Look! Superman playing super-fetch with his super-dog! Aw!
Hey, guys. Guess what I read yesterday? Superman. Isn't that weird?
Well, it was "Buy 1 Grap...moreLook! Superman playing super-fetch with his super-dog! Aw!
Hey, guys. Guess what I read yesterday? Superman. Isn't that weird?
Well, it was "Buy 1 Graphic Novel, Get 1 For $1" Day @ my work. And I had stocked up on the latest volumes of the three series that I am currently in the middle of (Fables, The Walking Dead, Chew). I just needed one more! And the stock was looking slim (yay! sales; boo! none for me). When this guy that I work with, Tyler, hands me Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman. Since he knows what he's talking about when it comes to superhero comics - and I certainly don't - I bit.
Now, I have a "working knowledge" of Grant Morrison, since I compose the company's weekly Comic Book newsletter. He's like a big deal guy that everyone lurves. And I have the same ingrained "because- you're-an-American" pop culture knowledge of Superman that you probably have... you know: Krypton, Clark Kent, Phonebooths, Lois Lane, Smallville, Lex Luthor... that kind of thing. But, I had never wanted to read a Superman comic before. And I'd never seen a Superman movie or television show. I just figured I knew all I wanted to know about Superman.
But, this was really, really good!
Frank Quitely does the artwork, and man! His Clark Kent is fucking adorable. He's goofy and clumsy and chubby (!) and sweet. Look at this guy:
Aw! Pigeon-toed? Cute.
The storyline goes like this: Superman goes to save some dummies who are flying into the sun, and gets Superman-Cancer. Ordinarily, the Sun gives Superman all kinds of awesome powers, but THIS TIME, he overdid it, and now his cells are so bursting with power that they are going to overload. Of course, Lex Luthor sent those dummies into the sun in the first place, knowing Superman would save them (and the world), and hence - Lex Luthor is responsible for Superman's impending death. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha.
For the most part, the rest of the comic revolves around Superman coming to terms with his death, preparing the world for a Superman-less future, and trying to convince Lois Lane that he's been Clark Kent all along (she doesn't believe him...).
It's actually really touching!
One of the things that I enjoyed about Morrison's story is that I didn't necessarily have to know too much about Superman besides the mythos, you know? There are references to events that have taken place throughout the evolving Superman stories, but nothing Morrison couldn't explain to me in a non-condescending way. And, I do not know for sure (this is just a guess), but I think Morrison really added some arcane bits of Superman's past for the real fans, too.
Anyways, the reason I docked this book a star is that while this was a really great read, a couple of things were kind of dumb.
1. Superman gives Lois Lane Superman-powers for a day as a gift. This would've been a really fun little episode to read, except some asshole characters (Samson, Atlas) stepped out of the space-time-continuum, or whatever, and started harping on Lois Lane and ruined it. The two dudes and Superman get into a dick-measuring contest over who can "win" Lois, and she just poses for the entire length of the chapter instead of doing anything interesting. Srsly? So lame. What year is it? 1940? This part was a sexist PoS...
2. Superman gets exposed to "black kryptonite" and turns "bad" for a few pages. But, something also impairs his mental functions during this time, so he's also a bit retarded or something. I don't know. The dialogue took a turn for the INANE, and I was left laughing at what could've been a dramatic moment. It was so silly. In a bad way.
3. That Superman chin? It was out of fucking control. ￼
But, other than that chin and stuff - this first volume of All-Star Superman was actually very enjoyable, and I will definitely be reading the second volume in the series soon.(less)
"Everything about this record screams 'Too fucking precious!' Pardon my cynicism, I'd forgotten how to recognize beauty in the increasingly infrequent...more "Everything about this record screams 'Too fucking precious!' Pardon my cynicism, I'd forgotten how to recognize beauty in the increasingly infrequent times I stumble across it." - some guy in Melody Maker
First things first: If You're Feeling Sinister may not be my favorite Belle & Sebastian album, but it was my first! And, in all honesty, I cannot tell you which of B&S's albums is actually my favorite one anyway. But, Sinister is likely the one that got the most airtime with me... I listened to this album for a good two years without buying another B&S record (even though in 2003, the band had five studio albums released), because it was good enough for me to listen to it on repeat and think, "I could just listen to this and nothing else..."
Apparently, Sinister was most people's first Belle & Sebastian album, since their debut Tigermilk was this impossible-to-get mythological limited vinyl-only release. <-- This theme (the mythology and legend of "discovering" an indie-pop band in the pre-iTunes era) runs throughout Scott Plagenhoef's 33 1/3 Series offering.
See, Plagenhoef is an "associate editor-in-chief" at Pitchfork. If you don't know Pitchfork, its the internet-age answer to the dying 90's zine-scene (and if you don't know about that than I am out-of-my-element in being able to draw a comparison because you're probably old); it was the ultimate hipster-music-geek-go-to web venue - to the point where hipster-music-geeks have mostly outgrown it - it became "too mainstream" or something...kind of became a parody of itself due to the style of the reviews and the focus on its own importance in determining indie-rocks hits and misses.
So, as you can expect with Plagenhoef at the helm, this book gets a bit off-topic (topic: Belle & Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister) and starts to drag serious ass while Plagenhoef whips out his "Entire History Of Indie Rock" notes that he's been compiling for no reason in the second chapter, "They Don't Make Them Like They Used To." (yes, that's the real chapter title, named after a Belles lyric). Yawns-ville!
(Also, can one of you music nerds tell me what "MOR" bands are? I've worked in retail music for the past nine years and can't figure out this term that Plagenhoef throws around multiple times without defining. Shame on me? Shame on Plagenhoef?).
Plagenhoef mostly waxes about how the internet is kind of good for music - but not really: That the days of authentic "discovery" are gone, and that Belle & Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister was probably the last indie-rock album that came along before the internets changed music forever.
People had to wait for this album, and talk about it, they had to reason whether it lived up to the hype or not on their own. And it was the last time a band could "withhold" til the right moment, in terms of press exposure/live shows/recording and releasing. In some ways, he was a good enough writer to (almost) make you wish that the days of "the album" weren't over. In some ways, he was a good enough writer to make you believe Belle & Sebastian are the ultimate purveyors of pop-nostalgia.
