Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #324: Underfoot in Show Business by Helene Hanff

Helene Hanff had one of the least-likely successful writing careers imaginable. After toiling for thirty years in deep obscurity -- first a decade or so trying and failing to become a produced playwright, then the length of the '50s writing for minor TV shows in New York before that whole industry packed up and moved West, followed by more various and book-related activities -- her book 84, Charing Cross Road became a medium-sized hit in the UK, then a movie and a play. Like all successes, that book spawned a sequel -- The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street -- and it also lifted the fortunes of the books she wrote earlier and later.

It doesn't seem to have been a life of opulence, even after 84 -- the fact that Hanff wrote only six short books between 1961 and 1992 almost certainly had something to do with that -- but it seemed to keep her going, and she lived in crotchety splendor in her beloved New York until the age of eighty.

The other interesting thing is that all of those books are essentially intellectual autobiographies, the stories of Hanff's relationships with books and great thoughts and important places, explanations of how she became the person she was. 84 was a sequence of letters back and forth to the London book shop of that address, from which she bought a lot of cheap old classics in the two decades immediately after WWII. Duchess was about the trip to London she could finally make after 84 was a success. Q's Legacy covers many of the books she bought from that shop, and how she found out about them. And her first book was the story of those first twenty years in New York, in pursuit of that failed theater career.

Underfoot in Show Business is that book; it grew out of two magazine articles that Hanff wrote in 1960 about those early days (late '30s and through the '40s) It's the most conventionally memoir-like of all of Hanff's books, which means it's only mildly idiosyncratic: Hanff was never one for following other people's expectations. Her introduction explains that it's the book about "the other 999" of the thousand "stagestruck kids [who] arrive in New York determined to crash the theatre" -- the ones who don't become Noel Coward. But it isn't: besides Hanff herself, the only stagestruck kid who appears at all is her best friend Maxine Stuart (who became a respected TV actress, eventually). And you'll look in vain for much about the shows she and Maxine saw during those years, or the state of the theatre during that time -- aside from an amusing anecdote about a show that seemed doomed to failure. Instead, this is a book about being Helene Hanff in New York, in the theater world before and after WWII.

Hanff was thoroughly unsuccessful in that pursuit, and most of Underfoot is about those failures and how she and Maxine coped with them -- the fill-in jobs and crappy apartments and sneaky ways to see plays for free (show up at intermission without a coat, and wander back in with the audience), what they did in the summers out in minor theaters in the sticks, how producers and agents are hugely enthusiastic about things that will never happen, and so on. As the book goes on, it quietly moved further and further away from that world, probably because Hanff eventually realized that none of her plays would get produced, and because she had grown up and wanted a more solid life. So Underfoot ceases to be underfoot about halfway through, as Maxine heads off to California for TV work and Hanff turns to writing TV herself.

Hanff was a quirky person with strong opinions, but Underfoot doesn't give her room to display the full force of those opinions the way her later books did. This is not watered-down Hanff, but it is a Hanff who hadn't yet worked up to full volume yet. Read it for a view of that theater world and for the story of one indomitable young woman who knew she was going to be something, even if what specific thing that would be wasn't quite clear yet.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #323: VS Aliens by Yu Suzuki

Reviewing a story with a big twist at the end is a tricky thing -- how well the trick works is vital to that story, but discussing the twist is usually a bad idea. (Sometimes, even mentioning that a story has a twist is a bad idea, which leaves the reviewer winking and vamping.) Some stories, though, are so simple and straightforward before their big twist that there's little else to discuss -- and that brings its own set of issues.

Yu Suzuki's standalone manga volume VS Aliens falls into that last category, I'm afraid, so I might not have much to say about it. It's another book from the very varied program at Gen -- I've come to start grabbing their books when I see them, which you can take as a blanket recommendation -- after Good-bye Geist and Alive and Sorako. VS Aliens is the most conventional of the Gen books that I've seen so far, the story of three high school students, their interrelationships, and the invasion of Earth by big-headed aliens.

You see, there's this boy, Kitaro. And, on the very first page, a mousy brunette (glasses and all; full cliche wallflower schoolgirl) named Aya tries to enlist his help in stopping an alien invasion in their school that only she can see. The main alien -- depicted as generic X-Files grays -- is their fellow classmate Sana, blonde and popular and all of the things Aya is not. Kitaro agrees to help Aya in tracking Sana, and even confronts the blonde girl.

