cdave: (Default)
10) The Audacity of Hype by Armando Iannucci.

A collection of short columns from 2009 from this reality TV hating satirist. Best read in short bursts. For someone who dislikes soundbites, he is good at them (see the title of the book).

11) The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.

Recommended to me by C, who is a fan. Part spy thriller, part regency romance, part civil service bureaucracy, part time travel paradox. Really fun book.

12) The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (Volume 1) written by Neil Gaiman, Artists: Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III.

Been meaning to read this for years, but decided I couldn't afford the complete run at once, and suspected I was always going to get hooked.

Loved it. An excellent use of the 20 to 30 page monthly form. Starting with a delicious tale of horror, and moving onto a quest for the King of Dreams to regain his power, pausing only for a 24 hour descent into madness with some hostages held by a very strange captor. Finishing up with a strangely charming introduction to Death. I can see why she became a fan favourite. Cameos from several DC characters tie it into their Universe, but this is not a superhero book.

13) The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross.

I realised when reading the latest short in The Laundry series, that I wasn't sure I remember what happened in The Jennifer Morgue. I very pleased to realise that that was because I hadn't got around to getting a copy yet. Lapped it up. A bit more spy thriller, and a bit less bureacracy and maths, but just as geeky, ireverant, and compeling as The Atrocity Archives.

14) The Doll's House written by Neil Gaiman, Artists: Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Steve Parkhouse.

This book starts with a myth told by a tribal people introducing us to more of Dream's character. It then steps into the main arc of this book involving the a young girl whose fate is tied deeply to the dreaming realm, and Dream's attempts to round up some of the Dreams that have escaped his realm. A disturbing familiar Cereal Convention turns out to be very odd. Again, it contains a single issue that almost steps aside from the main flow in the middle. A wonderful character piece about a man who has been made immortal almost on a whim.
cdave: (Default)
And both [Ultimates comics] are incredibly quick reads. Okay, perhaps that’s what I should have expected, but these comics are $4 / £3 each. And that works out to about £1 a minute or £60 an hour. When the comics are costing about the same as my plumber there’s something horribly wrong. - Richard Bruton

Even [ profile] jamesb has been talked a little about the cost of comics recently.

I finally remembered to head down to my local library to raid their comic shelves. Seems they don't have any Sandman (although I can order it from other local libraries), but I did pick up:

7) Bleach by Tite Kubo Volume's 1 & 2 (Manga)

This is very popular Anime series at the moment, and I've only seen one episode, so when I saw it on the shelves I snapped it up.

It's about a high school student, who can see ghosts, and accidentally gets recruited to be a sort of combination monster hunter / grim reaper. And frankly he's kind of pissed off with the whole situation.

The first volume is essentially an origin story, giving us a lose background into this world, and a few short battles. The second volume introduces a few more characters (I get the impression no-one in this place is going to be left without some mystical power for long), and a bit more about the way this afterlife thing works.

I can see why it's popular. The battles are fun and all, but there's a wonderful sense of humour throughout.

Guess what's happening in this thumbnail? With all it's dramtic shadowing, and extreme close ups.
Bleach page

He's answer here ) Bizarre.

8) Flight Explorer Volume 1 anthology editor Kazu Kibuishi (Graphic Novel)

I'm not going to pretend to know a lot about the Flight anthologies. They've been produced as something quite different for a few years now and are coming to an end soon. Full colour, and luscious art, they are often ... quieter tales than your typical super hero comic.

They're produced "via the internet" in some sense. At least most of the contributes are geographically spread, and are often bloggers.

Flight Explorer is the first (but hopefully not last) in a line pitched at the same market as the DFC, the 8 to teen market that seems to be so neglected in comics today.

The art is cartoony but brilliant for it, and the stories from a moment in the life a little girl and her monster friend's first experience of snow, to an action packed tale of a space mouse crashing beside a tribe who are under threat.