I felt like this was mostly an extended magazine article. I did, however, find Plagenhoef's writing style superior to Paul Whitelaw's, who wrote a Belle & Sebastian biography in 2005 that made me uncomfortable in the sense that it read like an extended Tiger Beat obsess-a-thon. I mean, Plagenhoef still maintained a cooler-than-you/hipster indifference one comes to expect from a decent music journalism piece. I got the sense that Whitelaw, in his bio of the band, simply wanted to offer Stuart Murdoch the best blow-job of his life, albiet in written form.
I would've liked to have seen less "check out my knowledge of post-punk/indie pop" discussions from Plagenhoef, and more focus on the record itself. The discussion of the actual songs and lyrics of If You're Feeling Sinister was mostly regulated to a decidedly short third chapter, with a lot of unrelated music-journalism mess in the middle the book.
Anyways, I'm going to go listen to Sinister now (even that borefest, "Fox In The Snow," which Plagenhoef calls "achingly gorgeous"). Because I don't really care where Belle & Sebastian land on the indie-pop timeline, or what their significance is to the development of the internet forum. They are the fucking best band on the planet: a band that writes in character-point-of-views instead of trapping itself in the "I am/I will" first-person; writes songs where suddenly there's a flute you were not expecting to hear; and a band that brings sweet strings and loud trumpets and happy hand-claps into a giant orgasm of over-the-top prettiness while always being tongue-in-cheek enough to pull it off. :-P(less)
Fans of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader Zim need to get on this. Foodies and the food-movement people need to get on this. Anyone who likes fu...more Fans of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader Zim need to get on this. Foodies and the food-movement people need to get on this. Anyone who likes fun... needs to get on this. Like now.
If you don't know what Chew is, "it is a story about an FDA Agent who solves crimes by getting psychic impressions by eating things, including people."
Chew has been CONSISTENTLY the best graphic novel series I have read in the recent-times. Now, I love my Fables to bits and bits. And I love Rick Grimes and The Walking Dead. But, every so often... they can disappoint me: they can fall into ruts of boring redundancy (The Walking Dead - yes, yes, this terrible, gray zombie-infested hell, I know.); or, they can take a character that you love and stomp all over her with dog-poop shoes (Fables - I'm thinking of you, Snow White, and all those good storylines they took you out of so you could go be a (view spoiler)[mommy? yawn. (hide spoiler)]).
But, Chew! It is laugh out loud funny. Every time. Chew has fabulous characterization. Chew has amazing artwork. Just like Jhonen "Johnny" Vasquez of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Squee, and Nickolodeon's Invader Zim, John Layman hides easter-eggs-of-fun all over the place: the brand names, commercials, advertisements; the background characters; even the goddamn post-it notes. John Layman & Rob Guillory are truly fucking serious about being sillies. And I love it.
Why give Chew Volume 4: Flambe 5 stars, and not 4 like all the other Chew TPBs I've read this year? Because this was the clincher for me. This volume spoke to me, like so: "Srsly, Rhiannon? 4 Stars? Did you see all the goodies we put in just for you in this volume? C'Mon, unleash that 5th Star and stop stringing us along. You know you love us teh mostest."
Was it the Fringe references? Yes!
Was it the fact the Olive Chu and I have the same Threadless T-Shirt? Yes!
Was it the fact that this woman is reading Female Eyepatch Monthly? Yes!
(sorry these are phone pics!)
This series has 1. cannibalism 2. avian flu 3. The FDA, the USDA, NASA 4. chicken-frogs 5. space-fruit called Gallsberry 6. vampires 7. so much more than i can number here
The characters can: 1. take a bite from anything and get a psychic sensation of what's happened to that object 2. write about food so accurately that people get the sensation of taste when they read about it 3. communicate through (or translate written works like plays, poems and operas) their food 4. become smarter the more that they eat 5. control people through food
I mean, the storyline goes all over the place! But, the characters are just so great. Just read this. For reals.["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
**spoiler alert** This was a beautifully written book concerning a difficult subject. Well, *three cheers* to Kirsty Eagar because it has been a long...more**spoiler alert** This was a beautifully written book concerning a difficult subject. Well, *three cheers* to Kirsty Eagar because it has been a long time since I have felt so strongly for a character after finishing a book. That being said, for the remainder of this review, you'll probably notice that I feel very "defensive" about this character, and felt a strong sense of "protection" for her, while I was reading from her point of view (first person, present tense - done very well).
Raw Blue is a story about trauma and healing. A lot of people would tell you it is also a love story. But, it's not, really.
It's the story of a girl who wakes up every day and tries to get by after a traumatic experience - a gang rape - fucking levels her happy-go-lucky teenage life. It unfolds like a horrifying media-cautionary-tale-come-true: drunk girl seperated from friends, goes to a party with a guy, passes out, wakes up with her panties around her ankles...and the most horrifying memories one can imagine.
The shame of this crime shuts Carly up good: she tells no one, trusts no one. She feels damaged, responsible, like a statistic - she is angry for feeling like a victim, and angry for feeling helpless against it. She's afraid of men (with good reason, they're constantly fucking touching her in this book! Seriously, I felt like screaming "Get your hands off her," like twenty times while I was reading this...).
Carly literally drops out of her life to avoid everything: she works and she surfs. And she only works to afford surfing. So, mainly she just surfs. And - just so you know, I don't know jackshit about surfing - but the "surfing" passages of this book are the most beautiful.
Eventually, Carly opens up to a few characters: her neighbor, a teenage boy she surfs with, and a guy who wants to date her, Ryan.
I read all kinds of reviews about this book. And so many of them are all "OMG! Ryan, right?" and "Gasp! Their love!" But, honestly, the story of Carly's relationship with Ryan is not going to send you into a romantic tailspin: This isn't Edward Cullen (or even Jonah Griggs), so calm down.
In fact, if you (re-)read it, you might see that Carly is actually terrified of Ryan most of the time. Through Eagar's amazing narrative voice, Carly's fears are palpable: real and honest and heartbreaking. She likes Ryan, but is afraid to be around him. She doesn't know how conduct herself when she's near him.