VS Aliens meanders on from there -- it's not a very plotty book, and reads very quickly -- as Aya and Kitaro soon get involved in trying to save Sana from the other aliens. And then there's that twist at the end, which I have to admit I saw coming from quite some distance away.

This feels like an early work from a young creator: shortish, straightforward, taking some standard elements and ringing some specific changes on them. It's solid and entertaining, but doesn't aim much beyond that: it's a decent story about three kids in school. On the other hand, it is a unified story told over a hundred and fifty pages of comics, which is takes a lot of effort and thought -- so I don't want to damn it with faint praise. VS Aliens is a perfectly cromulent book.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

The Daniel Handler Thing

First off: context, for those who haven't followed this particular minor tempest.

I was struck by the fact that this was an entirely self-fulfilling prophecy: Daniel Handler pretty much exactly said "I could never write about a black woman allergic to watermelon, because a whole bunch of people would call me racist."

And, by saying that, he mentioned a black woman allergic to watermelon, and so was called racist by a whole bunch of people. That's it; that's the whole source of the complaint: he said that he learned that Jacqueline Woodson was allergic to watermelon, that she joked that he should put it into a book, and he replied that he'd need a half-dozen major Black Americans to say that was OK.

Now, people can and will get offended by whatever strikes them, and anything that offends a reasonable-sized number of people is at least problematic. (Though that's a sliding scale: the same people up in arms about Handler wouldn't care if a much larger group of white rural Republicans were pissed off at something they did, for example. We care about offending the people we respect -- no so much the others.) But this was incredibly thin gruel for "racism," and the more that responses like this are seen as knee-jerk reactions to minor gaffes and failed jokes, the easier it is to say that this is as bad as racism gets.

To be clear: what Handler said wasn't racism, and (as far as I can tell) it was entirely factual. There is racism out there, and I expect a Missouri grand jury will display a large helping of it any day now. Conflating major problems with any speech referencing stereotypes, though, will only confuse the issue and make it easier to deny.

Think about it this way: if Woodson had described the exact same conversation, would anyone have a problem with it? This is perilously close to "it's racist for a white person to talk about a black person" -- not "those people," but about a specific, actual person and describing a real event. If your aim is to get white people to understand and treat black people better, insisting that they never talk about black people is a really stupid strategy.

Complain about whatever you want, but don't be surprised if your lack of proportion makes other people increasingly ignore you. 

(It also reminded me of that blog post that's been a linked a lot in the SF world recently -- the very vague one that says something like "we People of Color are going to go off and decide amongst ourselves how everyone should feel about This Situation [unspecified; probably the Requires Hate ball of wax but not necessarily] and we'll tell you what to do and think once we've decided that for you." I suppose it's progress that we're supposed to take our cues from oppressed people rather than powerful ones these days, but it's still massively presumptuous. And, again, telling people what to think is not a good strategy to begin with, so telling them that you will tell them what to think sometime later is even worse.)

This may just be my particular bugbear: I'm a reflexive contrarian, so if someone wants me to believe X, I'm immediately gravitating to not-X. (I was a solid Republican for a couple of decades almost entirely because I went to a liberal arts college that tried really hard to indoctrinate me in the first couple of months of my freshman year.) But, really: a sense of proportion is a requirement for being a functioning adult. Try to develop one.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #322: The Squidder by Ben Templesmith

It's OK if not everything is original. We have genres for a reason: they corral themes and tropes and ideas that we like to read about together, and every genre provides good entertainment for a while. (But never forever: found any good Western magazines lately? Or nurse stories?)

So a graphic novel in a scratchy, smeary earth-toned horror style, featuring tentacle monsters from beyond space that have to be defeated to save the entire universe, is no bad thing. And if it features a too-badass-to-be-true, much-older-than-he-looks soldier who is The One Man who can save that universe, so much the better. And if along the way he's aided by a gorgeous young female, who he doesn't quite trust because of her connection to the squids, well -- we know where we stand with that story, don't we?