9) Watching the Watchmen by Dave Gibbons

Seeing the thumnails and early sketches for the iconic Watchmen moments is pretty neat, but Dave's tale of how it was produced is what really made this for me. And hats off to him for refusing to get drawn into the drama of what happened next. It's a story that needs hearing, but this celebration of the art of the Watchmen was not it.

Oh, and the library had a clever promotion on. They offer a cheap DVD rental service (with a lot of art house stuff as well as block busters), and to encourage the DVD crowd to read more they had a box of wrapped up mystery books on the counter you could borrow, and get a free DVD coupon.
cdave: (Default)
5) Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Like the Handmaid's Tale it's told by alternating chapters on the "present" with flashbacks from the protagonist. In this case the flashbacks seemed less well integrated. They're more linear, and with less obvious triggers for why the protagonist should be recalling that episode.

I actually quite liked the protagonist. He may be a self absorbed w*nker, but he knows he is. And it makes a change to have a protagonist who is below average amongst his peers.

Triggered my bad movie physics *twitch* towards the end. No one thing in particular it's just that a lot of the "science" in it is there as decoration, and doesn't really work if you think about it. Occasionally a bit heavy on the symbolism and the polemic she wants, rather than the story.

For all that, it's an entertaining story. Is it wrong that I want a Buckets o' Nubbins from ChickieNobs now?

6) Persopolis by Marjane Satrapi (graphic novel)

Originally published in French, the English language editions are divided into two "books".

The second book is a fascinating autobiographical tale of the journey to adulthood of the young Marjane. It starts of with her first days sent to live overseas. She went through some severe culture clashes, and isn't afraid to show the readers some of the negative sides of her time. It's a moving story, and I'm glad I read it.

The first book is the reason I'd picked it up though. This is the tale of a child born during the Islamic revolution in Iran, and growing up with relatively liberal parents where the country round them is getting more restrictive (and getting bombed by Iraq).

I don't know nearly as much modern history as I'd like, so recommendations for engaging first person narratives would be welcome.
cdave: (Default)
Okay, I may have failed to keep updating what I read in 2009, but I still have most of the books on one shelf, so will try and do a catch up post soon.

Meanwhile, I'd better start this year's list while I can still remember them.

1) Matter by Ian M. Banks.

Bought this ages ago, and took on Christmas holiday to France with me. On the basis that it would save me having to take 3 smaller books :)

The main "problem" with the Culture universe is that the Culture are at the top of the pecking order. Creating conflict within this utopia is tricky, so most of the novels are set at the edges. This is book that set largely outside their sphere of influence. This novel is largely centred around characters from a relatively primitive culture who are fully aware that they are several levels down from the movers and shakers of the galaxy.

Personally, this was a downside for me. The bits of this novel I enjoyed the most were the massive scale epic space opera moments. I just wasn't terribly interested as to what was happening to the these people's culture.

2) The Brentford Triangle by Robert Rankin

2nd in the The Brentford Trilogy

Hanging around with [ profile] jamesb made me realise I'd been ignoring Rankin's books too long. Having bounced off The Da-da-de-da-da Code, when I won a review copy at the BSFA raffle, I eventually read The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of The Apocalypse and loved it, so went back to the start (pauseing briefly for Radio 7's broadcast of The Brightonomicon).

I felt this book flowed better than the The Antipope. Massively chaotic and surreal fun. Loved it. Glad I picked up the 4th book in the trilogy (with a Josh Kirby cover) for a song at the Novacon auction.

3) The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

"Not Science-Fiction" my arse. I preferred cut for very minor structural spoilers. No plot spoiler. )

{ETA: Ooh! "what makes this [edition] unique is that the ending was rewritten for the Corgi edition, so dedicated fans will want to track this one down, to find out what happened in the original ending."}

4) Generation X by Douglas Coupland

I'd describe the protagonists of this as the 90's equivalent of "turn on, tune in, and drop out". The book follows three twenty somethings, who have chosen not to Be All They Can Be, but instead to work low paid, low responsibility jobs, until they've saved enough cash go backing round some far odd part of the world searching for themselves. The book is largely made up of series of stories which the characters tell each other, and serve as vignettes of the attitudes young adults in the late 80s.