And Ryan. Ryan is a good guy. Ryan knows how to get a girl off in the sack. Ryan calls back, and Ryan makes her laugh. These are all great things - but, those traits don't make Ryan "special." Make no mistake - I don't think Kirsty Eagar romanticizes Ryan in any way. He wasn't the "key," he wasn't what was "missing," he probably isn't even her "soulmate" - if that's what these girls get so ga-ga over.
Ryan was important to Carly by helping her trust people once again. But, he didn't "save" our troubled heroine. And, I didn't find their story "romantic," in the traditional sense. Honestly, I found it weird that many girls found "romance" there. I mean, most of the time, their scenes together were flinchingly awkward, which I thought was excellent - in the sense that the scenes felt real and authentic. To romanticize them later seems, to me, like some kind of awkward YA-Romance-Wish-Fullfilment or something.
One of the scenes that was conflicting, for instance, was the first sex scene between her and Ryan. Did readers notice that when it came "time for sex" (right, as if sex just happens at this time in the date like it's block-scheduled), Carly was just going through the motions? Since we are in her head as far narration goes, we don't get the sense that she's "excited" by this. If she had been, she would've been explicit about this. I'm glad the sex turned out really good in her favor - but, her approach to it was sad to me. Not romantic.
And it was not because of Ryan that Carly opens up about her rape. She is almost forced by circumstances to open up about it - based on wanting to explain her erratic behavior. In fact, just letting the secret out (even if it was to Ryan), didn't "changed her life," after all.
There was no magic moment: it just takes time, and patience, and surfing. And I liked that Eagar makes it clear that there isn't a potion, or a healing balm, or something that you can use to call yourself "healed" by trauma. It was very realistic, even if it was sad.
The other thing that was troubling about Carly was that she equated herself as "damaged," and compared herself to other "damaged" characters - like Shane and Marty. Carly equates her own identity with the identity of Shane and Marty - who are in, in fact, aggressors. And she does this as though they are all on the "same team": giving the reader the sense that Carly's inclination is to put "rapist" and "raped" in the same vein.
But, the truth is - a victim of rape, and a perpetrator of sexual aggression, shouldn't be in the same fucking "damaged" category that Carly lumps them into. Though we don't get to hear how Carly's thoughts on this notion may have evolved, I have the feeling that Carly comes to think of herself differently by the end of the book - at least I hope so.
Anyways, I LOVED this book. I loved this book because the writing was brilliant. The characters were multifaceted and developed. The dialogue was (sometimes, painfully) authentic. The moments when Carly is describing surfing are just gorgeous. The fact that you can feel Carly's pain, and really empathize with her character, is the mark of a truly gifted writer with a knack for perfect first-person narration.
Even though I loved it so, because of the highly-charged subject matter, I had more concerns about this book's audience (YA, Young Women), than of it's message. I think that it could be interpreted certain ways that are not intended by the author:
>Namely, that coming to terms with trauma on your own is enough. Carly never seeks help - like professional help. She never reports the crime. Nothing. Even though it is clear to the reader that she is really struggling sometimes. At the end, she just drives off, feeling happy - and we might believe her healed. But, she is healing, I believe. Not healed. Not finished. Just beginning.
>One of the things that could get "mixed up" is the notion that "one good man" will somehow heal the damage that the rape has caused. As you can probably tell by my rantings above, I fear that people will latch on to this notion of being "saved" by love. When being "saved" has little to do with surviving trauma.
>Finally, a "mixed reation" to this book could be the notion that because Carly "blames herself" from time to time ("If only I hadn't been...") that it is okay - as a reader - to view her as responsible, too. The shame, blame, guilt that Carly feels are common symptoms of psychological trauma, but they are not "justifications" for her actions leading up to the rape.
Believe me, I don't think most people see it this way... But, I read a review (not on GR) that said "The message about safety for young women is easily picked up and is perhaps a warning to female readers..." and I don't think that the "message" or "warning" is intended by Kirsty Eagar, at all!
In fact, some of Carly's angriest moments in Raw Blue are actually narrative diatribes about the way that rape/rape victims are portrayed by the media, handled by authorities, and perceived by outsiders. I think Kirsty acknowledges that women in "dangerous" situations is not the "cause" of rape or sexual aggression (Carly is also sexually harassed, for instance, in her "safe" job), and I don't think that it was the author's intention to "warn" her audience.
I just have mixed feelings on how to deal with this book, post-read. I mean, I know I loved it. It's just - I'm careful, sometimes - and Raw Blue a book that needs to be shared and talked about thoughtfully.
I hope you read it, though. It was THAT good, I promise.(less)
The book opened like so: "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well." Oooooooh. Enter the world of Karou, raised by an...moreThe book opened like so: "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well." Oooooooh. Enter the world of Karou, raised by an otherworldly - but loving - family of chimeras, who becomes the apple of an avenging angel's eye. Akiva, a Seraphim soldier seeking to destroy the chimeras, is drawn to Karou for reasons unexplainable. Then they fall in love. Then, they figure out WHY they are drawn to each other.
The somewhat dainty "Once upon a time..." fairy-tale/fable motif that opened the book is suspended for a bit of teenage realism as the story takes off... In the beginning, there's a few vague mysteries hinted at. But, for the most part we were introduced to the story's protagonist, Karou, basking in all the teenager-y-ness of modern times: artsy, angsty, angry, snarky, funny. I adored her.
And her strange lifestyle, her bizarro foster family of chimeras? It took very little suspension of disbelief. It was convincing from the get-go. In the world of paranormal romance (fantasy, really) the seamless convergence of worlds is key. How your world holds up might make or break me, as a reader (unless you're Libba Bray, I guess).
Laini Taylor wove the two worlds together so seamlessly. It was as if the two worlds just were. Wow! Now, she's getting Gaiman-esque. I don't know what "Gaiman-esque" means when other people reference Neil Gaiman, but for me, it is something specific:
It is something I see in almost all of Gaiman's work, even the short stories. It is this seamless converging of realities, yes! But, it is also the way the story - which seems to have been told hundreds of times before even though you've only read it once - is fresh and new and perfectly rounded out just like a fairy tale. In some ways, it does not claim to be more than a story. But, its a story so good that it is real and true. (What?!? I dunno, this is why I want to marry Neil Gaiman's books and have their babies.)
