I loved The Big Over Easy so much that I felt the need to dive into the sequel right after finishing it, and maybe that was a mistake. They're both lo...moreI loved The Big Over Easy so much that I felt the need to dive into the sequel right after finishing it, and maybe that was a mistake. They're both long, densely packed stories, and certain quirks started to grate on my nerves after around 800 pages of more or less the same thing. Quirks like Fforde treating the same bad pun like a big punchline every single time it gets used, or apparently throwing in every single tangent that came to mind while writing.
But these are things that frustrate me less in hindsight. I've given myself a couple months, and now there's a lot that I look back on fondly. Once again, Fforde doesn't believe that a silly book about nursery rhyme characters has to be simple - it's a smart book, and it demands that its reader be at least fairly smart too. Compared to The Big Over Easy, the puns in this book are less memorable, but that's offset by all the extra character development. It's a borderline nonsensical mystery parody, so it's really amazing when things get tense and you realize you're actually really emotionally invested in what started out as simply archetypal characters, albeit with a twist. And the crying. There will be crying, if you're like me.
I highly recommend this book, with the caveat that you should be careful not to overdo it. Four hundred pages of Nursery Crime goes a long way. While the wait for The Last Great Tortoise Race is rough, in a way it'll have enough breathing room for me to approach it with a fresh, non-grumpy mind.(less)
First things first: This is the first thing I've ever read of Jasper Fforde (I told you it was a first thing), and even though I get the feeling this...moreFirst things first: This is the first thing I've ever read of Jasper Fforde (I told you it was a first thing), and even though I get the feeling this isn't quite his best work, I'm still sold.
There's a lot to love here. It's always impressive when you've got characters that you actually manage to care about even though they're in the middle of a silly parody without a lot of character development in the first place. The book absolutely nails the two things that it absolutely had to nail, namely the twisted nursery rhyme reimaginings and the old-timey mystery satire. Plus, it's all coated in a delicious crust of terrible puns, which is a surefire way to capture my heart.
Why, then, does this only get four stars? Well, Jasper Fforde seems to have a little bit of a problem with focus here. He's got a really fun plot here, but not exactly one that feels like it needs nearly 400 pages to tell. As a result, there are a number of times where we find ourselves off on a tangent not because it serves the book, but rather because it seems like he thought of some random thing he liked enough to stick in anyway. Fortunately, he's really very funny, so even the least on-target parts don't get irritating. He strikes me as the sort of guy who could be at least somewhat amusing writing about anything at all; he's just better when he has a goal.
The Big Over Easy is a book for a rather specific sort of taste. If you're like me, and you firmly believe that "silly" and "smart" are by no means mutually exclusive, then you might as well give it a try!(less)
I really, really wish the pacing of this book wasn't so horribly wrong.
There's a lot, in my opinion, to theoretically like about this. The mystery's p...moreI really, really wish the pacing of this book wasn't so horribly wrong.
There's a lot, in my opinion, to theoretically like about this. The mystery's pretty good, actually finding a way to take advantage of Shawn's pseudo-psychicness to tell a story that you couldn't quite see in just ANY mystery novel. (It's especially impressive when you consider how some of the more recent episodes of the show try their hardest to sidestep the psychic angle entirely.) On top of that, Rabkin does an admirable job of capturing Shawn and Gus' random, pointless argument. Even the third-person narration, which I know some others didn't care for, matched the irreverent tone of the show. Psych takes itself even less seriously than most comedic detective shows, so I really didn't mind it here. (This should go without saying, but people who want a properly serious crime novel would be well-advised to look elsewhere.)
But....the pacing. My god, THE PACING. You could skip the entire first half of the book and barely miss any of the investigation! The writing is funny and all, yes, but is it funny enough to overcome pretty much nothing happening? No. No, it's not, and that's a pretty big downfall, sadly.
(To some of the other reviewers who claim that this book would've been more interesting told from Shawn's point of view: While I understand where you're coming from, who writes a mystery novel from the point of view of the Great Detective, seriously?)(less)
Turnabout Gallows (Part Two): The exciting conclusion to the baffling case of the spider man, but, erm.....not that Spider-Man. First things first, I...moreTurnabout Gallows (Part Two): The exciting conclusion to the baffling case of the spider man, but, erm.....not that Spider-Man. First things first, I have to admire the attempt here to develop an interesting locked(ish) room case, with a unique solution that I wouldn't dream of spoiling. That said....I don't think there's a single thing about said solution that doesn't require stretching one's suspension of belief to the breaking point, even by the standards of the Phoenix Wright series, with its endless cavalcade of dangerous eccentrics. The sheer ridiculousness of how this was really pulled off knocks a little off the score, sadly. Still, it's interesting nonetheless, and "interesting" is always something I can recommend!
