Friday, September 9, 2011

Our Week of Reading! Vol. 4!

Looks like this week the Fruitless Pursuits staff are deceptively literate! Today have an unprecedented five submissions. Yes. We can read. Take back all those terrible things you said.

Join us after the jump to find out what we've been reading and what we thought about it:


Chew Book One (Taster's Choice) by John Layman and Rob Guillory.
Tony Chu is an FDA agent in a world where the government has outlawed chicken and all other bird meat when an outbreak of the bird flu kills 23 000 000 Americans. Tony is also a 'cibopath' or a person who gets a psychic reading from anything he eats. This means if he eats an apple, he can see where it was grown, what pesticides were used on it, and how it came to be in his hands etc. Tony uses this power to solve crimes, generally by eating a part of the victim. That makes the comic sound kind of dark, and certainly it is a black comedy, but it's actually fairly light for the most part.

The comic is fun, it seems to have a bigger story that it's edging towards (there's a lot of suggestion that the bird flu story is a lie from the government, and I hope so, because I kind of roll my eyes every time bird flu is mentioned).

I do have to say that I don't really love the artwork. It certainly conveys what is going on in the story, I don't think I was ever confused by what was going on, but still... It just didn't work for me.

But the writing is there, and they do seem to work well together. I am very interested in reading more of the series.

Jessica McLeod:

The Bachman Books by Stephen King.
This week I've been reading Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, a philosophical novel exploring ethical... Ah, who am I kidding, I've been reading Stephen King's The Bachman Books.

I first started reading King's novels as a teenager, which is the perfect age to appreciate his sub-Salinger angst/rage and rambling style. One of my favourites of his works was the Bachman novellas. King has an infamous tendency towards the wordy, and is much easier to digest in smaller chunks. I also like that his Backman books are about humanity rather than the supernatural. Maybe it's because I'm a skeptic heathen, but I just don't find supernatural stuff all that scary. The inhumanity of man stuff is much creepier. His early writing (pre-1990s) also feels less blatantly less self-indulgent.

I bought this (ridiculously thick) collection at an op-shop and since I picked it up I haven't been able to put it down. The four novellas deal with rage, death, anomie, a disconnected society and the destructive urge. They're compulsive reading and I'm afraid that the next time I'm in an op-shop, I'll be buying more.

J. Tagmire:

Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy by Matthew Reinhart
I didn't read anything new this week, but I re-read a family favorite. My daughter asked me to read her (a/k/a flip through the pages) of Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide To The Galaxy. If you haven't seen this book, it's the best pop-up book in the universe. I can say this because I went to a pop-up book exhibit about a month ago, and this destroyed everything in the room. Not to mention, it wasn't even being displayed.. which is absurd.

Every inch of the page transforms into a Star Wars character or vehicle, and the centerpiece is a massive complete Cantina filled with just about every character that had any screen time. It's really impressive, and my daughter loves it (as you can see in this video).

My favorite part is that a few characters move as you open the pages. For example, as you open up the page with Leia, she pushes her hood away from her face. As you open the page with Vader, his mask forms in front of Anakin's old face. Wedge takes off his helmet and holds it nicely at his side. And (SPOILER) Luke and Vader pull out full light-up lightsabers. I know this, but it still makes me happy every single time.


The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
I finally read The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks last week. This is a book that people have been trying to get me to read since I was in junior high, and which I've always sort of avoided. It just didn't look all that great to me. Then last week I decided to stop judging the book by it's cover and give it a chance, ANNND... well, it's not that good.

The Sword of Shannara feels horribly dated, derivative and cliched.  I won't go so far as to say that the author simply ripped off Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and changed the names, but there are MANY, MANY parallels you can draw between the two books. Sword is horribly predictable and just not interesting. In a world where fantasy has been graced by George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones or Stephen King's Dark Tower series, this wannabe Dungeons and Dragons crap just isn't going to cut it. Sorry Mr. Brooks. At least I tried.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Dan Duncan.
DC comics aren't the only thing to reboot recently. Publisher IDW launched a new TMNT #1 with Kevin Eastman (one of the original creators) performing co-writer duties. The original black and white TMNT comics were a massive inspiration for me as a youngster and really cemented my love of comics. Here were two guys, one who looked like George Constanza and one that looked like Lionel Richie, who had zero funds, and produced this tiny independent comic that went on to takeover the world. The original series was innovative, exciting, humorous and completely unexpected.

Sadly, the best thing about this new book is the Kevin Eastman cover. And I would actually murder someone for him to draw an entire issue. (Yes, Kevin. Murder. If that's what it's going to take to motivate you). It's not terrible by any means (and the art's quite nice) but it fails to recapture the adventurous spirit of the originals, and parts of it - involving April and Stockman especially - feel quite leaden. It's a series of events that don't feel especially connected for me - there's no real cause or effect and not enough space for engaging characterisation. Not that IDW have an easy task here - how do you keep something fresh and exciting when it has saturated our culture for 25 years? (Oh right... Star Wars... never mind).

My time for the turtles has probably passed, but maybe this will appeal to a new reader?

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