I picked this up because I red a couple of his later novels last year. Personally, I preferred them, as they had a less fractured narrative.

The neologisms presented throughout in the footnote meet the "ignoble" test for me. First they make you laugh. Then they make you think.
cdave: (Default)
I read the Drop Dead Monstrous anthology last Autumn after picking it up at the MCM expo, from by Sweatdrop Studio's stall (A UK small press Manga publisher). Richard Bruton's reviewed it if you're interested.

I his review he writes that it, like many anthologies is:
patchy, all the strips are punchy, truncated things and it has the feel of the artists just throwing their odd little rejected stories onto the anthology pile. Okay, maybe a little harsh, but you know what I mean.

I like comics anthologies. I'd guess I've probably picked up about 3 or 4 small press anthologies a year for the past few years. More often than not I do enjoy the stuff in them. They all have something that's not my favourite, but that's sort of why I like them. It's a chance to see stuff I'd normally reject on quick glance when deciding what to buy. Even if I don't like a story, or art style, I've not spent that long on it anyway.

Which segues into this weeks reading list:

*) The DFC
Thinking about the DFC as an anthology, it would be a clear favourite. But that's probably not fair because most stories run over multiple weeks so do have a chance to say more.

I mean I've even grow to like most of the stuff I didn't get at first after reading Richard's interview with Molly, his young daughter.
Richard: I just didn’t see any story in it, just friends standing around chatting.
Molly: I like the way it’s about a group of friends hanging around and talking about stuff. Maybe it’s just meant to be for kids Dad?

This was the issue where they announce the closure :(

The Weird Wild West wrapped up it's first run. The Bad Guy got away, setting up for a second season that won't happen :(
With inking, I normally prefer a fat line that changes width, but I really love the sketchy quality of the lines in this epsiode in particular.

13) Born On A Blue Day by Daniel Tammet.
This is the autobiography of a high-functioning autistic savant.

It's a pretty moving story following his life from his birth, through to the release of a documentary about his ability to absorb languages (he gave a live televised interview in Iceland, less than a week after starting to learn the language). His synaesthesia and love of numbers run strongly through the book.

While much of the book is about the difficulty of his life, the chapters where he breaks out the comfortable rhythms and moves overseas for a year, or first meets his partner Neil, are really uplifting.

At one point he writes that he finds it very difficult to understand phrases such as "Jack isn't tall, he's a giant!" Since he can't mentally go back and change it to "Not only is Jack tall, he's a giant!" As such the book has a curious precision to it's prose, that is interesting in itself.
cdave: (Default)
*) The DFC
I'm still so sad that this is almost certainly ending. There a list of where most of the artists and writers can be found online, compiled by a fan.

There's no sign of it in the comic though. I hate to be pragmatic about it, but I guess I'll need to look at what happens to my direct debit.

*) Whatmen! by author Scott Lobdell, artist Alejandro Figueroa
A one shot Watchmen parody. 300 pages down to 30. If I tell you that the second page features the comedian falling out his window, butt naked, after slipping on a piece of smiley faced soap, you get the idea.

The art is very much captures the style of the original. Often times a panel is a detailed joke based on the original. For instance the first time we see Doc NYC, he is gigantic and standing in the same pose as the first time we see Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen. But the giant machine he's poking at is a washing machine.

12) Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation by Tom Siddell
This is the print collection of the first school year at Gunnerkrigg Court webcomic. It's absolutely gorgeous. A hefty hardback with shiny black paper that really shows the muted colours well. The pull quote on the back is from Neil Gaiman.
"Lots of different flavours in there -- it's a semi-gothic funny-sweet school story with mysteries and robots and so forth -- but I kept finding myself reminded of the early days of reading Bone. Nice stuff."

Distributed by Diamond, I ordered this from my local comic shop.

Meanwhile back at the webcomic we've just found out a major part of the main character's back story. Nearly 4 years after the comic launched! He's a master of the slow reveal.

