The Dragon Society

I finised a book called ‘The Dragon Society‘ by Lawrence Watt-Evans. I read this book because I’d read (and enjoyed) ‘Dragon Weather‘, the previous book in the series. In Dragon Weather, I liked the non-standard look at dragons in fantasy, the pacing was good and the characters were well-developed. Dragon Society simply failed on those accounts.
My first problem with it was that it never seemed to start. I expect a certain amount of rehashing of the previous novel in any sequel, but this reiterating continued throughout the book. Worse, it started to reiterated what it had contributed earlier on itself. So it just seemed repetetive. Then, there was almost no action. There was lots and lots and lots of sitting around, thinking about what the protagonist should be doing, but not much happened. Everything of import in the book seemed to happen in the last 20-odd pages, which meant 200-odd pages of introduction, 20 pages of climax, and 2 pages of dénouement. So not a highly recommended book, and one of those fantasy novels I read on occasion that reminds me precisely why I don’t read more fantasy novels.

Wonder Boys

I read Wonder Boys over this past week. I’ve been dying to read something by Michael Chabon since I saw that wonderful cover for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and seen the movie ‘Wonder Boys’, which despite a cast of actors I usually do not like, absolutely adored.
The book, as it so often turns out, is so much more wonderful than the movie. So much darker, slightly more off-kilter and definitely more disturbing. Michael Chabon has wonderful turnings of phrases throughout the book that really subtly, but succinctly build up the characters’ identities. Even the minor players feel slightly more fleshed out. Ironically, these more fleshed out characters’ motivations come across here and there as more mysterious than in the streamlined film, but then – most people are complex enough that you don’t always understand where they’re coming from.

But Wonder Boys comes highly recommended by this narrator.

All families are Psychotic

I just finished reading Douglas Coupland’s latest entry, All Families Are Psychotic : A Novel.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this book is it’s pacing – there is simply no real slow down for most part (although, somewhat ironically, the ‘climax’ of the book is perhaps the slowest part of it all – the previous hectic energy slows right down to leisurely pace). I cannot say that I liked the book, although I would recommend it if you’re a Coupland fan. But I really haven’t liked too much of his outside of Microserfs and Generation X : Tales for an Accelerated Culture. And City of Glass just seems a poor man’s City of Quartz : Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. But still.

However, a slight rant follows about a particular aspect of this book that really made me angry. It’s a bit of a spoiler, so click more to read it if you like.

Continue reading “All families are Psychotic”

vertigo

I just finished reading Vertigo, by W G Sebald. I was sent this as a christmas present by my aunt, who always sends really interesting books as gifts. Which I certainly can’t complain about. In one of thos odd twists, I’d never heard of this author. The day I received it, I followed a link trail on Salon to this review of the book (which being the type of person that I am, I did not read until this morning, post-completion of novel). The next day, I read his obituary in the Guardian. All very odd.

More to the point of this, is just how wonderful this book is. So much of echoed true in my brain, although in form with the book itself, I’m no longer sure if I experiences that whilst reading, or simply in my memory of reading it. And that distinction forms a critical idea of the novel, the split between experience, memory of experience and longing for experience. The fleeting, emotional, ephemeral nature of memory is explored throughout the novel as the narrator follows the trails that Stendahl as he researches and writes de l’Amour, or Kafka as he spends his last days at Riva, then finally to retracing his own steps as he returns to his homeland. Mixed in with various photographs, scribbles, train tickets, menus, etc, the book has a very ‘real’, very ‘documentary’ feel. I admit falling into the narrator-is-author trap for a little while, until I noticed the little ‘fiction’ written on the spine of the book, which then freed me up to think a little more about this book – these memories of ‘real’ writers, written by a fictional researcher – these articles of truth that exist throughout the narrative – some are ‘true’, in that they are artifacts of the writers whose steps the narrator follows, while others are fabrications – artifacts of the narrators journey.

Anyhoo. Read the book.

Spiderman #36.

So I just read Amazing Spiderman #26, which is Marvel Comics’ official response to the Sept. 11th attacks in NYC. As these things go, it was pretty good. It was penned by J. Michael Strascinsky, who I’m not a huge fan of – he tends for schlock melodrama in his comics, and has the subtlety of an angered rhinocerous. The art was by John Romita Jr, who is one my three or four favourite comic artists. Overall, I give the story a seven. It was a nice gesture, it serves a purpose and it tells the story well, w/r/t to the existence of superheroes who still could not stop the attack. I thought the inclusion of a tearing Dr. Droom was a little much, but whatever. What really got my goat, however, was that there was an advert every other page almost! I fully expected this to be advert-free – or perhaps an inside cover and back cover ad, something like that. But it seemed to have more adverts than usual almost! And nothing wrecks a set mood like an add for trading cards, or computer games, etc. Growl.