Taking a Break

With the first season of Game of Thrones coming to an end, I am probably going to take some time out from comic reading to do more book reading (I currently only tend to read novels on the commute to and from work which is only about an hour each day). I have been watching and enjoying the series but if the book is half as good then this will be a great read and I will want to devote most of my time to it and the sequels (I currently have the second book as well).

I was going to say that I am not a big fan of fantasy – indeed I do tend to read science fiction when it comes to books – but the more I thought about it the less true it seemed. For instance, if you have been a regular reader of this blog then you will know that my favourite comic imprint is Vertigo from DC and a lot of their output and my favourite titles are fantasy based such as Hellblazer, Books of Magic, Fables and Sandman. But even when I think of books I have read the Harry Potter series, the urban fantasy of Jim Butcher and Mike Carey and the fantastic worlds of Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. Also one of my favourite authors is Neil Gaiman so when I say that I am not a fan of fantasy then I guess I am talking of the high fantasy of Lord of the Rings type books.

In terms of this kind of fantasy I think I have only read Tolkein and Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant chronicles so I think it is well past time for me to try something new – well at least new to me as A Game of Thrones was first published 15 years ago. Based on the TV series I wouldn’t describe this book as high fantasy either – but that’s OK if it is not as that is not necessarily what I am after – how do you top Tolkein after all.

So I will post here less frequently than I have been but will return towards the end of the summer.

Dracula (2008)

 

Quote:
Many of the respectable ladies of the city have been hiding an unmentionable secret. … the night awakens a sleeping animal within them.

 

I am a big fan of Bram Stoker’s book Dracula so I am always interested in other books and media that relate in some way to the original story. I recently picked up this book cheap in a remaindered book shop. It is a retelling of the original story by Argentinean artist Luis Scarfati.

Scarfati has created his book in the style of a children’s picture book – although the book is most definitely not intended for children – with most double page spreads in the book consisting of a full page illustration and a paragraph or two of text on the page opposite. As the book is only 100 pages long it means that he has to be quite precise in his storytelling but he does a good job of covering the main points of the story – though how much someone not familiar with the novel would enjoy it is hard to say. But the joy of the book is in the fifty pages or so of pen and ink drawings. The art reminds me of a number of other artists such as Ralph Steadman and the Austrian expressionist artist Egon Schiele – especially in the depiction of the women in the book.

A bit of an oddity but a beautiful book to have a casual browse through.

Peter and Max: A Fables Novel (2009)

 

Quote:
He told people what to do and no one ever told him what to do – except for sometimes his wife did, but Max already understood how marriages involved a private exception to many rules.

 

Now for something slightly different. Bill Willingham, writer and creator of the fabulous Fables comic series from Vertigo, has written a prose novel set in the same world. The story stands outside of the continuity of the comic but the modern era parts are set before the assault on the Homelands and the toppling of the Adversary. Willingham states in a note before the start of the novel that:

 

Quote:
No one needs to be familiar with the comics to fully enjoy and understand this book.

 

Which is true so I wonder why he then felt the need to spend seven pages in the first chapter giving a potted history of the Fables mythology. It’s a minor quibble – as a fan of the comic I just wanted to get into the new story – but I don’t know if new readers will equally find that it slows the start of the book down or whether it is a useful primer to the background of the existing rich world.

The story concerns the intertwined fate of two brothers, Peter and Max Piper, and the paths they are forced down after the invasion of the Emperor’s forces into the tranquil world of Hesse turns their lives upside down. Max, harbouring some resentment towards his father and brother after the family heirloom is passed to Peter, finds himself on an increasingly dark path. Lost in the Black Forest he comes across a young Frau Totenkinder who, in a bid to use Max as a means of revenge on some knights in Hamelin, hands him the instrument that allows him to become one of the most powerful and dangerous Fables in existence. And now he has returned to seek retribution against his brother and reclaim what he sees as his birthright.

This excellent book could easily have been a secondary storyline in the main comic series or a mini-series but it works well as a novel – a small number of regular characters from the series are used to frame the story and get the action going with only Frau Totenkinder having an active role in the main storyline. As the regular characters are used sparingly, the book is a fine way to introduce non-comic reading friends and family to the world of Fables – and hopefully inspire them to read more. The book contains a number of black and white illustrations from regular inker on the series, Steve Leialoha. In additon he also draws an epilogue to the epilogue that consists of an eight page comic detailing Peter and Bo Peep’s role in the attack on the Adversary’s forces in the battle for the Homelands.

If you are interested in giving it a look, you can find chapter 1 and chapter 2 online.

Not Enough Time in a Day

[ Happy Mood: Happy ]
[ Watching Primeval Currently: Watching Primeval ]
In a recent RevCast, Gary and Deanna were talking about how you could spot a nerd/geek because they were always reading.

I think the real way to spot a reading geek is if they have a bookcase for unread books. This is mine:

I have 3 shelves with a double layer of books on each plus a couple of feet of books stacked on top of it – and that doesn’t include my pile of unread graphic novels/comic collections!

Nation

[ Cool Mood: Cool ]
[ Listening to Model 500 Currently: Listening to Model 500 ]
Finished reading the latest Terry Pratchett novel this morning. It is his first non-Discworld novel in some time (I reckon his last was Johnny and the Dead in 1993). This one is another that is apparently for children but just reads like any other Pratchett novel to me.