Wait - J.R.R. Tolkien knows what I mean. Guh! He talks about this great tree of tales, where all the stories exist as leaves on branches. And the author of a fantasy (or, a fairy-story), doesn't discover the leaf - which is/has always been - but instead unfolds it, tells its story, this story that already exists. "One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps."
So, at the end of The Daughter Of Smoke & Bone I just picture J.R.R. Tolkien and Neil Gaiman and Laini Taylor all hanging out picking the leaves of this Tree of Tales and giving them to us in a way that we're surprised by them, but at the same time deeply familiar with them, culturally or spiritually, or whatever.
"The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered...while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost." [Tolkien "On Fairy-Stories"]
Let's just say - Taylor's story presents questions, so many questions! But, never about the believability or viability of her world. Only about her story itself. Why does Brimstone collect those teeth, why does Karou have those tattoos on her hands, who were Karou's parents, really?
The Daughter Of Smoke & Bone is quite an accomplishment for a genre (paranormal romance/romantic fantasy), where the love story is allowed to cast a shadow over the more foundational aspects of storytelling itself. Characterization, conflict, resolution - sometimes, those are left out for the better love story, and it makes for a shitty book. But, not in Laini Taylor's case: the love and the longing work perfectly in a beautifully imagined world.
Laini Taylor's The Daughter Of Smoke & Bone is so well done. She is an excellent storyteller with an excellent imagination. The hamsas, the teeth, the smoke, the bone, the myth of the two moons - all delicately revealed. No extraneous details, everything fits.
So, what happened to her fifth star?
"You need to just let this breathe..."
Once, a kid in my fiction writing class said that to me in his critique of my short story. He held up my story and had circled my OMG! First Kissing Scene. "You need to just let this breathe..." It was his only criticism. And he was the One Kid in class whose opinion I most trusted (you know THAT kid in the creative writing class, the one who is better than you, and therefore whose opinion you hinge your every hope on).
He was right, of course. That scene was trying to convey some "big emotions," some big chemistry, and ended up overwrought and prolly terrible to everyone who wasn't me.
Kissing scenes (intimacy scenes) are hard to do right. Like battle scenes! There is chaos there, and emotions all over the place, spewing everywhere like blood or saliva - take your pick - and the reader often finds herself somewhat lost in them, searching for, like, little moments in the paragraph to latch onto, rushing through them to wrap her head around what is actually going on.
I have a really hard time reading battle scenes. And kissing scenes. For the same reason.
So, here goes: my only criticism of Laini Taylor's The Daughter Of Smoke & Bone, which was otherwise a beautifully realized story - as well as a beautifully written story: Lady, you should have just let some of that lovey-dovey angel/demon stuff breathe for a minute.
Ultimately, there is this climactic scene of closeness between Karou and Akiva. In this scene, an action - (view spoiler)[breaking a wishbone (hide spoiler)] - will lead to the truth about who and what Karou is and what exactly their love is about. Man-oh-man, was that scene drawn out. It was pages and pages long!
Paraphrase: And she was drawn to him, and he was drawn to her. And something was pulling her, and something was pulling him. And they were drawn and pulled. Draw/pull, draw/pull, draw/pull. Chapter ends. Draw/pull. Chapter begins. Draw/Pull. Flip pages, draw/pull.
Suddenly, I am lost in a sea of flowery, overwrought prose. Drowning in it, really. Waiting for action, resolution. Waiting for solid-ground storytelling again. (view spoiler)[Break the fucking wishbone! (hide spoiler)]. And it came. And it was explosive. And lovely!
But, someone should've told her to calm down a little bit a for a minute there. No doubt some people live for these intimate moments in romance books. But, I am not one of them. Laini wasn't being a bad writer, per se. But, she was letting these emotional moments fog up the place for a minute, and I found it somewhat unnecessary. Or overlong. Almost - dare I say - boring.
Don't think I hate LOVE, or something. I don't! But, love scenes and battle scenes, man. Sometimes, they can be just too much. They just need to be careful pieces of writing.
...Read this book! It is excellent. Although I am slightly distressed to find myself in the middle of another series for the third time this year (Goddamn you! Game Of Thrones!), I CANNOT wait for more of these characters. In the meantime, I can't wait for some more Laini Taylor - she's outstanding.["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book freaked me out: it was the first package that was delivered to me in my new apartment. The apartment I just moved into with my boyfriend. Wi...moreThis book freaked me out: it was the first package that was delivered to me in my new apartment. The apartment I just moved into with my boyfriend. With only my boyfriend. Now, I knew when I moved into this boyfriend-only apartment that it would lead to marriage. And I hate marriage. Just generally. Now, I know, I know... "don't hate it til you've tried it," and all that. If you say so.
So, The Stuff That Never Happened arrives, and here's this empty-nesting lady-mom deciding that she's going to cheat on her husband in the opening chapters. Then, the next thing you know she's flashing back to her previous affair in the same marriage twenty years ago.
That's why this book freaked me out. It basically said: "marriage is booooorrrring...." and confirmed what I already know: someday, I will get bored with my marriage...instead of cheating I will write a chicklit novel called Some Things That I Wish Happened and pretend I cheated just like Maddie Dawson did when she wrote The Stuff That Never Happened.
(3.5 stars - story was really good, the flashback characters were great, the daughter was annoying, and the present-day main character was a Mary Sue).(less)
Helen Benedict's Sand Queen is an important book for a couple of reasons. First, (and to the best of my knowledge) Benedict's topic - the treatment of...moreHelen Benedict's Sand Queen is an important book for a couple of reasons. First, (and to the best of my knowledge) Benedict's topic - the treatment of female soldiers in the United States Army - is not sufficiently explored by very many contemporary fiction writers. Even the nonfiction works (including Benedict's own The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq) are not not given enough exposure to warrant the kind of attention that this topic demands (I'm sure some people would disagree with this - thinking there's too MUCH coverage, but I disagree - if you ask a normal-walking-down-the-street guy or lady about sexual abuse in the military, s/he likely doesn't know the fucking half of it).
Benedict's work with female soldiers fighting in our current War(s) On Terror have given way to many first-hand accounts what female soldiers are subject to: an almost methodical and ever-present pattern of harassment, sexual and otherwise. But, mostly... sexual.
Secondly, Benedict makes it clear through her work that there are (or were, as of 2003 when this story takes place) no safe arenas for the reporting of incidents, for recourse, justice, appeal, or aid for women in the military who have been sexually assaulted.