That book is The Squidder by Ben Templesmith, which was the subject of a very successful Kickstarter campaign just about a year ago, became the limited-edition hardcover result early this year, and is poised to come out in a less expensive, generally-distributed edition in February. The art is dark, evocative, and attractively grotty, as you'd expect from horror expert Templesmith (Fell, 30 Days of Night, Dead Space, Silent Hill), and the dialogue is generally OK, even given that Templesmith came in to comics through the artist door (and given the requirements of this kind of tough-guy-saves-the-world exercise).

The Squidder is set in the indeterminate future, a hundred years after the apocalypse. Those squids appeared, invading and conquering, and mankind -- or what's left of it -- is now shattered and completely subservient to the creepy interdimensional aliens and their all-female quasi-religious cult. Well, actually, the squids are more interested in being creepy and interdimensional than in actually ruling Earth, so there's a patchwork of warlords and anarchy among the survivors. One of the legendary squidders -- genetically and biologically modified soldiers [1] who almost managed to defeat the endless squid hordes -- is left alive, wandering through the blasted landscape, unable to kill himself because of his programming.

But he's sent to bring back that girl -- to save her from one of those nasty warlords who wants to rape her, for a different warlord who also wants to rape her -- and goes full-badass along the way. She gets him to take her to the heretic squid temple, where the requisite Old Woman Who Knows All explains the plot and the One Last Chance that our squidder and his friends have to save our entire universe. They of course take that chance, and you can guess how it all ends.

The Squidder is a pure genre exercise, but just fine on that level: Templesmith's art is creepy and evocative, somewhere between Barron Storey and Mike Mignola. His monsters are horrible, his strong-thewed hero is laconic and deadly, and his action scenes deliver with the boom-boom. You are very unlikely to find a better comic about killing giant space squids if you search for the next five years.


[1] Because the way to kill an invasion of giant, flying killer squids from the spaces between worlds is obviously to give a bunch of bald guys superpowers, swords, and handguns instead of, I don't know, shooting at the squids with ever-larger tanks and fighter planes and nuclear weapons. As usual in comics, man-portable is the only way to go.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #321: Strip Joint by Carol Lay

Someday, someone will write the true history of strip cartoons, and will describe in precise detail how the complex alternative-paper ecosystem of the '90s was destroyed and replaced by an equally complex ecosystem on the Internet that included (as far as I can tell) exactly none of the same cartoonists. The two systems pretty clearly filled the same niche: smart, somewhat outre cartoons for an audience younger and hipper and more engaged than the grandpa-fodder of the daily paper. And that only makes the extinction event that much more interesting -- sure the two systems overlapped for a long time, with the potential income from weeklies dropping as the potential income from online went up (though the latter always looked shakier and less obvious, being rooted in T-shirts and ad sales and begging for spare change), but, from after the fact, it looks like there could have been more of a path from one to the other.

As it actually happened, no one major made that jump successful -- I waffle slightly, because I think no one even tried to make that jump, but I'm sure there are cases I've forgotten. In any case: there was a whole world of cartoonists whose work appeared in weekly papers in every decent-sized city, all across the country, throughout the '80s and '90s, alongside local journalism, ads for escorts, and The Straight Dope. And that's basically all gone now.

One artifact of that world is Carol Lay's 1998 book Strip Joint, which collected "Story Minute" strips from the previous four years, and which I came across randomly not that long ago. Strip Joint is so obscure that Amazon doesn't even have a cover for it, and Lay, I'm sorry to say, isn't much better, despite her well-reviewed diet book/memoir graphic novel The Big Skinny a few years back.

Lay had been a working cartoonist for two decades at that point, and had been running a weekly strip for about a decade as well, under various titles and with various central conceits. Her art style was mature, supple, and entirely her own: no one else would think to draw people with no lower jaws, or make them look so good doing so. And the Story Minute strips were unlike anything else in those weeklies, each one a complete story -- usually wryly ironic -- in twelve panels and accompanying captions. She had a few continuing characters, mostly a grinning devil and his fortune-telling nemesis, and a few sequences of strips -- where she worked out variations on one theme that particularly grabbed her -- but most Story Minutes stood alone. She made and destroyed worlds on a weekly basis, tossing out a premise in the first panel and then working out the inevitable consequences in Lay-land.