Check out his answers to fans' questsions too. He somehow manages to answer most questions without actually telling anyone about the plot. :)

13) Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
Based on Ben's Blog and Guardian column. A series of detailed, well thought out, often irreverent chapters debunking everything: from homoeopathy to big pharmaceutical companies, and from the media driven MMR frenzy to nutritionists. A passionate argument for evidence based medicine.

Nice to see a shout out to [ profile] shpalman in the back.


Mar. 3rd, 2009 10:15 pm
cdave: (Default)
It looks like the DFC may have to shut down.

Sarah's daily doodle of this )

I've managed to find RSS feeding blogs for all but one of my favourite strips creators, so hopefully I'll be kept informed of their future work, but it won't be the same. No other comics anthology I've ever picked up (okay that's probably less than 30) stands up to an issue of the DFC in my eyes.

I'll try and track down and post something about all of them soonish.

Oh, and this weeks reading list.

*) The DFC.

*) Dead of Night: Devil Slayer issues 1 - 4
Catching up on a backlog of regular comics, so expect more *s in my reading list.

This showed a lot of potential. The first issue follows the first few hours of a soldier returning to his third tour of Iraq. Ending in a ambush, with the final page being the first revelation that this is something more fantastic than a simple war story.

However from then on it descends into cliché. )

10) Zot! The Complete Black and White Collection by Scott McCloud.

As he says in the intro to this collection, these days he is better known as the author of "Understanding Comics". A brilliant textbook of the comic form, in the form of a comic. Actually many of you will know him from the Google Chrome Comic.

I'm very much a fan of good black and white line art, and Scott's stuff in particular.

This book covers his comics from 1987 to 1991. It very much changes in tone as the book progresses. It starts as a visually arresting superhero story, with his only powers essentially being flight (artificial), dexterity, and boundless optimism. With the plot being driven by the villain of that ark. By the end is instead a compelling tale about the lives* of group of fairly geeky American high school students.

*Well sexual awakening is probably the correct term. There's a whole issue devoted to too of them in a bedroom discussing if the time is right for them.

Every few issues, there's a page or two of directors commentary from Scott, that gives some fascinating insights into where the character's came from and what he was trying to do.

I'll definitely re-read all 575 pages of this one at some point soon.

11) Umbrella Academy story by Gerard Way Art by Gabrial Ba.
Lent to me by [ profile] raven_mocara.

The art reminds me is a slightly tighter version of the graffiti style I particularly like in Jim Mafood.

The first page is picture of a wrestler doing an elbow drop onto a space squid. For no real reason that has anything to do with the plot. Brilliant!

Most of the humour in this comes from the same sense of the surreal.

However for all these silly asides, this is actually a fairly dark tale. The hero's have been raised together, but been separated for some time, before being called back. Each has their own power, but also their own neuroses.

I can't quite decide if this is too silly for a serious story, or too serious for a silly story. Either was something doesn't quite sit right. I've spotted it's still going at the comic shops, so I may track down the second volume to see if it improves.


Feb. 16th, 2009 02:30 pm
cdave: (books)
*) The DFC It didn't arrive in Friday or Saturday's post! Eep!

7) Slan by A. E. van Vogt.

This is one of those classics of SF I hear name-checked a lot, so I thought I should add it to the to-be-read piles. Bought at Zombiecon. Read on the tube. My prior knowledge of it extended to the fact the phrase "Fans are Slans" had been used, as Slans were super human.

However far from it being the tale of supermen, it's the tale from the point of view of two lonely children. Who are reviled for simple being born Slan. That is belonging to a race that once ruled the Earth. They are not only mind readers, but smarter and stronger than humans too.

I won't write too much about it as one of the things I really enjoyed was the twists. This book is full of them. Each of them was surprising, made sense, and revealed more about the history of this world.

The story was first published in the 1940s, and as such has plenty of whizz bang atomic energy rays an the like. I see this as a good thing.

Far from the ending being a Deus ex Machina (as this reviewer thought) I thought it by far the most telegraphed of the twists.

In short. I enjoyed. A ripping '40s yarn, worthy of it's classic status.