And finally, Sand Queen also highlights the treatment of veterans (male or female) who experience post-traumatic difficulties relating to their time in combat.
According to Benedict, the women in Iraq are being assaulted on-the-daily, but only a small amount of these incidents get reported. And when they do get reported, the victim is often scrutinized and marginalized further by her admission. Boy, that fucking sucks.
According to a report by Salon: "Comprehensive statistics on the sexual assault of female soldiers in Iraq have not been collected, but early numbers revealed a problem so bad that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered a task force in 2004 to investigate. As a result, the Defense Department put up a Web site in 2005 designed to clarify that sexual assault is illegal and to help women report it. It also initiated required classes on sexual assault and harassment."
Wow, Rumsfeld was forced to address the issue publicly? That's when you know its fucking bad out there!
So, how does Sand Queen treat Benedict's topics? I think that Benedict is, for the most part, effective in reaching her goals of highlighting the occurrences of sexual abuse, and detailing the trouble with reporting assault, and the heartbreaking symptoms of PTSD experienced by veterans. That's why I gave this book three stars. But. Both as a work of fiction and as a social-problem novel, Sand Queen is lacking in some respects, to be sure. Here's why...
Benedict tells the story of two women: Kate, a naive 19-year-old Middle-American, and Naema, an educated Iraqi medical-student-plus-war-refugee. Kate spends most of her time doing her duties and being ignored by her commanders, unless they want to harass her. Naema spends most of her time holed up in her grandmother's house, decrying the war and everything about it: senseless deaths, the misrepresentation of her people, and on and on. I mean, honestly, this character breaks into narratives that are like Shakespearean-soliloquies of anti-war jibber-jabber which pull you away from the story thinking, "Sorry, nobody first-person-narrates that way..."
Since the two women's stories are too dissimilar to be properly (properly in this sense means "good-fiction-ally") correlated, I can only think that Benedict hoped that the juxtaposition of the daily lives of two women on opposite sides of the war would elicit some sympathy from the reader concerning one idea, and only one idea... WAR SUCKS.
Hmmm, yes. War certainly does suck. And I am lucky that I can only imagine that suckage, or read about in fiction. But, I don't think that Benedict can give her topics (mentioned above) the treatment they need in a novel constantly proclaiming that WAR SUCKS from the point of view of an Iraqi civilian.
In my point of view, Naema's story - because it often becomes a polemic, a mouthpiece for the author to voice an anti-war stance - smudges up an otherwise shiny piece of topical fiction. It makes the reader frame her questions like this "Gah! Why are we even in this war. Why are these women subjecting themselves to a war with no cause or purpose when it means getting assaulted in the process?!" instead of like this "Why are these women being singled out by male soldiers for abuse when they are serving their country in a time of war?"
Maybe I'm off the mark, but in the first frame of response - the soldier appears to victimized by both war - theory and practice - and men. I think that the women of the military would take issue with this notion. At least, I hope they would... they joined the military because they believed in war in the first place.
Now, war is not for everyone. (It's probably for almost no one). But, when you support the military - including our military women - you also support their belief that war is necessary. I think that if you want to support your ladies-in-combat in providing a voice to their silence, by shedding light on their issues - you don't do it by saying: "They have no need to be there in the first place. War turns everyone into a psychological-ball-of-goo, especially women. Get the fuck out." That's a different story altogether. That's an anti-war story. That's an anti-military story.
If you chucked the constant anti-war rhetoric, and focus on the topics at hand, the response of the reader might be more along the lines of seeing women victimized by assault: which is the more practical, rather than theoretical problem here. By glazing your entire text over in anti-war rhetoric, you may be losing the necessary attention of your readers.
If your focus is all the rape and none of the glory - your audience begins to question the "purpose" of women in the military at all - and I don't think that's the debate anyone is trying to have here!
For the record, I think that anti-military narratives, and anti-war narratives, are completely and wonderfully valid. They are also important works. They make us question conflict, nationalism, humanity. All the biggies. But, should Sand Queenbe this type of narrative? Not, I think, if it was intended to make the impact that it needs to. It could easily stand to trivialize the issue of the abuses of women who have joined the military because they have chosen to be there, and because they want to be there.
Kate, our protagonist, is sexually assaulted. She is victimized by superior officers; humiliated in her attempts to report her abuse; silenced by her circumstances. Dishonorably discharged. Suffering from PTSD. Hating the notion that she was a ever soldier to begin with, she is happy to leave the military and glad she is no longer a part of it... Okay, as a reader, I can be moved by her story. Truly.
But, I have to ask - are you writing an anti-war story, Helen? Because I thought you were looking for equal treatment and status for our female military officers.
And when you focus too long on multiple-states-of-victimhood, your character suffers. You can't do both - pro-female-military/anti-military - it's just too clunky. That's a 3-star book. Or worse.
Now, that lady is kind of mad about the constant association of "female military" and "sexual abuse" - but I think what she is more afraid of is the notion that female soldiers are being perceived as "weak." This is where the ground on which Benedict's topics stand begins to shift under our feet...
Some military women don't want to be portrayed in certain ways, by certain tropes (see above), having fought hard for their rights to be first-and-foremost a soldier, no gender qualifier necessary.
What do we (civilians, book-readers) see? Helen Benedict's book shows how sexual abuse wears female soldiers thin, makes them less alert and on the ball, emotionally-stretched. While this might be the case, there is arguable evidence here that women appear weaker as a result of their portrayal by journalists like Benedict. This probably makes many pro-military women (and men)'s blood run cold. If there's one adjective a soldier does not want to be identified with, it's weak.
I do not, personally, feel that "victim" should be equated with "weakness," but that correlation is something that is difficult for some readers to discern. Not to mention, the equation of "victim" and "weakness" is definitely difficult for some writers to successfully avoid. So, Helen Benedict had the opportunity to make a strong case against the of issue sexual assault in the military, possibly by ditching the anti-war rhetoric, but she threw the wrench of her own agenda into the gears and kinda fucked it up.
This book left me conflicted at best. But, I guess one thing is for sure... Naema's story sucked.