Turnabout Showtime: I'll never cease to be fascinated by the insanity that passes for costume-based entertainment in the Phoenix Wright universe, though Sparkleland is on the lower end of the memorability spectrum. The real draw, of course, is what Nick explicitly calls out as the "world's smallest locked-room murder", which has a reasonably clever solution that works out a lot better than Turnabout Gallows'. Though, Edgeworth's characterization is a little weird - he goes from being borderline clairvoyant to overlooking things that were already mentioned in the trial, like, ten or fifteen minutes ago. At least they stayed consistent with his secretly terrible taste in everything. :)
Once again, this isn't quite up to the quality of the games, which I mentioned in my review of the first volume. But maybe that's not being entirely fair; after all, there's a LOT less room for elaborate plotting here, and they do a pretty good job of packing the limited space with interesting material. The art's nice, too. Overall, it's not at all a bad diversion while we wait for Ace Attorney 5. Or the English release of the Layton crossover. Or, um, an English patch for Investigations 2. Not a bad diversion at all!
I'm giving this three stars, which is a half-star more than I would've given the first volume, that is, if Goodreads did half-stars.(less)
I'm ashamed of how long it took me to get around to reading this, and then how long it actually took me to finish reading it. Really, a big part of th...moreI'm ashamed of how long it took me to get around to reading this, and then how long it actually took me to finish reading it. Really, a big part of that is that I just didn't want it to end.
The first two books (The Hitchhier's Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe) are easily the best of the bunch. One of Adams' greatest talents seemed to be creating tangents that, strictly speaking, don't have all that much to do with the actual story, but that are also so charming, well thought out, and very much "in-character" for the book that they never feel out-of-place, and these world-building tangents were, by far, the most prominent in the first two installments. Actually, the biggest downfall of the latter three books of the trilogy is probably their attempts to play up a more intricately crafted plot, which sadly ends up muting his brilliance at those little bits of pseudo-randomness.
But, I also have to note, any disappointment I felt with those later books is only relative. Douglas Adams at his weakest was still funnier and more compelling than the vast, vast majority of the other authors I've read. They're four-and-a-half-star books whose biggest downfall is simply that they happen to be in the same collection as five-star books. How can I not love this, and recommend it to those silly people who still haven't read it (like the me of several months ago)?(less)
It seems as though The Gun Seller is often tagged (dismissed?) as just a silly spy genre spoof, but is that really accurate? Yes, it starts out that w...moreIt seems as though The Gun Seller is often tagged (dismissed?) as just a silly spy genre spoof, but is that really accurate? Yes, it starts out that way, it's very jovial and light at first, and that's pretty much what I'd been told to expect, so I admit I was surprised at what a genuinely serious ordeal everything became in the second half. And, yeah, Hugh Laurie keeps the book from becoming bleakly depressing with just enough Langisms to go around. Nevertheless, it's still hard to shake the feeling that you're reading two separate novels, very different in tone, that fade into each other just smoothly enough that you don't quite notice it at first.
Part one seems almost plotless at first. Some confusing things happen, and Thomas Lang struggles to explain them away to everyone else, or even the reader, for that matter, but you don't really care, because....well, let me just say that it's surprising how much time Hugh Laurie can spend being overly literal about clichés and common turns of phrase without the joke ever getting old. And then, part two is ostensibly where all the serious stuff goes. The laugh lines become further and further apart, taking a backseat to a none-too-flattering (and surprisingly apolitical, relatively) exploration of the military industrial complex and the horrors of arms proliferation, which Hugh Laurie is also really quite good at!
Of course, the material isn't divided into halves like that in quite a clear cut manner; again, it's a gradual change that only roughly coincides with the actual, physical division of the book into parts. And both of those sound like halves of novels that I would really, really love to read, because Hugh Laurie manages to be fascinating on both counts. The main reason I didn't give this five stars was, well....I have to say, I would've rather read either of those theoretical full novels than this gradual blend of half of each!
Yeah, I suppose I have unnecessarily high standards for Hugh Laurie, but it's only because I know he's so awesome.
First things first: This is NOT up to the quality of the Ace Attorney games. But you probably expected that anyway.
Second things second: It seems like...moreFirst things first: This is NOT up to the quality of the Ace Attorney games. But you probably expected that anyway.