This edition finished with two chapters from Slan Hunter by Kevin J Anderson (based on notes by A E van Vogt), which pick up from the end of the novel. If you liked the Dune prequels you may like this. I didn't like the Dune prequals much and didn't like what I saw of this.

I've just looked at a couple of reviews online.

"melodramatic situations and snappy (if dated) dialogue all match the original seamlessly." - Publishers Weekly.

I disagree here. John Petty is suddenly promoted from a sinister, if ultimately outwitted, villain, to a Bondesque gloater who decides to place the object of his murderous desires in an easily escapable box.

Here's a fairer review (by someone who presumably read the whole book).

"Ultimately, I'd have to say that this volume honors its predecessor in a fairly commendable manner—but it's not, and possibly never could be, the Slan II from some imaginary 1943 that we all dream of."
cdave: (Default)
*) The DFC.
At first I thought Frontier was going to be another MacGuffin generating monsters strip. I didn't see how it could stand up against Monkey Nuts or The strange strange world of the weird. But it came onto it's own this week, where we find out what the kidnapped Indians have really been forced to mine.

6) Why Do Buses Come in Threes? by Rob Eastaway.
A popular science book on maths, and how it often runs counter to your intuitions. Probably aimed at about entry level GCSE. Does a good job making maths interesting for that level, but I found I wanted more from it.
cdave: (Default)
All of these deserve more space, but time is fleeting.

Why I dislike spoilers. At the end of the 2006 series of Dr Who, I thought it had a week more to run, so the ending was a real surprise. I watched it on DVD box set recently, and didn't realise the last disk was all extras, so the same thing happened again.

Response to a tlanti post, on how I MacGyvered my way into my house once.

Seeing how few of chiller's friends sleep well, post a poll asking how often people know that they have dreamed.

Impressions of last week's work travel. Business class to Karachi.

Next reading list:
Finished reading JPod.
Nighthawks spotted Good Dog, Bad Dog in the DFC. And Dead Like Me. Wish I could remember the first time I was aware of this painting. It was in the last few months I'm sure.
Finished reading Perdido Street Station.

When I caught a bus coming the other day, as I was walking past the bus stop I said "bonus" out loud. I think that's a nice phrase, and wanted to blog about why. Not sure I've ever heard anyone say it as an exclamation if happiness though.
Chatted to lady waiting at stop on Northern line cursing me.

Blog about the Alternative Press Fair.

Been tagged to do a 16 things about me meme.

Been a while since I re-did a Myres Briggs test and that one looks good as it shows you relative strengths of them (I was borderline on the last two iirc).
cdave: (Default)
*) The DFC.

In a recent Mezolith (prehistoric myths) a pregnant woman eats the forbidden flesh of a raven, and gives birth to a dead baby. It's wrapped in the ravens wings, and "buried" in tree. It comes back to life eats insects and grows for years, before being discovered and brought back to the tribe. But she rejects them, and goes and lives with the ravens on a near by cliff. She is now a powerful shaman.

This is a kids comic remember.

3) Band Of Gypsys by Gwyneth_Jones

Wikipedia sums it up. "Unlike previous episodes, Band Of Gypsys can’t easily be read as a stand alone."

A book in which nothing much happens. Spoilers. )

In short I didn't like it. Possibly because it demanded knowledge of previous books in the series I hadn't read. But mostly because nothing particularly interesting happens in it.

2008 Books

Jan. 7th, 2009 12:45 pm
cdave: (Default)
These things come threes.

One of my half written blog posts is a break down of last year's new year's resolutions (mostly FAIL, but that was meme of the year). One of which was to blog about each book I'd read.

[ profile] makyo actually posted a list of all the books he read last year.

So I'll keep a better list of what I've read this year. Even if I don't manage to write anything about it. For the purposes of numbering I'll not count weekly or monthly comic, but I'll try to mention them.

(I'll start with Christmas since that's the last date I can remember what I'd finished reading)

-4 to 2 )
{edit: Oops missed one: The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin}


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