I don't see people talking about "Story Minute" these days: maybe because each one was its own little world, maybe because it trafficked a lot of the time in O. Henry-ish twists on those premises, full of the kind of irony no longer in vogue. Or maybe just because it's better to read a Carol Lay cartoon than to talk about it -- that's the explanation I hope is true.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #320: Kinski by Gabriel Hardman

Writers often try to explain that it's not the ideas but the execution, though readers often refuse to believe them. But it's very true: the ideas or inspiration for a story don't actually matter, only what's actually there on the page. It's complicated by the fact that those pages can always be interpreted in different ways -- there are very few stories outside early readers precise and linear enough that they can only be read one way -- but a smart and careful reader can generally tell if a story is successful at what it set out to do.

Generally.

Gabriel Hardman's graphic novel Kinski is billed as a crime story, which is true in the broadest sense: it's about a man who steals a dog. But it's not much like any of the various things we call crime fiction: there are no detectives in it, no one is killed, no major crimes are planned or committed, the cast is not made up of career criminals or low-lifes, and the atmosphere is not dark and brooding. Instead, it's the story of a mania that we only see from the outside: surprising and puzzling and disconcerting and unlikely and possibly even unbelievable.

Joe is part of some kind of traveling sales team, in a small city somewhere: visiting with two colleagues to make a presentation and then fly back out. (Kinski is at its most crime-fictional in Hardman's flat refusal to explain most of the background details, in his insistence on just telling us the facts and the events.) Joe sees a dog, immediately wants/loves/needs it, and everything in his life gets wrapped up in that dog from that moment on, even if that's in conflict with everything he should do, for professional, ethical, or even self-preservation reasons.

Such an immediate connection is certainly possible, and a creator can make it feel immediate and true in his work. But Hardman instead assumes it: here's Joe, he says, and here's the dog he names Kinski. Joe will now go to outrageous lengths to keep Kinski, even once his real owners are found. Why does Joe love Kinski? (Does Joe love Kinski, or does he just grab onto the dog as a crutch in an itinerant life?) Hardman won't tell you why Joe does anything, just show you what Joe does, even if you find that ridiculous and bizarre.

So I can't say if any particular reader will enjoy Kinski. I'm not even sure if I did: I spent the first fifty or so pages thinking it was lousy because Joe's motivation was so utterly undefined. Later, I built a grudging respect for what Hardman was doing in this book, but I can't say it ever entirely convinced me. I don't understand Joe at all, and he's the core of this story. Maybe we're not meant to understand Joe, but what he does has to be plausible, or the story collapses.

Kinski is a series of odd, stark narrative choices dressed up as a crime story, drawn in black pen lines that seem to me slightly reminiscent of Klaus Janson. If you think that's the kind of thing you'd like, go check it out.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #319: The Getaway Car by Donald E. Westlake

I've toyed with the idea of making a metric of the speed to non-fiction collection as an indicator of the importance of a novelist. But I've never been precisely sure what I'd be measuring there, which is a big sticking point. For instance, I can say that Terry Pratchett got a non-fiction collection this year (43 years after his first novel, but definitely pre-decease, which is a major indicator of importance) but that Jonathan Franzen got a collection in 2002, only fourteen years after his first novel. Now, does that say that literary novelists should be handicapped about thirty years compared to commercial novelists? Clearly, we need a lot more data points, and I eagerly await the foundation that will pay me a substantial stipend to really dig into this fascinating phenomenon.

 This is bubbling up in my brain, of course, because I just read The Getaway Car by Donald E. Westlake. It's a miscellaneous non-fiction collection, and it fits the type-pattern of the species very well: from a small/academic press (U. Chicago), published a few years after the author's death (six, in this case), and presenting itself as the cream of a slightly larger pile that will likely never be published in book form. Most reasonably popular novelists get a book like this -- edited by their widows, their biggest fan, their biggest fan with access to a publisher, the archivist at the place their papers reside, or just some guy who really wanted the book to exist. All of those folks are amateurs, generally: the miscellaneous posthumous non-fiction collection is nobody's job, just something that happens because one person really thinks it needs to.