Second things second: It seems like a strange conceit to start things out with what would basically be one of the tutorial cases in the games. I mean, in a game, it only makes sense that you'd need an easy case to learn the mechanics, right? It makes less sense in a printed medium where, yes, of course you can "play along" if you'd like, that's sort of the point of reading mysteries, but everything proceeds forward anyway regardless. It's not a bad case, though.
Third things third: A demon spider is just a little too fantastical for this series, isn't it? Yes, of course it's not ACTUALLY a demon spider, it's just some guy yet-to-be-determined (it ends on a cliffhanger) playing dress-up. And that's....so, so silly. And they keep calling him a spider-man, though of course he's not THAT Spider-Man, though I think he gets name-dropped at one point. It's hard to rate this volume when the value of the silliness rides so heavily on whether or not there's a sensible resolution to come in the next one, so....
I was really on the fence about whether to give this three or four stars. As a story, it's....well, not much. Some things happen, some other things ha...moreI was really on the fence about whether to give this three or four stars. As a story, it's....well, not much. Some things happen, some other things happen, and then some more stuff sort of happens that really has nothing to do with any of the other stuff. And then there's a fleeting mention of watersports and....ew. But, it's Stephen Fry writing Stephen Fryish things, and how can that go wrong, really? I wasn't ever really absorbed in what would happen next, but there's not a chapter in here that didn't make me laugh, and when Fry throws in some compelling observations on the nature of lying, that's a nice bonus. If only it were in support of something more substantial. It probably evens out to about three-and-a-half stars. Why can't we give things half-stars, Goodreads???(less)
In his introduction to the book, Mr. Greenwald talks about the inherent difficulty of adapting radio plays into the short story form, what with having...moreIn his introduction to the book, Mr. Greenwald talks about the inherent difficulty of adapting radio plays into the short story form, what with having to fill in all the gaps and, y'know, actually describe things. And, well, let's just say that his work here a marvellous job of proving the point that, yes, it's a very very difficult thing to do indeed. Perhaps in the hands of a superior writer it could've worked, but Greenwald's adaptations are rather horridly flat, to be perfectly honest. If you're the sort of person who is completely enamoured with the idea of experiencing the old-timey Basil Rathbone radio plays, then why not just...actually seek out the actual radio plays? Please?
(Also, Greenwald thinks Dr. Watson is, like, 140 years old or something? I'm......clearly overthinking this.)(less)
I'm not entirely sure what to rate this. Rating it purely as a book, I'd probably give it three stars. Many of Miller's ideas are fascinating, though...moreI'm not entirely sure what to rate this. Rating it purely as a book, I'd probably give it three stars. Many of Miller's ideas are fascinating, though it's hard not to feel like her idealized version of parenting is something that couldn't possibly actually exist anywhere in this universe. People just aren't THAT flawlessly self-actualized, be they parents or otherwise. If EVERYTHING a parent does, EVER, seemingly constitutes manipulation of his or her child, then.....well, the world's just about hopeless by this point, isn't it? How enlightening!
(Also, "natural urge" or not, letting your kid play with his or her excrement seems thoroughly unjustifiable. Surely exceptions must be made for things that, y'know, could be genuinely threatening to a child's health? Was she seriously suggesting that people look the other way here? Am *I* the ignorant one? If so, take solace in the fact that I'm not having kids!)
However, rating it on the far more objective effect it had in my personal life, I'd have to give it five stars. My therapist recommended this to me, and regardless of some of Miller's more extreme arguments, it's certainly helping me come to terms with the way my own mother treated, and continues to treat, me.
Well, I'll cut the difference and give it four, I guess.(less)
Here's something that I picked up for a quarter at a local antique store, on a random whim, some time ago. I wish I'd been aware at the time that it w...moreHere's something that I picked up for a quarter at a local antique store, on a random whim, some time ago. I wish I'd been aware at the time that it was, apparently, the worst thing that Rinehart ever wrote! Or at least close. It's not a good motivator to further pursue her work, anyway. At any rate, it's rarely a good sign when I'm reading a mystery novel and everyone is just so damned insufferable that I wish they'd all get killed, or at least put into a coma, or something that would keep them from yammering on and generally being useless. It's entirely possible to write a novel with unlikeable characters, but completely intolerable is another story altogether....(less)
The theme of this volume is... food products that contain gluten, oddly enough. People eat them, and then people die. The moral of the story, I guess,...moreThe theme of this volume is... food products that contain gluten, oddly enough. People eat them, and then people die. The moral of the story, I guess, is that you should never put anything in your mouth, ever. (On the bright side, poisonings and the like mean we get to see less of Maekawa's gross-looking blood!)