It is set on an alternative version of Earth where things are much the same as here but just slightly different – for instance Australia is split into two land masses. The story concerns Mau a boy/man travelling back to his home island (the Nation of the title) after a manhood ritual on another island. During his journey he is overtaken by a massive wave which wipes out the population on his home and wrecks a ship from which only a young upper class white girl survives.

Mau has to take care of the dead, learn to live with Daphne, deal the ghost voices of the grandfathers and find a reason to keep on living.

This was a very enjoyable book that could be read by confident readers of any age. There is a lot of railing against the Gods in this book due to survivor guilt. But in the end it is an uplifting story as Mau and Daphne come to terms with their situation and Mau begins to rebuild the Nation as the refugees from other islands start to arrive.

The Amulet of Samarkand

[ Angelic Mood: Angelic ]
[ Eating my lunch Currently: Eating my lunch ]
I was in the middle of this when the After Harry: Big List was posted. The Bartimaeus trilogy, of which this is the first volume, was on the list.

I won’t try to summarise it – Deanna has made a good job of that in the link above – but just say that I liked this book very much. It has been part of the post Harry Potter explosion of magic books for children but this one is something special.

It is set in a modern day London where magicians are the head of society and run the country. The magic is darker than in Harry Potter since all magic involves summoning djinni – with candles, pentacles and ritual – and making them obey commands. I kept forgetting this modern setting and was constantly startled by mentions of cars and trains.

A great book with some unresolved plot points for the next book which I will be diving straight into next.

Making Money

[ Neutral Mood: Neutral ]
[ Listening to Laurent Garnier Laboratoire Mix Currently: Listening to Laurent Garnier Laboratoire Mix ]
Finished reading Terry Pratchett’s latest paperback tonight. It was another solid entry into the series without being outstanding.

Having revolutionised the Post Office, Moist von Lipwig finds himself in charge of the Royal Bank and Mint alongside the chairman of the bank – a dog called Mr Fusspot.

The best thing about this book – along with any other book where he has a prominent role – is Lord Vetinari. I love the way the other characters tie themselves in knots around him as they try to figure out what his schemes are and inevitably get it wrong. There is some great moments in the first third of the book as Lipwig tries to avoid having anything to do with the running of the bank.

The next book, coming out in September, is going to be a non-Discworld children’s book called Nation. I was hoping for another Tiffany Aching book – A Hat Full of Sky is one of my favourite Pratchett books – but it will be interesting to see what he comes up with as it’s been a while since he wrote a non-Discworld book.

Dearly Devoted Dexter

[ Shocked Mood: Shocked ]
I was dragged from the TV in the middle of the second part of the latest Doctor Who episode to have a water fight with my wife and youngest son. So, while I am hiding until the episode ends, I can write a quick blog entry.

This morning I finished reading the second Dexter novel. It is a part hard to talk about the details because since I haven’t watched all the episodes of season 1 and none of season 2, I don’t know how the continuity fits together if at all – I know enough to know that the ending of book 1 and season 1 are supposed to be different and that the main storyline in season 2 bears no resemblance to the main storyline in book 2.

It was not a bad read and seemed to have a lot more humour injected into it mainly situated around Dexter’s uncomprehending slide into engagement with Rita. The body count is down too since Dexter’s own activities are curtailed by a vigilant Doakes and the main villain of the book does not actually kill his victims.

As with the first book, the narrative being from the point of view of a inhuman sociopath means that there are not many emotional links that can be made with Dexter and the characters he interacts with in the course of events. One thing I am starting to feel annoyed/cheated by is the number of holes in the plot that the author doesn’t deal with – the main two in this novel being the reaction (or lack of it) by Deborah to the revelations in the first book and the lack of anything happening when Doakes is captured by the villain.

However, if you can suspend your disbelief enough, then it is a fairly entertaining ride but I am glad that I borrowed them from the library rather than buying them which is what I was thinking of doing.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

When I am not reading science fiction, the most likely kind of book you will find me with is serial killer fiction, the Straw Men by Michael Marshall being a good example of the kind of book I like. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay is the basis for the Dexter TV show, the first season of which was shown on non-satellite TV in the UK at the start of this year. I liked the premise of the show – a serial killer working for the Miami PD who spends his off duty time disposing of criminals who are otherwise evading detection or conviction – and so started watching the series. However, though I tried to like it, I found the story too slow and too drawn out to hold my interest and gave up on the series halfway through its run.

But I did like the premise and so when I saw the book in my local library, I decided to give it a go. As I hoped, the book is much better paced than the series and also focuses less on some of the other characters, such as Rita, Doakes and Angel whose characters, in the series, are given their own subplots in order to spin the book out into a 13 part series. The book itself was good without being great but good enough that I will try the next in the series to see how the character develops after his experiences in this book.

Trace Memory

[ Sleepy Mood: Sleepy ]
This is the second in the new set of Torchwood novels. This one was written by David LLewellyn.

It is 1953 and a Cardiff dock worker, Michael Bellini, is working late unloading a mysterious crate for Torchwood. The crate explodes killing his co-workers but Michael is displaced in time turning up in the past of each of the members of Torchwood. Can the team help him? And who are the mystery figures in bowler hats who are hunting him down?

For some reason I didn’t like this book as much as the first book (see below). Which is unusual because I normally like stories about time travel and temporal paradoxes. It was a decent enough book and entertained me for a few days but it was just lacking something.