graphic novels

What I’ve been reading: the comics edition 

Not too much time to write and read this week, as we are in full National Book Festival mode, but there’s always time for comics! I’ve mentioned a few in my previous post about depression/dysphoria reading (a friend of mine called this using books ‘as defense against dark arts’), but I don’t just read comics when I’m in the dumps. I read them… a lot. This year, it might have been most of the time (or it might mean I’m in the dumps most of the time, huh).

So here’s what I’ve been reading:

Couv_aama_14mm.inddAama series by Frederik Peeters.

It is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Well, perhaps ‘terrifying’ is not quite the right word. It looks as if it’s from another time and another place. To me, it feels like some remnant of 1970s-80s European pop culture that has been living in my subconscious and is now coming into view. It’s like watching some disturbing family movie you vaguely remember seeing as a child. It might be all the bizarre alien flora and fauna in it, or might be the colors and the way Peeters does faces.

If you’re around DC in September (read: if you’re coming to SPX), Peeters is going to talk about the series at Politics & Prose at Busboys & Poets Brookland on September 17th. I’m quite curious to meet the man whose mind produced these books.

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The most beautiful magazine cover you’ve ever seen

Island magazine

Brandon Graham started it with Emma Ríos and a few other people (here’s an interview with them). It is so pretty. The second issue has a cover by Ríos, and it’s so beautiful I would have spent my money even if it were blank. Reading and subscribing to a comics magazine gives me a strange nostalgic feeling, like I’m in Japan and it’s Shonen Jump. Not that I ever read Shonen Jump on any regular basis. In fact, I don’t remember ever being subscribed to a comics mag. It’s nostalgia for something that never happened.

By a completely unplanned coincidence, Brandon Graham is also going to be at Fantom Comics on September 18th. They have a few other people coming, it’s going to be amazing.

Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido 

Damn my weird phobia of talking animals. I avoided Blacksad forever, and it was my loss. I honestly didn’t expect a comic involving talking human/animal hybrids give me a commentary on race, offer a great noir reading experience, and feature some of the best art I’ve seen. It’s a must, required, all that jazz.

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Assorted bits: monthly tallies, podcasts, and Brian K. Vaughan

Looking at my skyscraper-like book piles at home, I realize that doing ‘monthly tally’ posts is not actually feasible. I already don’t remember what books I brought home in the past week, much less a month. My rate of acquisition is quite high (no, I don’t have piles of money, I have fellow booksellers and friends and my workplace). I might therefore attempt to do more frequent adoption/release updates in between actual reviews.

exmachinaSpeaking of release/output/reading updates. Since I dearly love Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, I had to go and find his other stuff. In the past two weeks I made my way through the entire Ex Machina series he did with Tony Harris and a few other people. It is, unsurprisingly, well-done and intelligent and very, very different from Saga. I think your enjoyment of Ex Machina will depend on whether you like politics in your graphic novels, since the main character is the Mayor of New York City. I can’t say I am normally a big fan of such things, but I also lived in NYC and had worked in a city archives before that, and I happen to find local politics quite interesting. I therefore enjoyed Ex Machina quite a bit, but on a cerebral, rather than emotional, level.

Finally, If you are the sort of geek who enjoys not only reading genre, but reading and talking and listening about genre, you should go listen to episode #180 of The Coode Street Podcast. Not only it has Kelley Eskridge and Nicola Griffith on it, but the entire hour is a geek-fest of intelligent discussions about what might or might not be fantastic fiction, awards, publishing, and reading speculative fiction.

Reading update: the not-yet-published weird edition

After my complete re-read of Locke & Key, I went back to my ARC pile decimation. That’s when things got weird. Here’s what I read in the past few days:

IMG_20140618_112520Stephen Collins, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil. This is not out till October 2014, so you will have to wait a few months to find out what the deal is with evil beard. It’s a graphic novel, and it’s delightful.

20763852The Wilds by Julia Elliott. The cover. That’s pretty much why it found its way into my hands. And a mention of ‘brain-restoration procedure’ on the back. (Publishers, take note: if you want me to read a book, choose unsettling cover images and just write BRAIN PROCEDURE in giant letters on said cover. Easy.) Much weird indeed is happening within this collection of short stories. Feral dogs, almost feral humans, diseases. Also not out till October, which seems like the perfect month for it, given Halloween and all.

Next post will feature books already in print and easily obtained, I promise.

 

 

Re-reading Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

book_1_welcome_HCI am very attached to my graphic novel series. I re-read Transmet once a year. I have almost all Absolute Sandman books (ran out of money at one point). Unlike regular sci-fi and fantasy series, graphic series are the only ones I binge on. I came to Sandman pretty late, and I ended up reading the entirety of it in just a couple of weeks during one particularly boring graduate class (no, I didn’t fail). I am pretty sure I breathed and ate Sandman. It is almost entirely certain it gave me weird dreams.

And so for the last two days I binged on Locke & Key, which might be my favorite series at the moment. The last volume is out, so I could sit down and be disturbed and unsettled for two entire days, and that is a good thing.

I almost did not pick these books up because I didn’t particularly like the art. At least at first. I eventually got the first volume from the library purely because of Joe Hill. I was still riding the Joe Hill high after finishing his NOS4A2 (which, despite a somewhat gimmicky title, is an excellent horror novel). I figured I could get over the art if the story was good.

Which is exactly what happened. The next day, I went back to the library and checked out the rest of the volumes. And when I got to #5, I almost cried, because I had to wait for the end, and I didn’t think I could stand it.

alphaomegaI obviously survived that particular book trauma. Now that Alpha and Omega volume is out, I could once again sit down and swallow all of Locke & Key at once. The second time around it really hit me how brilliant this series was. Even the art. I like the art. I think it’s perfect for the story, it’s distinctive, it’s sharp. The characters are great. The entire thing is spooky, unsettling, traumatic, and just altogether astonishing.

