Wednesday, January 23, 2019

[Comic] Darth Vader 1-25 by Charles Soule, art: Giuseppe Camuncoli

Issue 1 cover
If you read my review of the book, Oracle Year, I mentioned that Charles Soule writes for comic books, this is one of them that I've kept up on, and have read from start to finish, as this run ends at #25, though Charles Soule will have more to write for Marvel in the Star Wars world.

This series starts moments after the end of Star Wars episode 3, Revenge of the Sith, and tells the story of both Darth Vader becoming the Dark Jedi Master under Palpatine, but also tells of the growth of the Empire during that time.  It has four main arcs, The Chosen One (issues 1 - 6), The Dying Light (7-10)  The Burning Seas (13-17) and Fortress Vader (19-25).

This is a comic book run, so I need to take a moment to really appreciate how well done the art is on this whole book from Giuseppe Camuncoli's layouts, the finishes of Cam Smith then Daniele Orlandini, colors by David Curiel and Dono Sanchez-Almara, and the Lettering by Joe Caramagna.  The cover shown to the right was done by Jim Cheung and Matthew Wilson (with other cover artists throughout the run).  For any run to go this long with so few personnel changes seems like an accomplishment these days.  The art is a very cinematic take, like most of the Star Wars comics, making the characters in the books look very similar to the actors that play them in the movies, which makes characters from the Rebels cartoon series seem more real, in a way.

I disliked Star Wars Episode 1 so much that I'd never seen Clone Wars or Revenge of the Sith.  I've literally seen everything else that the franchise has to offer, and this comic run has been amazing.  It actually has me thinking that I should be willing to watch those other prequel movies.  Maybe that is a mistake, but before this, I really didn't care about Vader and his origin story.  Now I do.  I don't like everything that Charles Soule writes, but when he is in my lane, he is a great writer.

Read this if you want to know more about this story.  Like the other Star Wars books I've written about, if you aren't into Star Wars, feel free to skip this.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Book Review Feedback Request

I have gone through and updated tags on all existing and future book reviews, with the hope they may be easier to find in the future.

First, all book reviews (even short ones) now include the tag book-reviews.  That is, if I'm telling you what I think about a book, it is a book review.  There are also short-book-reviews on some.

If my general impression of a book is that I enjoyed it, I've included the tag, recommend.

Genre categories - if you want to discuss these, see below:


Genre notes, additions and debate are welcome, there are a few things that I am not likely to budge on...

The Difference Between Science Fiction and Fantasy

To me, science fiction means that a story element that exists outside of the mundanely possible is specifically there to frame or force a change in the society portrayed in that story.  Where I see fantasy as having extra-existent elements that are used as a backdrop and plot devices to move the story forward.  This can be a thin line, which is why the two are often bundled under a single header.

Star Wars, to me, is a fantasy.  There are Jedi-Knights who can dabble in magic and fight with "laser swords".  With some minor exceptions in the prequels, this magic isn't used as a way to show a societal shift, or show us what dilemmas might exist because such a thing exists.  Instead, it is used as a plot device.  Something for the hero to obtain on the hero's journey.  With the exception of minor mentions in Rogue One, the terrible weaponry of the Death Star isn't explored in its affect on society, but as a weapon to be defeated before it causes more harm.  Even mass cloning is mostly used to distance the audience from the number of deaths, not as an exploration of the moral implications of cloning itself.

Star Wars doesn't directly face the societal implications of magic or cloning.  It sure could have done a lot of exploration of the implications of a weapon that is able to destroy an entire planet, and why it is imperative to dismantle such things - no matter who has such a thing.  In the middle of the Cold-War, maybe this was supposed to be an obvious connection, but nothing really talks to these parallels.  It was not a moral choice about the weapon itself as much as it was a survival imperative to defeat the enemy by defeating the enemy's weapon.

Oppositely, the movie Dragon Heart represents what I expect from Science Fiction.  In that world, dragons exist, but have been hunted near extinction, mostly due to a misguided ruler.  The movie shows a societal mirror to our own hunting of predator species like sharks or wolves, reflected in the Dragon's pleas to the benefits that dragons had brought.  The hero of the movie is forced to face his own bias, and befriend the last dragon on earth, which is also a regular science fiction reflection on racism.

Romantic

Romantic does not necessarily mean romance.  That is, none of the books I've so far reviewed include love triangles, but romance - or missed romance - is a major element of the plot.

Missing

If I'm missing a genre that would make it easier to sort through my reviews, leave a comment!  If you think I should read a book that fits a genre that you want me to review, leave a comment!  What I'm trying to say is...

Never be shy about leaving a comment!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

[Book] Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Book cover
Seems an appropriate way to start off the first book review of 2019 with a book that came out in 2009.  On top of that, it's a book that I really, really enjoyed reading.

This book follows the protagonist, Henry Lee both as a 13 year old in 1943, and an adult in 1986.  If you have been reading my reviews for a while, you'll note that I get picky when time starts jumping around, and I'm really happy to say that this book gets this simple detail absolutely right: Every chapter title includes the year.  No guesswork, no wondering, just four extra characters makes so much difference.

In 1986, Henry's wife, Ethel, is dying of cancer.  Henry's son, Marty is in college and the two have trouble communicating as Ethel declines.  This brings Henry to explore the parallels between himself and his own father, who died well before Marty was born.

In 1943, Henry's parents, through great sacrifice, send Henry to an all-white, private school, where he gets picked on mercilessly.  His only friend is a busker named Sheldon who plays Jazz saxophone.  That is, until a Japanese girl named Keiko shows up to school, too.  Tragic-romance style, Henry's father absolutely hates all Japanese people, but Henry falls in love with Keiko anyway.  Japanese Internment and Henry's father both get in the way.

This book has a wide cast of outstanding characters, and I will say, the night after I finished this book, I actually had a dream where I was trying to cast this book for a movie (So many great Asian actors come to mind, even while I'm awake).  I liked this book so much, that I'm planning on reading and reviewing Jamie Ford's more recent novel, too.

Really, the book title is a little too on the nose.  This book is both heartbreaking and hopeful.  I really loved it, and I strongly recommend it.  Normally, I would set aside this little space for reasons why someone might decide to skip this book, but I can't think of any.  I mean, I guess if you hate reading, but then you probably wouldn't be reading my very low traffic'd blog.