Sunday, July 23, 2006

Reading Into the Past: Week of 7/16

I've been going back to the mid-90s a lot lately, so I decided to mix it up this week and just use two dice -- and I got a 3, so let's see what books I was reading this week in 2003:
  • Jason Lutes, Berlin Vol. 1: City of Stones (7/9)
    The first collection of a slow-moving comics series (I don't believe the second volume has popped out yet) that's enjoyable but ominous: it's set in Berlin in the 1930s, so the assumption is that Bad Things will happen to and around these characters before everything is done. As of this point, not a lot has happened yet; it's still mostly character stuff -- good character stuff, true, but I have a sense that several big shoes will be dropping eventually.
  • Rob Maish & various artists, Confessions of a Cereal Eater, Vol. 2 (7/10)
    The first book got glowing reviews in the comics trade, so, when the second one wandered into the SFBC offices, I read it. Eh. Maish was a fairly typical middle-aged fanboy, with the usual life trajectory and assortment of humorous true stories -- I suspect Cereal Eater was mostly liked because his experiences were very similar to those of the reviewers. It's not bad, but as pictures from the life of a child of the '60s it's very minor, and far outclassed by a large pile of prose works.
  • Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything (7/11)
    Bryson's attempt to explain the entire universe to the people who enjoyed his travelogues. It's a valiant attempt, but he bit off far more than he could chew. I think he's best at more specific topics; he could have taken the things he wanted to research for this book and spread them out among four or five shorter but moire in-depth books. It's still a pleasant read, but it's the least sprightly of Bryson's books.
  • Jaime Hernandez, Locas in Love (7/12)
    One of the later Love and Rockets collections from the Hernandez brother with the cleaner art style. I just stuck my head into it again to remind me of it, and what stuck me was how realistic (and simultaneously un-like most comics) the lives of his main characters are. At this point, we've been following the lives of Maggie, Hopie and their friends for over twenty years, and they've grown from being teenage punks to middle-aged wage slaves. Hernandez neither kept them locked into their original ages (which would have been quite popular), nor gave them wish-fulfillment lives. They win some and lose some, but keep moving forward. That's very rare in comics, and should be celebrated.
  • Harry Turtledove, In the Presence of Mine Enemies (7/13)
    This is his what-if-Nazi-Germany-lasted-long-enough-to-hit-glastnost book; set more-or-less in the present day of an alternate world. As usual, Turtledove is a solid writer and good with his characters (though they sometimes are more like types than individuals), and, also as usual, he loads up the historical parallels a little higher than feels quite right to me. (As I recall, we get someone on top of a tank in front of the Reichstag near the conclusion.) Still, Turtledove's standalones are generally his best work, and this is no exception.
  • Joe Sacco, Notes from a Defeatist (7/14)
    The collected shorter comics stories of the only major investigative comics foreign reporter (author of Palestine and Safe Area Gorajde); as usual with minor early work collected after an author has had a big success, it's a mixed bag, and much of it is derivative of people like Peter Bagge and (of course) R. Crumb. Not bad, but not as good as his more mature works.
  • Jonathan Stroud, The Amulet of Samarkand (7/15)
    First in the absolutely brilliant "Bartimaeus Trilogy," which is not just the best YA fantasy series of the decade so far, but one of the towering achievements in modern fantasy period.
  • P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters (7/16)
    This is the one with Madeline ("the stars are God's daisy-chain") Basset, Roderick "Eulalie" Spode, Stiffy Byng, Stinker Pinker, and the silver cow-creamer -- which is to say, it's one of the better novels in a wonderful series and thus one of the pure sources of joy in our fallen world. Everyone capable of laughter should read it.
It's now Sunday afternoon, which means I'll be typing up the next week's list of "Reading Into the Past" in just a few hours. Perhaps not being on vacation next week will help speed me up...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jason Lutes, Berlin Vol. 1: City of Stones (7/9)
The first collection of a slow-moving comics series (I don't believe the second volume has popped out yet)

Indeed, it hasn't, though I think it's only one or two installments away from having enough material. I chat with Jason some times on a computer gaming web site, and every once in a while I nag him to stop playing strategy games and get back to his comics work :-)

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