Thursday, October 20, 2005

1602/Thessaly - Witch For Hire

Currently reading: "Transmetropolitan" - Warren Ellis, "The Awakening" - Kate Chopin

Next up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" - Michael Faber

I've been on a comic binge recently...all Adam's fault. Anyway, he introduced me to two really great comic mini-series: one by Neil Gaiman called "1602", the other, "Thessaly - Witch For Hire", by Bill Willingham.

"1602" takes characters from the Marvel universe (Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Peter Parker) and sets them in 1602. These characters live in this world "before their time", and live lives in and around Queen Elizabeth's court. Sir Nicholas Fury is head of the Queen's intelligence. The X-Men are considered "witchbreed" and are pursued by the Inquisition. Magneto is the Grand Inquisitor. What I enjoyed most was how natural this interweaving of worlds felt. None of these characters seemed out of place, and the plot had me racing through each installment just so I could get to the next one. Neil Gaiman's grasp of history amazes me, and the fact that he made historical fiction out of this Marvel universe is a testament to that, as well as to his skill as a writer. I have to say, though, that what impressed me most about this mini-series was the artwork. Normally, story comes first with me no matter what I read - but I found myself just staring at each page for a while, because they were gorgeous. Andy Kubert, the illustrator, is the man.

"Thessaly - Witch for Hire", is a miniseries in an entirely different vein, though this, too, has its origins with Neil Gaiman. Thessaly is a several-hundred-year-old Thessalian witch - the last witch of her kind - that was one of the minor characters in Gaiman's "Sandman" series. Here, she gets her own story...and it's funny! Thessaly, a cute, slightly nerdy-looking witch, has spent years moving from place to place because people keep figuring out her "witchness." Anyway, she ends up meeting a ghost named Fetch (who has a crush on her in the worst way), who has, without her consent, gotten her involved in a monster-fighting "mission", when all she wants to do is isolate herself from the world. I thought this was such a great way for this particular character to be reinvented - Thesssaly With a Purpose is not to be trifled with! This miniseries is packed with humor, and at the same time with the eerie quality that we've come to expect from Thessaly. If you're interested in the Sandman characters (hell, even if you're not) this is a great, fun read!

The Life of Pi

Currently reading: "Transmetropolitan" - Warren Ellis, "The Awakening" - Kate Chopin

Next up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" - Michael Faber

I recently joined a reading group on Live Journal called "del_libro", and I'm so glad I did. Had I not, I might not have read "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel....a truly amazing read!!!

On the surface, it's the story of a 16 year old Indian boy named "Pi" who, when he and his zookeeping family decide to transplant themselves and some animals to Canada, ends up stranded on a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a 450-lb Bengal tiger named "Richard Parker."
Don't let the Rudyard Kipling-ness of the plot fool you! In reality, this book is an examination of faith in all its forms. Young Pi loves God, and to prove it he becomes Christian and Muslim in addition to his native Hinduism. He also loves animals, and much of the book examines animal psychology and its relationship to human psychology in a vibrant, interesting way.
This book had me asking questions about my life, my beliefs, and my society on just about every page....and when the reader gets to the end (which I won't spoil here), the reader is forced to ask themself the kind of person they really are. If ever there was a novel that could be called a litmus test, it's this one. "The Life of Pi" will, at the very least, entertain through its sharp storytelling, but it can also help a reader examine how they see the world - and isn't that the point of great literature?

Favorite quotes:

"I felt a kinship with him. It was my first clue that atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak speaks of faith. LIke me, they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them - and then they leap."

"But I don't insist. I don't mean to defend zoos. Close them all down if you want (and let us hope that what wildlife remains can survive in what is left of the natural world). I know zoos are no longer in people's good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both."

"And so, when she first heard of Hare Krishnas, she didn't hear right. She heard 'hairless Christians', and that is what they were to her for many years. When I corrected her, I told her that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims."

"Christianity is a religion in a rush. Look at the world created in seven days. Even on a symbolic level, that's creation in a frenzy. To one born in a religion where the battle fora single soul can be a relay race run over many centuries, with innumerable generations passing along the baton, the quick resolution of Christianity has a dizzying effect. If Hinduism flows placidly like the Ganges, then Christianity bustles like Toronto at rush hour. It is a religion as swift as a swallow, as urgent as an ambulance. It turns on a dime, expresses itself in the instant. In a moment, you are lost or saved. Christianity stretches back through the ages, but in essence it exists only at one time: right now."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Currently reading: "Transmetropolitan" - Warren Ellis, "The Awakening" - Kate Chopin
Next up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" - Michael Faber (I'm going to read it this time, dammit! And nothing's getting in my way!)
******POSSIBLE SPOILERS!!!! (Just in case I'm not the only loser who has yet to finish the Harry Potter books*****************************
I finished reading this a while ago...but here's the review I've been sitting on for a while...
Did JK Rowling lose her editor? I'm serious....did she? 'Cause I'll help her find it. It's gotta be around here editor, editor, editor....
You have in your hands the pivotal fourth novel in the seven part tale of Harry Potter's training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Chang, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that's supposed to take place at the Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened in a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen year old wizard. Unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal - even by wizarding standards. And in his case, different can be deadly.
- from Scholastic
I really enjoyed the story - I just thought it could've been about 100 pages shorter. Did we really need Hermione's activism concerning the working conditions of house elves? Did we need the Quiddich World Cup segment to be quite so long? Did the time between Triwizard Tournament tasks need to pass so slowly (watch as Harry climbs the stairs! watch as he walks down the hall!) ?

Now, on to what I did like:

- Harry, Ron, and Hermione are fully-developed characters that I care deeply about, and Rowling is aging them very well...a whinier, adolescent Harry - a Ron who's jealous of the time Hermione spends with Victor Krum - a Hermione who's struggling with becoming a person in the world (possibly the only advantage of her taking up a "cause"). Of the three, I feel like she's the most well-rounded: we see how she deals with school, with boys, with issues in the outside world - and it's all done very realistically.

- I love that this book brought in other wizarding schools, broadening the scope of the characters' lives. I really enjoyed the new characters this device introduced: Madame Maxime in particular. She-and-Hagrid-are-gonna-get-it-o-on...

- I enjoy the fact that having older characters allows for more darkness in the book. I was shocked when Ron's leg was broken in "Azkaban", but that was nothing compared to a character dying, and Harry being sliced for his blood...

- VOLDEMORT!!! Yeah, I said his name. :) Anyway, I'm so excited for him as a flesh-and-blood villain. As they say in wrestling, it's ON...

In short, the plot was great, but the storytelling was unwieldy. And judging by the size of the next two books, it doesn't look like the storytelling gets any "wieldier". I can only hope I'm wrong....(though I won't be reading Order of the Phoenix for a while...I need a Harry Potter break!)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - The Movie

My favorite Harry Potter book made into the best of the three movies so far. How could I ask for more?