Saturday, September 3, 2011

Our Week of Reading! Vol. 3!

I didn't think we had it in us, but the team came through! We are LITERATE (barely), and a few of us actually read stuff this week, even though many of those things were obscure, ridiculous, or very, very, very short.

Join us after the jump to shake your head disapprovingly at our reading level!

J. Tagmire:

Spielbox Magazine No. 3 English.
Spielbox is a German board game magazine that has been around for 30 years but just recently started releasing English editions. (I think this is all correct, but it's hard to find facts that aren't written in German). As you may or may not know, Germans make the best board games (more unverified facts… but their games are seriously amazing), so it makes sense that they have a regular board game magazine, jam-packed with previews, reviews, mechanic studies, and even game components and expansions. 

The big draw of this issue is that it came with an expansion card for the 7 Wonders board game, featuring Stevie Wonder. I'm sure the expansions and components are what sells the magazine to most people, but I also picked it up to keep up to discover games and concepts that I wouldn't find anywhere else. I could probably find everything on the internet, but it's nice to have it handed to you once in a while. 

Most Euro games are essentially works of art, so just flipping through the pages of this magazine can be real inspiring. After just skimming the surface of the magazine, I learned about a quick tile game called Mondo, read that there are German designers that actually make a living designing games, and that there are 4,096 combinations in the game Master Mind (1,679,616 combinations in Grand Master Mind).


Transformers Exodus by Alex Irvine

My book this week is actually rather embarrassing. I'm sort of ashamed to admit to reading it.  Still, sometimes you feel like a meticulously prepared 4-course meal, and other times, 3-day-old pizza and potato chips really hits the spot. My 3-day-old pizza was "Transformers: Exodus" by Alex Irvine.

That's right, they're writing novels about Transformers now. Not graphic novels, not movie adaptions, but honest-to-goodness original stories about those wacky robots from Cybertron. With my TF OCD I couldn't help but give it a shot.

The result?  Oh God....this book is TERRIBLE. It ostensibly tells the story of how the war between Autobot and Decepticon first got started. Actually it sort of retells the plot of last years' "Transformers: War For Cybertron" video game, with some random stuff added in for no real reason. It's poorly structured, badly phrased and confusing. Characters move from place to place with no explanation. Sometimes huge indeterminate amounts of time go by without the reader even knowing, referenced only well after the fact.  Names, places and events are randomly inserted and often contradictory for no good reason. My favourite part of the whole book is when Jazz and Prime are arguing somewhere around the half-way point. There's one line, something like "I agree with Jazz," said Cliffjumper.  And my brain explodes. I'm all like "HEY!  And Cliffjumper was there too!!!!" It's the first and last time he is mentioned in the novel. The reader had NO idea he was ever description....nothing.  Seriously!

Anyway, it's got a lot of faults and I doubt anyone without an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Transformers lore could really even begin to comprehend it, much less LIKE it. Having said all that (and this is the REALLY embarrassing part) I still really enjoyed it. I wouldn't necessarily recommend anyone ELSE read it, but it was a fun waste of time for me!


The Babysitter's Club: Kristy's Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier

I grew up reading BabySitters Club books, like pretty much any female my age. They were simple, friendly, and had a kind of warm inclusiveness that made you really like everyone. I owned a crapload, swapped them with my friends, thought long and hard about how cool it would be being part of such club. Sadly babysitting itself is a short walk through hell, but that didn’t intrude into the books. Ann M. Martin was a genius. Even moreso because she fobbed the series off to a ghost writer after the first 20 and sat back to watch the money roll in for the next kazillion volumes.

Scholastic – who own the franchise – have taken two big steps in the rejuvenation of the line. They’re re-released the original books with glossy, color blocked covers that trick your unsuspecting 10 year old into think they’re OMFG new, and they’ve released graphic novel adaptions of the first four. They recruited Eisner-award winning San Franciscan Raina Telgemeier to adapt them and with almost indetectible bits of modernizing (what they wear, for example) the Baby Sitters Club are suddenly a relatively feasible small town creation. Granted you get to the end of a chapter and realize that at no point have you seen a.) a mobile phone or b.) a computer, but it doesn’t occur to you while you’re reading.

And Telgemeier really is awesome. Her teenagers are lanky and a bit unfeasibly bendy with big goofy mouths and simplistic, non-gender specific faces, but it works. There’s so much in their expression and gesture that the tiniest adjustment to the way they’re drawn speaks SO loudly. And I was sort of expecting to be a bit annoyed at the characters – you know, since I’ve grown up and all – but you just don’t. The enthusiasm is so palpable and the intentions are all so GOOD and holy moly it is one sugary small-town experience. Bless their cotton socks.

They’re also an insanely fast read – I got this one from the library and re-read it about five times in the process of writing a review of it. It moves quick, it makes you want more. All the boxes are ticked. There’s currently four of them, and goddamn I want more. Cmon, only 200 to go!!


The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, illustrated by Mike Smollin.
Dear Reader, I don't want to alarm you but.... THERE'S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK! Yeah, I know what you embittered cynics are thinking. You're thinking, "You're so desperate to include a book review that you chose this dumb kid's book that you could read in 30 seconds, you asshole!" But no! I am a proud owner of this book, it's one of my favourite books ever written, and it works on many different levels. The truth about this book may shock you!

Grover is horrified to realise that there's a monster at the end of the book and he does everything to stop you the reader from turning the page. He pleads, he begs, he builds elaborate constructs to stop you from physically turning the page but you, the sadistic prick reader, keep on turning the page again and again, working poor Grover into a snowballing fit of hysteria! It appeals to our inherent cruel nature and we take great delight - even as children - in torturing Grover into facing his greatest fear. And the end (spoilers) what does Grover discover? The monster at the end of the book is himself.

This is a pretty existential text and it sucker punches the (child) reader with some pretty ugly and difficult to manage truths. Often the thing that we are truly most afraid of us is ourselves - we might try to project this negative energy onto other people and things - but in the end these are merely manifestations of our own self-loathing. We keep looking for monsters but fail to look in the mirror. That's right, children. The monster is you.

1 comment:

  1. I remember The Monster At The End of This Book! That's definitely going on my Book Depository wishlist.