BTW - I got this book free from a Goodreads Giveaway. So happy I did - it introduced a new, enraging, and controversial topic into my very limited knowledge of world. Party.(less)
"Well, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I'm not up to trigonomulus, or whatever it is she does. We can't all be scholars." - Claudia, expressing frustration...more"Well, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I'm not up to trigonomulus, or whatever it is she does. We can't all be scholars." - Claudia, expressing frustration with both math and her sister, who is an Android being, probably from the future, and possibly "related" to Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation
Was Claudia described as having almond-shaped eyes: Thankfully, she did not describe her own eyes this way.
Was Mimi's accent described as rolling: Yes! Like a "ship at sea."
How many times was the word incredulously used: Zero!
WWCW: -Purple pants that stopped just below the knee, held up by suspenders, white tights with clocks on them, a purple plaid shirt with a matching hat, high-top sneakers, lobster earrings
-Extremely anti-climactic outfit for the Halloween Hop: baggy jeans and a new bulky sweater. Really, Claudia? I am disappointed in you.
What About Stacey? Stacey wore nothing that Claudia deemed cool enough to describe for us. Fail, Stacey, fail.
Quit letting 12-Year Olds Watch Your Goddamn Kids "Boring!" said Stacey. "Let's put on MTV. At least we can listen to some good music."
Kristy: "Now hear this! No running, no yelling, no jumping - and I mean it. One false move, and I'll punch your lights out."
Mary Anne let out a sigh of relief. "It's just the wind, " she said. "I must not have closed the door all the way." [Ten minutes later, at the back door]: "The door wasn't latched properly! Some baby-sitter I am. Leaving doors open left and right for anybody to walk through."
The Phantom: "It was that baby-sitting book you started bring to school everyday. I checked it each morning. It had all kinds of information in it: times, names, addresses, phone numbers..." Kristy slapped the heel of her hand against her forehead. Ah, yeah, Kristy...WTF!
Hilarious! "I decided I would try to paint a picture of embarrassment. The main color would be red."
Awwwwwwwwwkward "I don't know whether I was born early or late or on time," said Mary Anne softly. "Dad hardly ever talks about stuff like that. Its times like these I wish I had a mother." ...No one said anything.
Bitch! "Janine?" "Hmm?" "Remember when we used to crawl under Mom and Dad's bed during thunderstorms - " "But, we were really just hiding?" "Yeah," I said fondly. "Very interesting, psychologically." said Janine. "The fear process - " "Janine?" "What?" "Shut up."
Kristy: "How did you know I was going to be baby-sitting at all those places?" Police Officer: "And, why were you harassing this young lady?" Phantom: "Which question should I answer first?" Kristy: "Mine." Police Officer: [raises eyebrow]
Srsly. Kill Yrselfs! "Us baby-sitters have to stick together! Through thick and thin." "Through Phantoms and power failures." "Through fires and floods." We put our arms around eachother and headed into the school," [where, hopefully, someone beat you up for being so f*cking cheesy.]
That two-star rating? It has nothing to do w/ the fact that this was a Claudia book. I like Claudia. The plot was f*cking asinine.(less)
This book had an amazing concept. It was full of amazing ideas (the creation of a secret language for an oppressed second class - women). But, it lack...moreThis book had an amazing concept. It was full of amazing ideas (the creation of a secret language for an oppressed second class - women). But, it lacked several things, in my opinion, that prevented it from living up to the proclamation: "feminist science fiction classic."
One of those things was characterization. The first one hundred or so pages in the book had no distinct character for the reader to engage with. There are several plot points expounded in male points of view that readers are supposed to be disgusted by (and are disgusted by!); there is one storyline involving a woman, lacking any real depth, killing out of revenge; and then, there is the mention of some other characters who may be important later. That's it.
In my opinion, having no characters with any emotional depth for the reader to latch onto at the beginning of the story was a serious flaw. It made the pace slow, and frustrated my sense of who or what to believe in in this story.
Another problem I had with this book was the "good guys/bad guys" dichotomy applied by the author. It's simple: All women are good (even the one lady who systematically kills people), all men are bad (even the one guy who appeared to treat a female character like she was equal in intellect and status). I, personally, don't like my contemporary fiction to be so black/white. It is boring, and it is not believable. It narrows the reader's frame of mind and ability to objectively engage with the work. And, if done kind of poorly (as it was here - (view spoiler)[killing babies! C'mon! (hide spoiler)]), it comes off as petty and trite: an authorial position, a fable, a one-dimensional opinion piece - and not a work of fiction.
The final problem that I had with the book was this - the notion that women should have their own language in the first place. Don't get me wrong! I love imagining the subversive power that a secret language has for the oppressed secondary citizen! It was wonderfully done, and very inspiring! But...
Elgin, and by extension, her characters, believe that one's native language creates one's reality - how one perceives the world (Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis), and allowing the women in this story to create and use their OWN language will change their reality. I am all for that notion, ladyface!
The problem with all this is that Elgin really believes - IN REAL LIFE - that women should have a language separate from men. And - in doing so - that we would be essentially better off as separate from them altogether? (What's up, Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman-Radical-Crazypants?)
She believes there are things one can experience as a woman that men could not possibly conceive of. We-ellllllll....
1. There are things that an other experiences that a member of an elite, ruling, or "mainstream" class could not possibly conceive of, true... But, women are not the only other in any conceivable reality, and sometimes, even if they are the other in one reality, they may be the elite, ruling, mainstream in another (in Elgin's case, see: female linguists v. female non-linguists - who dictates what language is/means/can be in that scenario? A-hem, linguists. So, already female non-linguists are the double-other, yes?)
2. The notion of putting "Experience Before Language" and writing "outside of the patriarchy" is a nifty one (Cixous, Irigaray, Kristeva, Showalter)...But, does it call for an entirely new language, or simply a new way of USING language? See, the manipulation of a language already existing is, in my opinion, the more subversive and empowering act...
3. The terms that Elgin includes in her Laadan Dictionary seem to be: I. several ways of experiencing empathy II. descriptions of situations that make one feel overworked and unappreciated III. different ways that a body is touched, wants to be touched, doesn't want to be touched
I find these to be somewhat generalized as "female" concepts. They border a tad on the side of the insulting. This is because these are HUMAN concepts, and can occur with MEN as much as they can with WOMEN. They have simply been ASSOCIATED with WOMEN, as a "norm," and not ALLOWED to be ASSOCIATED with men - because of the SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF GENDER.