In this case, that person is editor Levi Stahl, the promotions director of the University of Chicago Press -- placing him as Type Three -- who ran through Westlake's papers (held, not in Chicago, but at the Boston University Libraries) and pulled out a large sampling: not quite the Complete Nonfictional Westlake, but all of the good stuff as Stahl saw it. Somewhere along the way, Stahl convinced his employer this would be a good thing to do, and then convinced the Westlake estate of the same thing, so now we have a book.

The Getaway Car is a miscellany, collecting the bits of prose a working writer throws off during a fifty-year career: letters, introductions to new editions of his own work, introductions to anthologies of other work, appreciations of his favorite writers, appreciations of his friends, the odd speech or two, a couple of interviews, a round-robin with his pseudonyms, a recipe, one list, several finished-looking but unpublished essays, and a fragmentary autobiography. (I suspect every single writer of at least moderate fame tinkers with an autobio sometime in his seventies -- earlier, if he's particularly vain.)

Westlake was a thoughtful and amusing writer, with many moods and styles, so this is a varied and interesting collection -- the one thing that was consistent about all of Westlake's names and genres was a deep interest in people, their schemes, and how they could go wrong. It's obviously not of interest to anyone who isn't already a Westlake fan, but that's the same for any book like this. And Westlake is two of the best mystery writers of the twentieth century: as himself for comic crime thrillers like the Dortmunder books and God Save the Mark and as Richard Stark for the Parker novels. Maybe three, actually: there's also the darker, blackly humorous Westlake books like Kahawa and The Ax and Humans. Anyway, he's worth seeking out, if you haven't read him before -- see my Starktober series for his second self or pick up any Dortmunder book (I'm partial to Drowned Hopes, myself) for the first.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/15

I'm writing this early on the morning before it goes live, trying to get it done before I run off with Thing 1 (now a large but deeply goofy high school junior) to a what-is-this-college-thing-anyway? two-day program at the alma mater (Vassar) that I haven't been back to in twenty-five years. So to say I'm distracted would be an understatement.

But here are some books anyway: books keep being written and published, no matter what else is going on in the rest of the world. And one of those books could just be your favorite of the year, or your life. (No pressure, authors!) So here are the things that showed up on my doorstep over the past week: I haven't read any of them yet, but I can tell you various things about them based on my secret mutant power of squinting really hard and communing with the Cosmic All.

We start off with a big interesting SF novel, because I'm old-school enough to think any book like that deserves to go first: The Three-Body Problemby Cixin Liu and translated by Ken Liu (no relation, as far as I know). Cixin Liu is China's most popular and prolific SF author, leading a big surge in that genre over the past decade or so and winning China's major SF award (the Galaxy) eight times. (China has SF magazines that sell millions of copies -- in a country of a billion people, there are really exciting scales.) Ken Liu is one of the top SF short-story writers in the US, and the winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. And The Three-Body Problem, the first in a trilogy, is a first-contact story that takes place over a couple of generations, as a dying alien civilization seizes on a Chinese transmission from 1967 and beings a long game of recruiting humans to their world-conquering plan through a philosophical-historical online video game. It's a Tor hardcover, and officially hit stores last week. It's the novel all of your mainland Chinese friends were raving about in 2006, and now you can finally read it too.

The Garden of Words is a manga volume by Makoto Shinkai and Midori Motohashi, which seems to stand alone. (It says something about the commercial landscape when the assumption is that any manga will stretch for endless volumes, but it's true: people do want the same thing over and over again.) It's from Vertical (available now in paperback), which implies it's a bit more literary and sophisticated that the bulk of manga that we see in the States -- but it does begin with a high school boy playing hooky from his first period at school because his shoes got wet on the train. (Even literary manga are required to be about sixteen-year-olds; perhaps there's a very draconian law?) While playing hooky, that boy meets an older woman in a park, who gives him an ancient poem -- and the boy must figure out the correct response "before it's too late."

Also from Vertical is the latest in another series about high school kids, Shuzo Oshimi's The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 11. This is another one not really for high-schoolers, from what I've seen: the story of a creepy teenage relationship.

K.V. Johansen returns to the Marakand series with The Lady -- the first book was The Leopard. It's a trade paperback from Pyr, arriving on December 9th. And, as befits the middle book in a secondary-world fantasy series, the description is full of people and places I don't recognize, though they all seem to be doing very exciting, plot-important things -- ghost-possessions, necromancers enslaving people, invulnerable enemies, entombed gods, shapeshifters, and much more.

