A wonderful autobiographical graphic novel detailing the Kafkaesque story of Iranian cartoonistOriginal review by John is posted at Layers of Thought.
A wonderful autobiographical graphic novel detailing the Kafkaesque story of Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani, as he goes from idealistic writer, to detainee in the feared Iranian prison system, to homeless fugitive and refugee.
John’s description: Neyestani was a children’s cartoonist working for an Iranian newspaper. Despite the increasingly radical nature of the government he felt safe as he contributed to the leisure section of the paper and not the political section. But one of his innocent cartoons inadvertently sparks tensions with some Azerbaijanis in the Islamic Republic, who feel insulted as a cockroach in the story uses an Azeri word. In a tense political climate, tensions lead to demonstrations lead to riots, and the Iranian government needs someone to blame. Neyestani and his editor are called in for questioning.
After a Kafkaesque series of events they find themselves detained indefinitely in Iran’s horrendous prison system and then placed in solitary confinement. Eventually he is unexpectedly released – albeit on a temporary basis. Fearing for his future, Neyestani and his wife flee the country and travel through Dubai, Turkey, Malaysia and China, trying to find some form of freedom and a place they can call home. But they find life as refugees with no legal status is almost as stressful as the life they have left behind.
John’s thoughts: This is a powerful and eye-opening story, that is told with the help of some excellent illustrations and plenty of dark humor. You get an insider’s view of some of the complex political, cultural, ethnic and authoritarian issues within the Islamic Republic – and it is not a pretty picture.
Neyestani is put through an absurd series of events, and throughout the story draws some parallel’s with Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, even using a cockroach as a theme that runs through the story. He goes through his own transformation from a young easy-going idealistic writer, to a beleaguered and downtrodden prisoner, to a fearful and anxious fugitive. The absurdities are almost hilarious; but this really happened.
I’d rate this book four stars and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes intense autobiographies or who wants to better understand what it is like to live in a radical and authoritarian state. And don’t be put off by the fact that this is a graphic novel – I think that the format actually allowed the author to enhance the story-telling.
Niven’s classic award-winning 1970 science fiction story turned into a graphic novel.
Description: It is 2850 and space adventurer Louis Wu is celebrating his 200th birthday. Thanks to boosterspice he still has the physique and mental agility of a twenty year old, and he has wealth that allows him to do almost anything that he wants. But he feels like he has done it all already and he is bored.
Enter Nessus, a two-headed alien Pierson’s Puppeteer. He offers Louis the chance to join him on a mysterious and dangerous mission well beyond the boundaries of Known Space, using a secret new ship that can travel thousands of times faster than anything humans have experienced. Louis cannot refuse. They are joined by two additional carefully selected crew members, a fearsome catlike warrior Kzin and a human that has been genetically bred for good luck.
Initially they travel to Nessus’ home world where they are told that the mission’s destination is a strange ring-shaped world that circles a star. They are to explore the artificially created ringworld that is some 600 million miles in circumference and a million miles wide. The flat inner surface of the world is equivalent to some three million Earth-sized planets and it may potentially be habitable.
When their space ship crash-lands on the ringworld and they are apparently stranded, their adventures have only just begun.
John’s thoughts: Where to start with this one? I’d have to say that this graphic novel version of a classic science fiction story has probably not been created with me in mind. I’ve read the original book and loved it – and the graphic novel can’t really add anything. Indeed, one of the great things about the original was the depth and the detail of the story. In this format there is no chance of replicating that depth and many parts of the story leap ahead far too quickly for my liking.
I’d also have to say that the graphic representation of Nessus is quite disappointing – though goodness knows he is near impossible to satisfactorily translate into graphic form. I think he is one of those creations that just works better in your imagination than it possibly can in pen and ink. Louis Wu too doesn’t jive at all with how I pictured him.
That being said it is a great story and I’m sure that many newcomers to Niven’s novel will enjoy it. I’d rate the book 3 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction in graphic novel format; I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who has read the original. Any potential readers should be warned that this is only “part one” and covers just the first half of Ringworld. It isn’t a standalone story so don’t expect any logical conclusions to the plot at the end of this book.
A closing thought – I do love some graphic novels (Watchmen and Britten and Brulightly are two of the most highly-rated books that I have ever reviewed), but reading a graphic novel version of something you’ve already read in full and loved is probably not a great idea. It seems to me that you’re always going to be left wanting more. ...more
Shellie’s quick take: Mainstream fiction with a separate storyline that is speculative in nature. This isOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take: Mainstream fiction with a separate storyline that is speculative in nature. This is a subtle page-turner that has a heartrending story juxtaposed with a narrative about a comic-book superhero called Comrade Cosmos.
Shellie’s description: When 18 year old Jeremy Soto’s single mother is murdered by a young male tourist during a solo vacation to Mexico, his grief is understandable, but as horrible as he feels he must pick up the pieces of his life. But it’s not just Jeremy who has to get past the violent death of his mother Melinda; there are others who are reeling from her loss - Melinda’s close circle of friends, mature characters who have life complications of their own. Then there is the murderer’s mother Anna who has the heartbreaking job of dealing with her son’s suicide as well. All of this culminates when Anna invites Jeremy and Melinda’s friends to her son’s funeral.
What gives this book an interesting twist is that the subjects addressed in the main story are contrasted with those of a popular comic-book series, which are covered in alternating chapters.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is an unusual book and it has a deep message. It examines the roles of chaos and order in the world, with the author questioning the effects of trauma and hardship on characters. In so doing she attempts to answer the question: what do we do with an impossible situation, one that we cannot fix or change? With that in mind Mending the Moon pulls in issues such as loss through death, divorce, and Alzheimer's, contrasted with friendship, responsibility, love, forgiveness, and moving through grief. This leaves a lot of room for emotional content in the book and the author uses the space very well.
It is highly recommended, with its well-developed characters and rare-to-see main female characters aged 60-years plus. I think it would be a good selection for a book group since there are many issues that can be discussed. It’s also a perfect read if you’re interested in superhero comics or character-driven emotional novels that pull you in and keep you reading. I read this book in a matter of days – a rarity for me. 4.25 stars.
**A note which may be a plus or a minus to some readers: there is a Christian element running through the novel. Several of the main characters are clergy and church services play a big role in many of the scenes. However, the subjects addressed in the book are universal and, as a person who is not religious, I would say that it is done well and didn’t put me off....more