Right? Guys? You experience empathy, right? You feel unappreciated? You sometimes want to be touched, or are uncomfortable when someone is trying to touch you, right? But, you're not allowed to talk about it, because doing so would be UNMANLY, right? Michael Kimmel? Are you there? Can you hear me? Let's all talk about this. In English. Our language. Together.
Overall, I would recommend this book for its interesting obsession with language and reality. For its "Oh no, they didn't!" factor. But, Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale) did it better: she gave us better reasons for these fucked behaviors, gave us a couple of good men to save our faith in the HUMAN race, made me love Offred (sorry, Nazareth, not gonna happen), and made me cry. She wins. ["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
"The Baby-Sitters Club was a success. I, Kristin Amanda Thomas, had made it work." - Kristy, accepting the 1986 Mahatma Ghandi Award for Most Humble 1...more"The Baby-Sitters Club was a success. I, Kristin Amanda Thomas, had made it work." - Kristy, accepting the 1986 Mahatma Ghandi Award for Most Humble 12-Year Old Ever
Was Claudia described as having almond-shaped eyes: Surprisingly, no. Although she was described as "exotic."
Was Mimi's accent described as rolling: Nope
How many times was the word "incredulously" used: Twice
What Would Claudia Wear: -Short, very baggy lavender plaid overalls, a white lacy blouse, a black fedora, red high-top sneakers with no socks
-A baggy yellow and black checked shirt, black pants, red jazz shoes, a bracelet that looked like a telephone cord, and dangling, jointed skeleton earrings
-An outrageous red felt hat
What About Stacey? -Stacey was wearing a pink sweatshirt with sequins and a large purple parrot on the front, short, tight-fitting jeans with zippers up the outsides of the legs, and pink plastic shoes.
-A matching top and skirt made out of gray sweatshirt material with big, yellow number tens all over it, hair clips shaped like rainbows, and little silver whistles dangling from her ears
-Red plaid wool pants with red suspenders (What the f*ck is it with these girls and suspenders?)
Quit letting 12-Year Olds Watch Your Goddamn Kids "Oh my gosh," I cried. "I forgot! It's Tuesday...Tuesday is my day to watch David Michael. I'm supposed to beat him home. Otherwise, he gets home first and has to watch himself." David Michael is my 6-year old brother.
"So, what about this baby-sitting club?" "Well, I replied..." [After much discussion and negligence] We were interrupted by a thump and a wail. Jamie had fallen off one of the swings.
Awwwwwwwwwkward "Are your parents divorced, too?" I asked. "Nope. They've been married for fifteen years." "Mine have been married for twenty." "My mother died when I was a baby," said Mary Anne quietly. "She had cancer." Stacey looked embarrassed. "Well, I really better go..."
Bitch! "I'm sorry, Watson." I mumbled. I walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs. When I was halfway up, I yelled over my shoulder, "I'm sorry you're a terrible father!"
"Really, Kristy! A sweater with snowflakes and snowmen on it? You look like a four year old." "Well, you've got sheep barrettes in your hair!" I yelled. "You think they're adult?" "Sheep," Claudia informed me witheringly. "are in."
"Are you accusing my mother of lying?" Stacey cried. I thought for a moment. "I guess so."
Srsly. Ew! [Over fondue], Watson made this rule that if your bread fell off your fork and landed in the cheese, you had to kiss the person sitting on your right...And then, it happened. I was just sticking my fork into the pot when my bread fell off and landed in the cheese. Guess who was on my right? Watson. "Kiss daddy, kiss daddy!" cried Karen. (less)
This book came really close to being awesome - but, sadly, it got a tiny bit bogged down with a few "rock band" cliches. It also has the disadvantage...moreThis book came really close to being awesome - but, sadly, it got a tiny bit bogged down with a few "rock band" cliches. It also has the disadvantage of being published too soon after that amazing rock-band-powerhouse-novel, A Visit From The Goon Squad, and I can't help but think it will draw comparisons (did for me, I read them within a few months of one another).
But, I would still recommend it for alt-music fans, because it gives you one of those 90s punk-grunge rock stories that you didn't know you secretly craved.
The main character is strong most of the time - the only time the characterization faltered for me was in the descriptions of her supersexyhot body and in her sexual exploits... when I thought to myself - yes, this was definitely written by a dude. Otherwise, I liked her voice, her story, her tone - almost everything about her. And rest assured, she was not written to be likeable. She's written to be the gritty, standoffish bitch that looks good playing a telecaster.(less)
Once Upon A River was a surprising book. I did not expect it to be so gritty and realistic - but I ended up really enjoying that aspect of it. The pro...moreOnce Upon A River was a surprising book. I did not expect it to be so gritty and realistic - but I ended up really enjoying that aspect of it. The protagonist, Margo, was very well rounded and defined. She was determined and real - fascinating even while being completely unrelatable. She's a unique and strong character. However, I will say I want to slap every male character in this book: don't look for romance in this book...just a buncha rapists.(less)
Does thought of elves and fair maidens traipsing through the forest annoy you?
Could you care less about the assembly and arrangement of leagues of Iro...more Does thought of elves and fair maidens traipsing through the forest annoy you?
Could you care less about the assembly and arrangement of leagues of Iron Age knights cresting a hilltop with a team of wizards at their side?
When you chance upon a character called Crèthwriån, the Armÿnthfül of the Dünd'lythian Ryders, do you sigh, audibly curse, or throw up in your mouth a little?
Good! Me too! As it turns out, we are not typically fans of the high-fantasy genre. But, this book is so much better than you think it is!
Here is what George R.R. Martin's A Game Of Thrones, the first book in his A Song Of Ice And Fire series, offers Us, Those Of Little Faith In The Fantasy Genre...
1. Pronounceable Names: Crèthwriån, the Armÿnthfül of the Dünd'lythian Ryders makes no appearance in A Game Of Thrones. Instead, there are plenty of easy-to-read names like Robert, Ned, Jon, and Jaime. For the most part - even if the names are "weird," (Barristan, Theon), they are still pronounceable. Moreover, even if the names are spelled funny (Petyr, Robb), they are still familiar. For every fifteen-or-so pronounceable names, though, you WILL find a Daenerys or a Jaqen H'ghar. Also, for the purists? The Lannister family fills the quota on those Celtic-sounding "fantasy-staple" names: Tywin, Tyrion, Cersei, Lancel ("Lancel. What a stupid name. I hear tell his mother had quite the fat rear end too..." - RB).