/gushing off

 

March reading tally: the snowed in edition

March was hectic. Part of it was the new job (old place, but new things to do), which included learning a bunch of stuff and also a giant project. Nevertheless, the brain proceeded with the directive ‘read all the books’. Here’s your March tally.

Books acquired (mostly borrowed, received, stolen from coworkers, you know, the usual):

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I was pretty impressed with God’s War, so now I can move on to Infidel. More bug-based tech for everyone.

I know what you’re thinking. You are thinking: ‘Is that really something called Reagan at Reykjavik in that pile?’ Um, yes it is. I like my Cold War histories, shush. The one below it is about MacArthur in Japan. I’m an old man, I like my military histories too.

Testo Junkie is an intense gender studies volume. The way I can describe is that it’s really very readable while being nigh-incomprehensible in places.

James A. Corey and Gene Wolfe are long overdue for a read.

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Once again, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: ‘Is that seriously Gray’s Anatomy there?’ Yes, yes it is.

Also, look, Rapture is there too, for when I’m done with Infidel. And also the best book of essays on trans* issues I’ve ever read.

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I do not have words to describe how good this is.

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Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail by Kelly Luce is published by a tiny publisher called A Strange Object. My friend and I are quite excited about them. Unfortunately, I will have read all their output when I finish this collection. They seem to have good taste in short stories and I hope they publish more stuff (plus, their books are pretty).

There is also Charles Yu’s collection of short stories that I have never seen before and an Asimov’s under it.

While all this book pr0n is great, let’s see the actual Books Read list:

1. Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book 2 (I finally found someone at work who shares my obsession with Knausgaard, so now we can have conversations like ‘what about that scene where he goes to the grocery store to buy some milk? That was amazing!’ Seriously though, the man is a master when it comes to psychological insights.)

2. Robert Jackson Bennett, American Elsewhere

3. Adam Sternbergh, Shovel Ready

4. Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil (this was about to become Depressing Scandinavian Literature Month for a moment)

5. Joe Abercrombie, Half a King

6. Kameron Hurley, God’s War

7. S. Bear Bergman, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

8. C. J. Cherryh, Downbelow Station

9. Nicholas Grider, Misadventure (this is the other book published by A Strange Object)

10. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos, Transmetropolitan Vol 3: Year of the Bastard (reread)

11. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos, Transmetropolitan Vol 4: The New Scum (reread)

12. Brian Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Saga Vol. 1

13. Brian Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Saga Vol. 2

14. Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs. Review of this will be forthcoming, errr, some time in the summer. The book is not out till September, and publishers frown upon extremely early reviewing. All I am going to say is that I am really tempted to use all caps now to describe how damn good this book was. I sat down and read to the point when I was sick of words.

So yeah, never got to that Reagan book.

Blurbs! Le Guin, Smith, and Ball

I’m not going to make any reading/blogging resolutions for 2014, but I will inaugurate the new year with some short reviews of books read in the past couple of months.

latheMy bookgroup obviously can’t get enough of Ursula Le Guin. The Lathe of Heaven is the third Le Guin we’ve read in the past couple of years. I confess, I am not the greatest fan of Le Guin. I couldn’t get through the Earthsea books. The only book that appealed to me was Left Hand of Darkness. I could appreciate her contribution and importance to the genre, her lovely writing style, but the books themselves just didn’t do it for me. Well, The Lathe might be the book that breaks the streak. I was so excited and engrossed I busted out sticky notes and pencil to write down quotes: ‘What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?’ (page 44) or ‘…a man who saw a miracle would reject his eyes’ witness, if those with him saw nothing’ (page 65). In The Lathe, a man named George Orr discovers he can change reality with his dreams. He attempts to suppress dreaming with drugs taken illegally using his friends’ Pharm Cards, and is assigned to undergo ‘voluntary therapy’. His therapist, however, after witnessing Orr’s ability firsthand, proceeds to augment reality by controlling Orr’s dreams via hypnosis and the invention called the Augmentor. The Lathe is one of the most deeply philosophical sci-fi books, raising questions about destiny, free will, and shared reality.

raslThe new Jeff Smith was the first book I read in 2014, and it was a great choice. Here I am, recuperating from December retail madness, half brain-dead, when this giant tome falls off the reading pile and lands in my lap. Coincidence? I think not. There’s noir, and there’s science, and Nikola Tesla, and dimension-jumping thief who used to be a physicist. Plus it’s Jeff Smith, so the fast-paced story is combined with sharp cartooning skills.

jesseballThe last blurb is for a book that is, strictly speaking, not speculative fiction, but bear with me. A couple of months ago I read the new Jesse Ball book, entitled Silence Once Begun. This one is due out in late January. The plot is pretty much revealed in the first few pages, so there isn’t much I can spoil for you. A man Oda Sotatsu brings to the police a signed confession that states that he is responsible for disappearance of eight people. Oda is jailed and convicted. But is his confession true? The story is told entirely through interviews with family members, prison staff, and other people involved in this trial. The book is partially based on true events. It’s unsettling and rather creepy (which is a good thing). Ball also captures the tone of Japanese literature perfectly. Silence Once Begun reads as if it is translated from Japanese. I love Japanese lit, and part of what I love about it is the style and tone, so this book hit all the right notes for me. (Another book about Japan that hit all the right notes was A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which is now shortlisted for Booker. Go read both.)