Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Review: Siege

Siege Siege by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I buy most of my books from charity shops. In general, this is not a problem but it is trickier with graphic novels where I usually struggle to get the whole story. With Siege, I am coming in at the end of a story and knew nothing about the build up and crossover elements. It took me a while to work out what was going on. For example, what was with the Avengers? Who were these people that were not the people they said they were? I didn't realise at first that Osborne's Avengers were not the Avengers I knew and loved.

Anyway, I got there eventually and mostly enjoyed the story. Some of the artwork was a bit scrappy but there was enough that was good to keep me on board I especially like the sequence of panels that work down the page where you see, from above, the Iron Patriot looking up. As the panels progress, you notice that a spot in the first panel is a reflection of something getting closer and closer until in the final panel, it is clearly about to smack hm on the head. (I won't spoil it completely by saying what was getting closer, but it made me smile when I recognised it.) No dialogue, just a great idea well rendered.

My main concern with it was the "too many heroes" problem. The thinking seems to be: if less is more, just think how much more "more" will be! You like one hero? You'll like two heroes twice as much. And if you like two heroes, get a load of this story with two-hundred and two! My problem is that it is impossible to do justice to everyone involved so, inevitably, some of my favourite characters just get lost in the background.

That said, I enjoyed the story: Osborne was suitably unhinged; Loki was deliciously malicious and some of Earth's (and Asgard's) mightiest heroes were well and truly slapped!

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Saturday, 13 October 2018

Review: Neverwhere

Neverwhere Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd heard the radio adaptation of this book a year or two ago and really enjoyed it. I was surprised to discover though that the book was based on a BBC TV series that Gaiman wrote... what was I doing in the mid nineties that I missed that completely!?

Despite having heard it on the radio, I had forgotten the end and thoroughly enjoyed finding out what happened again. (Crumbs. I just looked it up. I must have heard the radio shows five years ago! No wonder I'd forgotten most of it.) I enjoyed the way Gaiman reused and repurposed London place names: the way some things were taken literally (e.g. Earls Court) and how places became people (Old Bailey being my favourite - I couldn't help but hear Bernard Cribbins voice in my head when I read his lines).

As with the radio programme, the bit that worked least well for me was the character of Richard Mayhew, which is unfortunate since he is arguably the main character. He was so (unbelievably) slow on the uptake, he was clearly supposed to be a messiah type character but it was never clear why and the resolution to his story arc was easily guessable.

Despite that, I still enjoyed this book. Gaiman delivers some nice lines, for example, when describing London he says: "It was a city in which the very old and the awkwardly new jostled each other, not uncomfortably, but without respect..." and I, although I didn't laugh out loud while reading it, I often sniggered quietly. And if that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is!

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Friday, 28 September 2018

Review: Graphic Science - Seven Journeys of Discovery

Graphic Science - Seven Journeys of Discovery Graphic Science - Seven Journeys of Discovery by Darryl Cunningham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is a quote on the front of the book that says: "It can take other authors whole books to say what Darryl can say in a single illustration". This is not entirely fair. The illustrations are simple and the chapters give brief snippets from the lives of seven scientists. I say that not to condemn the book but to praise it. I think it does an outstanding job of giving just enough information to pique interest and it certainly made me interested enough to hit the internet after each chapter and do a bit more research on the people in Graphic Science. Darryl Cunningham gave just enough, in an engaging and interesting manner, to make me want to find out more. Job done!

My only criticism would be the author's confusion over science and religious belief. In the chapter on Mary Anning he states, "...this was to be the last era in which religious belief and science would be compatible.". Clearly this is nonsense or "scientist" and "atheist" would be synonyms. Interestingly, I read this book shortly after reading Galileo's Daughter which argued that, contrary to modern expectations, Galileo was a good Catholic and quotes one of his letters where he says, "...I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the holy Bible can never speak untruth - whenever its true meaning is understood.". He ends the same letter with this summary: "That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.". Despite the popular understanding of what happened to Galileo, it can be argued that he was more than able to reconcile his religious belief and his scientific discoveries.

That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it as an introduction to some lesser known but important characters in science.

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Friday, 21 September 2018

Review: Galileo's Daughter

Galileo's Daughter Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a while to finish this book but not because I wasn't enjoying it and not because it was a heavy read... It just seemed to take a long time and I'm not sure why.

It was really enjoyable. All the time I was reading it, I would talk to people and find my self starting sentences with, "I'm reading this book about Galileo...". I suspect most people only know the headline: religion versus science. This book makes it clear it that is a horrendous over-simplification. For instance, Galileo's Daughter suggests that Galileo was a good Catholic who worked hard to make sure his book did not fall foul of church doctrine. It also made me aware that science, as we know it now didn't exist: Galileo was inventing it in the face of opposition from his peers (e.g. most people know about the famous experiment where he dropped two balls off the Leaning Tower of Pisa but I didn't realise that many of his contemporaries refused to accept the evidence, preferring instead to cling to the wisdom of the ancients). But is also hinted that for all his brilliance he was not always wise: for example, he seemed to enjoy humiliating his rivals and perhaps it was not wise to put the words of the pope in the mouth of a character called "Simplicio" (which, in Italian suggests "simpleton").

The reason for the book's title is that it prominently features letters sent to him from his daughter. While the insight into covent life was interesting, I must admit I would have been quiet happy to have missed that aspect of the book.

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Saturday, 1 September 2018

Review: iZombie, Vol. 1: Dead to the World

iZombie, Vol. 1: Dead to the World iZombie, Vol. 1: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story was OK but I felt it was just beginning when this collection came to an end. There were some good ideas (e.g. cute zombie, ghost that's stuck in the past, a not werewolf, ...) but at times it felt a bit derivative (was anybody else reminded of the TV show "Being Human"?).

The artwork is similarly uneven. Mike Allred is clearly talented (some great covers, artwork overlapping interestingly placed panels, the sketches at the end of the book, ...) but often his work looks strangely flat. For example, there is a section where two characters walk across the bottom of the screen while stuff happens in the panels above: an opportunity to inject something dynamic which is squandered by the cookie cutter nature of the walking people.

In summary, interesting but not interesting enough.

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Thursday, 9 August 2018

Review: Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A friend raved about this book and, given the number of five star ratings it has here, it is clearly loved by many others. I thought it was good but not great.

I was tempted to give it three stars because of a major problem I have with a major plot point but in the end gave it four stars because it was a fun read. I liked the art, it made me laugh a couple of times and the pop culture references worked for me ("If you'll be my bodyguard, you can call me Al?")

My problem is with the basic premise of the book. I just cannot buy into the idea that the last two male mammals would be allowed to wander off on a quest for answers and fiancées. Seriously? Not a chance. Even if the post-event world was full of peace and love instead of a chaos and destruction, the last male would be held somewhere secure. He would be prodded and pressed in a search for answers... and descendants. His mum had the right idea: keep him secret, keep him safe.

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Friday, 6 July 2018

Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book that has made me cry. The other book made me cry because of real world events as much as because of the book itself.

This book made me cry because it was beautiful and painful... and truthful.


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