075) Norse Mythology by Neil Gaimain, finished June 19
three or four days
This book reads like other books of myth I have sampled and enjoyed over the years like Hamilton or the D'Aulaires.
This book is a fun read and manages to have a through-line that almost tastes like plot.
I really only read this book through so quickly because I happened to see it on the library's new shelf and I have to return it before we leave town. So I rushed through it. Which was really the right way to read it and the opposite of how I anticipated reading it when, someday, I took it into my hands.
For instance, the sense of a beginning a middle and an end is the sort of thing that would have been lost, spreading Norse Mythology over a couple years. Also,
the names of characters and things would have required either confusion or frequent travel to the glossary. As it was, I didn't need the glossary. And I even caught a rarely-mentioned-god's-name typo I was so aware of my surroundings.
There's really no one better to take on the task of making Norse myth available to the general public than Neal Gaiman, and he's done a commendable job.
074) Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt, finished June 16
Glass City and Mr White and the Colorado Kid and that penguin novel. Yes, it's noirish. Yes, it speaks of clarity while while dropping the reader into a sea of confusion. Yes, it has much more to say about life and the human condition than about any specific crime. And yes, the crimes are fascinating and strange and compelling and unlikely.two or three days
I finish this book not even sure that cause and effect occured in the correct order.
Here's the skinny: a Holmes-level detective solves everything, but doesn't understand anything. He can't understand right and wrong until he crosses that line himself.
The art covers plenty of ground---part of the story is just word balloons, part is newspaper comics---and it all works.
It's bold and creative stuff. I'll have to look for more from this Kindt fellow.
073) Wyrms by Orson Scott Card, finished June 15
I got a stack of '80s Card from a rummage sale and I will (eventually) read them all. I was never particularly interested in this particular book but it had the most beat-up cover, so I taped it up and read it first. (Incidentally, the volume currently on Amazon shares my version's art, and I don't like it. That's nothing like what geblings look like! This perverted my ability to properly visualize the book!)a couple weeks
Anyway, plotwise this is lighter than Ender's Game; philosophywise, it's lighter than Speaker for the Dead. It was released immediately on the heels of those novels when his cachet was at its mostest, and it's a worthy successor. It doesn't quite reach the heights of those novels, but it's no slouch.
Let's talk characters first, then we'll get to plot and philosophy.
The main character is a precocious early teen---a deadly assassin, brilliant, emotionally aware. A typical Card protag, in other words.
She surrounded a mentor with an unknown hidden agenda. Distant (or dead) parents. Distrustful authority figures. Aliens whose minds and biology are radically different from our own.
Again, it seems like Card has taken the notions from the first two Ender books and reshuffled the deck. This is not a knock. He's very good at this stuff. And none of it is "the same"---we're in the distant, distant future on a faraway planet, for instance. And the world is wonderfully realized. It's good stuff.
The plot is a basic quest---young person goes out, is changed, comes back. And at times the structure is almost picaresque---I didn't realize we were on a quest until near the end of the book when I happened to glance at the back. I'm a bit embarrassed, but sometimes the trees are so fascinating you can miss the forest.
The philosophy rests on various comparisons between passion/desire, will, memory, relationships with others---and asking where is the true self located? The question is explored through pages of discussion between the characters, but also through the species that share the pages. Gaunts have no will. Dwelfs have no memory. Geblings share an "othermind" while humans are utterly alone within their minds.
One thing: my game of imagining how to film the novel I am reading was a grotesque failure this time. So much of what happens in this novel is hidden deep inside characters that filming it seems impossible. So much of importance has the sole visual of faces failing to reveal what they think. This is truly a novel of ideas and bringing them to screen would require a complete recreation of the novel.
Which is fine anyway as much of what is filmable is . . . problematic. And I just don't mean the creative and bloody violence. There's also [SPOILERS] a teenage girl getting raped by a giant space slug (and sometimes [but only sometimes] liking it)---and then making a life with a man a whole lot older than her. I haven't seen Game of Thrones, but I'm not sure even it went this far.
In the final analysis, this is a fine novel. Great for completists. Great for fans of the genre. Great for people who want to read just one Card book that will present much of what he is great at.
But not one of his clear masterpieces.
072) Cairo by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker, finished June 13
I know Wilson's work only in the form of Ms Marvel, but I wanted to know more. Starting with another comic.two days
This one takes place in Cairo (tada!) and is tonally separate from her Marvel work. That said, it is equally fantastic. A major character is a jinn, scenes take place in a -like "Undernile," and then there's this:
THAT's how you use a medium to move story forward in a way other media cannot.
Anyway, a couple American characters (one of whom starts out as a would-be suicide bomber), an Israeli soldier (were this to be made into a movie, the producers first question would be, can we afford Gal Gadot?), an Egpytian drug runner, an Egyptian journalist, a magical ganglord---you name it!
The story is coherent all the same and a delightsome introduction to some cultural concepts I'm pretty ignorant of (cf jinn). But it never really sang for me.
Part of that was the art. Overall it was fine, but sometimes Perker's humans didn't quite seem human. And sometimes Wilson left heavy lifting for the art (eg,
the romantic development), and the faces just weren't up to the task.
Plus, if you're thinking Ms Marvel was good for my kids, know that this has, you know, swears and icky violence and sexy dancers and such.
Previously in 2017