2. Limited Battle Sequences: Like (one of my favorite books) Frank Herbert's Dune, A Game Of Thrones has more political discussion and devices, strategy, plans, and rumors than actual battle scenes. Battle scenes seem exceedingly difficult to craft, and almost impossible to make engaging, in my opinion. There are likely some writers of fantasy or historical fiction who can do justice to battle scenes, I don't doubt it. But, I have not come across them. Tolkien did it well, but even Tolkien eventually tired me out.
In trying to create logic (words, sentences, descriptions) out of what is essentially chaos, authors often attempt to write battle scenes that their readers can follow along with. But, even the attempts to bring "order" to chaos ultimately fail to impress me: in the end, I find myself searching for important moments in cluttered paragraphs like a drowning person searching for a life raft. A Game Of Thrones, for all its knights and squires, does not subject the reader to lengthy battle scenes. Hooray!
3. Sexytimes: A Game Of Thrones has plenty of sex. Scandalous sex, incestuous sex, horse-sex, even (what I can only derive as) boring-everyday-run-of-the-mill sex (Ned Stark, I'm looking at you!). Sex is used for power (Cersei), sex is substituted for love (Tyrion), single acts of sexytimes have consequences that can hamper the lives of others for years to come (Jon).
Unfortunately, there are also plenty of rapeytimes, too, which are not sex (and are acts of violence and war), but which some characters use interchangeably with actual sex. Rape is often discussed fairly nonchalantly, which can be disturbing. What is also disturbing is that most of the consensual sex is being had by men of unknown or irrelevant age and girls who just hit puberty, which in the moderntimes is also rape. Martin may have caught a lot of feminist-flack for this... However, this is a world where women are treated as secondary to men, and where their claim to their House counts more than any other factor, making them, in essence, property. Or, if not solely property themselves, than simply part of it: like a pretty maple tree just inside the castle gate - they come with the title. It is their duty to preserve the all-important male lineage, and raise daughters whose only aspirations are to do the same. Bleak, to say the least. But, this is a world very familiar to our own past. Things like this happened, historically (and still do, in some countries).
Within the design of his own making, Martin (like a good writer) gives us female characters of substance to interrogate the normalcy of these behaviors. IMHO, sometimes, he sometimes does too little to address these behaviors - but, meh - Martin's job is to create a believable world, not proselytize. I'll take it. As for the consensual sex, Martin is all the better for insisting that this is one of the few realms where men fall secondary to the ladies.
4. Character, Character, Character: "I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things." - TL
Whether its a dwarf who killed his mother in childbirth, forced to "waddle" alongside his almost inhumanly beautiful family members, a firstborn bastard with no place at his father's table, a struggling tomboy contemptuous of the behaviors befitting a proper lady, or the scrawny, lowborn son of a sheep herder with no chance at winning his true love's favor, Martin has no shortage of characters who must compensate for simply being Born This Way. They might bitch and moan (Jon Snow), embrace who they are and try to make the best of it (Tyrion Lannister), or turn into vile sociopaths with dangerous ambitions (Littlefinger)...but, Martin crafts them superbly in all instances. It is impossible not to fall for them immediately.
Following closely beside this category of characters is another: the damaged ones, those who have lost something in the course of their story that transforms who they are and how they imagine their destinies. Here, we see Bran Stark, newly-crippled with his hopes of being a knight dashed; Varys The Eunuch, whose lack of a cock somehow styled him an unassuming enough presence to become the most informed (important) man in all the kingdom; and Jorah Mormount, who turned traitor to the kingdom when his heart-on-sleeve got the better (worst) of him. These characters, like the ones mentioned above, have their own tormented pasts and unsure futures. They are multi-layered and engaging.
Somewhere in the mix of these, there's Dany Targaryen, the young exiled princess whose family was killed when she was still in her mom's belly. She's been fostered by sadistic mentalcases and those looking for a piece of her glory. She's been scared. She's been a pawn. She's been sold to the highest bidder so someone else could have it easy. And yet, she triumphs over all of this shitty shit-shit and RULES. She is almost fearsome in her goal - to take back the family throne - yet humble, and sweet, and avidly likeable. She's also the only character that Martin seems to allow to have "honor" and "birthright" without some fatal consequence or total mockery... Which brings us to our next category of character, The Noble Fantasy Cliche...
5. Stabbing Through Fantasy Tropes Like A Traitorous Head On A Spike:
In Martin's A Game Of Thrones, the noble of character - those inhuman lovelies who are staples of fantasy literature and for whom everything in the world is either black or white - fail at the game of thrones. They can't play the game of politics: schemes and whispers and rumors and cunning. They're smart, but they can't see through the bullshit. And the bullshit is everywhere. They're brave, but they have no idea whom they should fear. And they should fear almost everyone. They want "what's best for the kingdom," but, in all likelihood, they don't even know what is best for the goddamn kingdom, they only think they do.
Rather than hearken back to some fictional golden age where noble men upheld noble truths, and where noble truths were plain, and good, and white, Martin uses his methods of characterization (we love the cripples, bastards, and broken things, too!) and narration (shifting Points-Of-View in short, beautifully-paced bursts of storyline) to represent a pluralistic and morally-relativistic group of voices all telling their own story...and their story is the story of an entire nation, Westeros. Suddenly, thanks to Martin, postmodernism is creeping into the genre that (in my stunted perception of high-fantasy) glorified the nostalgic need for that ole black/white, good/bad, true/false worldview.
Okay, so its not a complete departure from the norm, not entirely... We still have villains, here, people. But, the villains get to be heard, and we often see their development, and sometimes - their "better sides." Sometimes, we find ourselves liking them all the same, while pitying those noble characters who surely have it coming to them for being so goddamn good and true. There's heroes, anti-heroes, anti-heroes who become heroes later on.
All that matters in the case of A Game Of Thrones is that the noble ones have no f*cking chance.
And, for that alone, the book is complex and amazing. Try it, I swear you'll like it!(less)