Having read several chapters of the Ace Attorney Investigations manga, I'd like to specifically call out what superior translators Alethea and Athena Nibley were. They've gone to great efforts to keep their translations consistent with the games' stellar localizations. Not only do the returning characters keep their mannerisms and speech styles, but the new characters are integrated in the only reasonable way: they've received silly punny names. They're even kind enough to break down each and every one in their typically extensive translation notes. I especially liked the cross-cultural Iron Chef reference!
SIDE NOTE: In the very back of the book, there's a couple pages explaining Japanese honorifics because "it is our policy at Kodansha Comics not to translate them". That's nice and all, except Alethea and Athena actually DID translate them, every time, to keep things consistent with the games. It's like this in the other volumes too. Weird.
Turnabout from Heaven: In this surprisingly emotional tale, a young woman, Diana, is visited by her mother, who promises to finally do something about her physically abusive father, buckwheat tycoon Buck Wheatley. Sure enough, he winds up dead, ironically of a fatal allergic reaction to buckwheat, and Diana is the lead suspect... on account of the fact that her mother has actually been dead for sixteen years. Like I said, it's pretty emotional, without a doubt Kuroda's most heartbreaking Ace Attorney case ever. It deserves plenty of credit for that. It's just too bad that it's undermined by a really silly solution to the murder. Not completely insane like Turnabout Gallows; it's actually plausible. Just really silly all the same.
Turnabout Gurgitation (Part One): As more proof that the entertainment industry in the Ace Attorneyverse is almost unfathomably bad, we are introduced to Gourmand Battle, a televised eating competition. On this week's episode, fan favorite Kent "Fairplay" Milo drops dead after eating a very big bowl of very spicy noodles. This is only the first part of the case; the solution comes in the next volume, though most of it is perfectly guessable just from the first half of the story so it's not the most cliffhangery of cliffhangers. On the bright side though, we get cameos from chef characters from the games: Guy Eldoon and Jean Armstrong (speaking of things you should never put in your mouth).(less)
Dual Destinies is so close I can taste it! As I am an excitable and, to be perfectly honest, obsessive girl, I've been trying to pass the time until O...moreDual Destinies is so close I can taste it! As I am an excitable and, to be perfectly honest, obsessive girl, I've been trying to pass the time until October 24 with any suitably Ace Attorney things I can find, including Kenji Kuroda's manga. And... it's still not up to the level of the wonderful wonderful games, as I have to emphasize every time, but it's a valiant effort and it's a joy to see all these characters nonetheless!
This volume consists entirely of one relatively long story, Turnabout Prophecy. While perusing Lordly Tailor's "fortune-telling plaza" (with services ranging from traditional palm-readings, to an old dude who will watch you eat ice cream), Nick and Maya meet Russi Clover, a young occult enthusiast, who just received a particularly distressing prediction from Moira Cytherea of Venutian Forecasts: "YOU WILL BE POSSESSED BY THE LORD OF DEATH. YOU WILL BRING ABOUT CALAMITY." Desperate, she consults Oracle Hecate of Nether World Prophecies for advice, but Cytherea's prophecy seemingly comes true when Russi sticks her hand through a "gate to Hell" (read: hole in the wall) and the Oracle winds up dead, locked alone inside a room with her. It's similar to Kuroda's other AA stories, with an interest in mostly unremarkable rooms and the possibilities that arise from their one somewhat unconventional feature, but he makes good use of the extra length for this story, unlike Turnabout Gallows which was just as long. There's a few different tricks at play here, and it makes for a richer, more satisfying experience even if a couple are too obvious. Throw in some cute foreshadowing for Apollo Justice (the game, not the character) and some particularly eccentric eccentrics, and you have what is easily Kuroda's best addition to the Ace Attorneyverse yet.(less)
I've finally finished all five volumes of the Phoenix Wright manga! It's been a pleasant enough experience, and it's clear that Kazuo Maekawa at least...moreI've finally finished all five volumes of the Phoenix Wright manga! It's been a pleasant enough experience, and it's clear that Kazuo Maekawa at least is a fan of the series and knows the characters well. This volume is at pretty much the same level of quality as the other four. No more, no less. That's a good thing, but it's not a great thing.
Disappointingly, we don't get any of the Nibleys' usual excellent translation notes. This is odd, frankly, because this is probably the most explicitly Japanese volume of the Phoenix Wright manga! Apparently they thought English-speaking people would be confused by things from previous volumes, like the oh-so-foreign concept of noodles, but tengu? Tengu are household knowledge all over the world!
