Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What I Read – Jan 9

How would I describe my reading for the past couple of weeks?  Confusing is the best word I have.  The past few weeks have been characterized by books that I didn't understand.

I started with Any Empire, written and illustrated by Nate Powell, published by Top Shelf Productions.  Empire "examines war and violence, and their trickle-down effects on middle America. As a gang of small-town kids find themselves reunited in adulthood, their dark histories collide in a struggle for the future. Any Empire follows three kids in a Southern town as a rash of mysterious turtle mutilations forces each to confront their relationship to their privileged suburban fantasies of violence. Then, after years apart, the three are thrown together again as adults, amid questions of choice and force, belonging and betrayal."

That's the text from Amazon and I'm glad I read that because I wasn't getting that from the book.  To be fair, I was reading this in the Dr's waiting room while my Dad was getting a checkup so the location might not have been the best.  I only made it through 1/2 of the book before I realized I wasn't paying enough attention and switched to playing poker on my phone. 

Anyway, the art is fantastic and the theme of violence is certainly there.  The message was coming through but I wasn't paying enough attention to the details or the symbolism to really understand what was happening.  I will come back to this but it needs to be a happy, cheery day because the material is a little dark and depressing.

Then I went onto Bubbles and Gondola, written and illustrated by Renaud Dillies, published by NBM.  Bubbles is "a fairy tale about solitude and awakening the creative spirit."  Bubbles was just utterly fantastic.

More books and more about Bubbles below the break.

The other night, I was tired and just needed to go to bed.  But, if I don't read when I go to bed it pretty much means I won't read anything that day.  Because I was so tired, I needed something simple, bright, and cheery.  Bubbles, based on the cover, should have been all that.  It was and more.  In this case, I saw the symbolism, and I got the message but I was so tired that I couldn't completely appreciate it.  I read it quickly and at the end I was ready to read it again just because I knew I had missed so much.  I will be reading this again in short order.  

I even managed to read two prose books, Before I Go To Sleep written by S. J. Watson and Oryx and Crake written by Margaret Atwood.  I don't think I could have managed to read two incredibly different books if I had tried.

I picked Before because it was hyped as Memento (the movie) on crack.  The concept is certainly the same but all similarities end there.  Memento is an absolutely stunning movie that defies all expectations while Before managed to fall into the obvious traps associated with the concept.  

The summary, Christine is an amnesiac whose memories are limited to a 24 hr period.  Every time she falls asleep she forgets everything including her husband, her life, even where she is.  When she stumbles upon a diary that she supposedly kept which says 'don't trust your husband' she begins to unravel the mystery that is her life.  

Because Christine wakes up every morning not knowing where she is or who she is sleeping with (her husband) the book could get very repetitious and dull very quickly.  But, Watson handled it with deft ease that kept the story moving.  The problem is that the suspense never built in a believable way.  Or maybe it did but it got drowned out by pages of tears about missing a child she never knew.  Basically, Memento is a gritty noir movie about amnesia, Before is a light fluffy suspense thriller for those that can't handle the thrill or really don't want the suspense because it gives them bad dreams

Oryx, on the other hand, is an absolutely stunning end of the world novel that is part Brave New World and part The Road or maybe I am Legend sans vampires.  Atwood takes everyday grains and magnifies them 100 fold to create a society that is so numb to everything yet so incredibly believable.  Add an very believable element of genetic engineering (lots of it actually) and you have a story that won't let you go. 

Snowman might be the last man alive and his only task, besides surviving in a environmentally destroyed world is saving the "people" that his friend Crake created (yes created) before the collapse of civilization.  And so begins our tale of Snowman before the fall, intertwined with the man that Snowman becomes.

The highest praise that I can give this book is that it doesn't give you the easy answer.  It expects you to think about it and reach the conclusion.  When the villain is revealed, there are no answers.  I expected the pages long explanation of 'why' but instead I got three words, "I killed him."  AND IT WAS PERFECT.  The pieces of the puzzle are there, and even though I know the answer now my mind still refuses to accept it.  If you like post-apocalyptic fiction, it doesn't get any better than this.

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