences. Our perspective on Hitler has been one of derision and mockery since the end of the war. This cute and quaint (no, really) collection of bad jokes at Hitler's expense, relying heavily on detailed knowledge of German culture and history, was not written for us. It falls pretty flat as a result, and the writing (possibly the translator's fault?) is not good enough to carry the residual weight. It's not a bad book, but I would not recommend it to any North American lacking intimate knowledge of all things Germany....more