From the other end of fantasy -- the kind that comes with a letter from a publicist that insists that a real fan of fantasy only likes the very, very rare books that (one might infer) always comes from outside that genre and don't have any grubby fantasy cooties on them -- comes B. Catling's The Vorrh, a very literary fantasy novel about a mysterious, possibly endless forest just outside of a small African colonial town. It comes with great praise from Alan Moore, and will be published by the very respectable Vintage Books in trade paperback on May 5th. (Literary books are assumed to be difficult to read, so they have to be sent out to the world far in advance, so reviewers have time to fight through them.) Also, this probably isn't the real cover -- I think it's the UK edition from 2012. But the US edition will be similarly classy in its own way, I'm sure.

And last for this week is the new Count Saint-Germain book from Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Sustenance. I have to admit that I've never read any of these books, despite the fact that there have been a dozen or more of them and that we had a big clump of them in the SFBC for most of the time that I was there. Anyway, Yarbro's Saint-Germain is a real vampire, not the conman and fake of the real world, and her books pick him up at various points in his life over the past millennium or so. This one is set soon after WWII and will be a Tor hardcover on December 2nd.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #318: Good-bye Geist by Ryo Hanada

I work in the book-mines, so I'm fascinated with the ways people interact with books: what they expect and what surprises them, what's considered a genre and what isn't. I've noticed that there's a real reluctance for any reader to put a single book into more than one box at a time: if it's a historical romance, it can't also be science fiction, so those elements would be "wrong" or "confusing." But a lot of those boxes can easily work across each other, or describe different elements of a story -- so when a particular cross starts happening regularly (since authors are much more ready to mix things up than readers are), it gets its own name, its own box, so that people can be comfortable with it again.

(Cf.: romantic suspense, urban fantasy, steampunk, to make a very rough timeline)

"Manga" is a format -- it's really just the Japanese word for "comics" -- rather than a genre, but it's still a box. There are smaller boxes within that general category -- shonen and shojo, seinen and josei, and odder things like gekiga -- but there are still general expectations for manga in general: a slower pace of visual storytelling than Western comics, larger than expected eyes, a certain level of action and drama and clarity of endings. Some of those are actually expectations for commercial fiction, though, and that describes the vast majority of the manga that get translated and make it in front of American eyes.

Not all of them, though. And that leads to more cases of that wrongness or confusion.

Good-bye Geist, a single-volume manga story by Ryo Hanada brought to English by Gen in 2012 in a Julianna Neville translation, is a much more literary story than most of the manga we see here -- in the tracks of Taiyo Matsumoto rather than CLAMP. And that's led to some confused reading of this book, which takes a lot of the materials of a genre school story (crushes, gossip, danger, love triangles and more complicated shapes) and treats them in a non-genre way.

It's a story about four highschool students: girls Yuki and Kyoko, boys Matsubara and Chiba. Yuki and Kyoko and Chiba have been friends for a long time; Matsubara is a cold loner, good in his classes but socially outcast. Yuki is the center: the story starts when she notices Matsubara recording her semi-secretly on the subway. At the same time, someone is killing small animals in the area around the school and leaving notes under the name "Spirit" -- exactly as it happened seven years before, when it turned out a girl from the school was responsible.

The most genre element is that animal-killer: it's a lot like the "haunted school" subgenre, with exactly the same things happening again (cryptic messages with hidden meanings, notes left on desks, threats of danger or violence, and those escalating killings). But that feeds into the least genre aspect of Good-bye Geist, as well: since Hanada tells us exactly what happened seven years ago, who was responsible and how it was dealt with, there's no need to repeat all of those details at the end of this story. Once we know who the culprit is -- and we can suspect that as soon as we get those details of the last time -- we know how it all must end.


Good-bye Geist will not tell you how to feel about the scenes it shows you; it remains a bit cool and detached, like Matsubara, presenting all of the information you need to know, but only once. The ending may seem elliptical to some; that's a sign to go back and read more closely. This is not a manga that's likely to be loved, but it's got a lot to be admired, and Hanada is clearly a creator to watch.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index