Turnabout Gurgitation (Part Two): The conclusion to a case that started in the previous volume, involving spicy noodles and potassium cyanide and televised eating competitions. And Winston Payne is frighteningly competent (relatively speaking) as prosecutor! It's astoundingly easy to guess roughly how this went down, but you'd better have a fantastic eye for small details if you want to prove it. It doesn't help that Maekawa's perspective for the scene in question is obviously off. And then the translators introduced some confusion of their own with their translation of an important clue (or rather, the orientation of that translation) in the last volume, which they solve in this issue by... changing it and hoping you forget they ever did it the other way. Was there any particular reason they couldn't have quickly skimmed this final chapter before starting work on the first part? Time crunch? Corporate stupidity? Something like that?
And why is Edgeworth, who prosecutes neither of these cases and only has a one-page cameo, on the cover??
Turnabout Power vs. Supernatural Power: How can we finish this series up right? An encore performance as defendant from Russi Clover from Turnabout Prophecy, apparently. Um. Okay. This time, she's gotten herself mixed up with the Great Tengu Society, a cult that promises to give its followers supernatural powers. And then Casper Sly, a private detective on a quest to take down the Society, vanishes into thin air and rematerializes as a dead guy after taking a ride on their sacred elevator. Yes, really. Sacred elevator. This isn't a bad case, but it's an example of diminished returns. Unlike Russi's first case which was steeped heavily in the paranormal, this case really isn't, despite the setting. A vague glimpse of a flying tengu the day before the murder, and... that's it, really. If you're expecting anything like the final cases in the games, well, PLEASE DON'T.
Overall, I thought this manga adaptation was cute, but Kenji Kuroda never did figure out how to accurately capture the big, sweeping turnabouts of the games. And sure, space limitations as well as the limitations of the medium greatly impacted his ability to do so. But his overreliance on old, transparent tricks didn't help either. I know it's hard to truly be original in this genre, but Kuroda often seems even more by-the-book than most.
Except for Turnabout Gallows. That gem of pure, screaming insanity will always have a place in my heart.(less)
If the theme of the previous volume of the Investigations manga was thievery, then the theme this time is suicide. What fun!
And that includes the grad...moreIf the theme of the previous volume of the Investigations manga was thievery, then the theme this time is suicide. What fun!
And that includes the gradual suicide of Kodansha Comics' quality assurance for this series. Specifically, letterer April Brown finds a way to misplace a word every few pages or so. Sometimes a character will end one word balloon with the first word of his or her next word balloon. Sometimes a character ends a word balloon with the first word of someone else's word balloon. On one occasion, a character manages to misplace a word from the middle of one sentence right in the middle of an entirely different sentence!
The Turnabout New Year: Brodie Toynbee, President of the Toy-be Toy Company, has committed suicide in his office on New Year's Day. Clearly murder is afoot, I guess? What a pointless, pointless story! I'd gotten myself all hyped up for the appearance of Ema Skye, one of my favorite characters in the series because nerdy girls are cute, but she's terribly wasted here. In that respect, this manga is a very accurate representation of the Investigations game! Basically, she's only there to remind everyone, including the Tokyo police apparently, that fingerprints are a new and exotic thing that exists. (And yes, I said Tokyo. Unlike the games and the previous manga series, everything is set in Japan now, due to a different translator. Technically it's a more accurate translation, but it's so weird to switch back NOW, isn't it?) The mystery isn't mysterious in the least, the culprit doesn't even bother trying not to look guilty, and worst of all, this story doesn't even involve a turnabout of any sort! Kenji Kuroda has never been able to capture the grand unpredictability of the games, but he usually makes a token effort to insert at least a small reversal into these stories, so this is really disappointing. (Also disappointing: a stepladder is used without a reference to the infamous stepladder gag!)
The Turnabout Silver Screen: What better way to follow up a story about New Year's than with a story involving a Christmas tree! Specifically, the bombing of a Christmas tree "last Christmas Eve". (The second suicide in this volume comes when the man arrested for the bombing escapes prison and hurls himself off the top story of his old apartment building, because... well, I'm not really clear on that, and I read the story!) What could this possibly have to do with the murder of a beloved starlet on the night of her new film's premiere? It's pretty easy to finger the culprit here as well, especially if you're familiar with the games, and it's not even hard to deduce how it's done, but it is at least a fair mystery this time. It makes for a pleasant diversion. As a bonus, you get to enjoy Kazuo Mawkawa's attempts to draw a chihuahua. It doesn't go well!(less)