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Archives, Part Ten (February 24, 2009 to April 5, 2009)

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (February 24, 2009)

This title is available for purchase here.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (8.7/10)

Honestly, I bought this book only after seeing its cover several times on bestseller lists. One look at it, and it grabbed me. The bright colors. The intricate design. It captivated me. And then I learned of the late author. Larsson had handed in the manuscripts for Dragon Tattoo and two sequels--the first of which, The Girl Who Played with Fire, comes out in July--died shortly thereafter. He will never write again. It's the ultimate crime novel ending, very reminiscent of Eugene Izzi in a way.

While the story behind the novel is unique in its own, the story within the novel is like nothing I've read before. While I haven't read too many crime novels, I have read some, and the flow of this story is so different. I mean, not to spoil anything, but the main antagonist is taken out of the picture about 3/4 of the way through the book. Imagine my wonder at the story continuing past this... I thought maybe I was being misled, but no. And the protagonists? Different isn't the word. The girl with the dragon tattoo she may be, but that's not the only thing going for her, believe me. I'll be interested to see if she is in the sequel or not, but it should be at least a good possibility.

The book is hurt by some translation issues, as the original manuscripts were written in Swedish. This brings a lot of "He went to the door. He answered the door. He.." etc. and so forth.Not terribly bothersome, but noticeable. I'm not sure if that's how it would've been written in English, but some authors do write that way, so I can't chastise the book too strongly because of its one flaw.

Overall, very enjoyable. I've already pre-ordered a copy of the sequel for myself. I suggest you do the same. OK, my keyboard is dying so I can't write anymore.

Graphic Novel Reviews Omnibus (March 11, 2009)

Since I've yet to review any of the many graphic novels I've read within the last year or so, I feel it's necessary now to highlight how absolutely wonderful some of these works of art truly are. With Watchmen now out and The Dark Knight winning a few Oscars, maybe some of you are even looking to pick up a few. Well, I'll do what I can with these, but please keep in mind that their scores are more relative to each other than to the other books I usually review. It would be like comparing Van Gogh to Da Vinci... it just isn't done.

Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen (8.6/10)

So this book has turned itself into something of a famous story, and I can definitely see why. It perfectly captures the horror of the genocides from a rather unique perspective and while only giving readers subtle glances at the terrible events that occurred during those years. Oddly, though, it barely feels like a story of the genocide until the very end, instead seeming just like some other story. The art is quite nice, albeit a bit stiff, and colors pop off the page easily. The book is a relatively quick read, but the last section will simply not leave your head once you've finished. You'll want to reread this.

I Killed Adolf Hitler (Fantagraphics) by Jason (8.7/10)

This was recommended to me by Amazon one day, so I blindly decided to pick it up for free shipping, and I must say I am glad I did. Quite unlike many other graphic novels I have read, Jason's journey takes several rather unique turns and twists and ends with Hitler getting, well, getting killed. Obviously. But the road to get there, wow. Jason's art is a treat as well, very unique and clean compared to some more dramatic American artists. Marvel has begun to take an interest in his work--he'll be appearing in an upcoming anthology title--so he's one to be sure to check out. Just to let you know, I'll be picking up more of his books, by choice.

Prince of Persia (First Second) by Jordan Mechner, A.B. Sina, LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland (7.4/10)

I originally bought this for two reasons. 1: Prince of Persia is a Hell of a game with a rich history and plenty to offer in terms of depth of story and 2: Mark Siegel, editorial director of First Second, is a really, really cool guy and he recommended it. It helps, too, that the book is written by the man who helmed the original PoP back in the early '90s. Interestingly, the writers didn't follow any story seen thus far, rather taking the concept of a prince of Persia and pushing it onto its head in a time-traveling narrative that titilates as well as confounds. Unfortunately, the art hurt my reading of the graphic novel, since at times the only way to tell the difference between characters was a different color shirt. And while the writing was fluid, it was almost too fluid, sending the reader several hundred years by the turn of a page and although this got easier to follow further into the story, it significantly hampered any entertainment. Plus, there was just some crazy shit going on. Worth a read for those of you who like the series, but not necessarily anything important otherwise.

Silver Surfer Requiem (Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski and Esad Ribic (9.6/10)

This is the best mini-series I have ever read. That's saying a lot. The art is gorgeous. The writing is impeccable. It pulls on your heartstrings like I've never seen anything else ever do. Seriously. This series is magical. If anything, it pumps Straczynski's props farther up the scale, as I've followed the man since his work on Amazing Spider-Man vol. 2. There is some lag in the story in the third issue, but it's lag that in any other series would be the best issue. I am not kidding. People say Watchmen is the best, but I would go on the record and say this beats out Watchmen every time. Every. Single. Time. If you don't believe it, I dare you to go read this and tell me different.

Ultimate Spider-Man (Marvel) TPB vols. 1-16 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley (8.3/10)

I wish I could give the beginning of this series a better score than 8.3. Some of the issues really, really deserve it. Unfortunately, many do not. And, since this is all about overall grading, there you have, the 8.3. Bendis and Bagley refreshed Spider-Man, that's all there is to it. They made the character great again. They simplified things. Their stories probably heavily influenced the subsequent Spider-Man films. It was a landmark and record breaking run. Unfortunately, like every ongoing series, USP eventually came into some problems, with Spidey clocking in guest appearance after guest appearance. Want to see Ultimate Deadpool? How about Ultimate Silver Sable? Yeah, they're pretty much the same characters. What a waste. The title is about to get a revamp since the whole Ultimate line nearly died (literally), but if you like Spidey, pick this up over Amazing Spider-Man, since that is just a load of BS right now.

Ultimate X-Men (Marvel) HC vols. 1-3 by Mark Millar and Various (8.4/10)

Considering so many different iterations of the X-Men have existed in the last 30 years or so, reenergizing them in the Ultimate line really didn't add that much to the team. Sure, they were young, anything could happen, and they were a bit more BA (it was this team that fed more influence into the movies than the mainstream version, which was eventually adjusted accordingly) but it was just another rehash. That said, the militaristic attitude of the team along with the writing of Millar was something fresh in the time when the X-Men universe was falling off a cliff. After these volumes, and especially after number 6, the quality of the title went downhill and fell into "What else can we do Ultimate versions of?" Still, a great start to the book and one worth reading.

Watchmen (DC) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (9.2/10)

Watchmen is great, it's true. It hit notes never before printed in a superhero comic and changed the way we look at the genre (much like Dark Knight did for superhero movies). Sadly, though, after 20 years, it's influence is not as strong. Many other comics now follow similar beats and drown out the originality of this series and any new readers most likely will not "get it." The art is great, and this edition was fully updated color wise, so it read fresh and clean, and the writing... well, it was like other Moore GNs where the extra material adds so much extra depth to the narrative that to exclude it (like the movie did) would be a crime. It is thick, and will take a long time to read and even longer to fully comprehend (something I doubt Snyder did) but it is worth the read. I would recommend the Absolute Edition if you feel like springing for it, but the recent reissue of the HC uses the same, albeit smaller, pages.

ABNA (March 19, 2009)

The semifinalists for the second annual Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award were announced on Monday, and as I thought, I wasn't picked. Oh well. It looks like The Nobodies will lather in obscurity for some time--I might get back to it eventually, but this was its last hurrah for awhile. Here's the e-mail they sent me:

Warren,

Thank you for participating in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. We received thousands of submissions and were impressed with the incredible talent and creativity demonstrated by participating authors this year. We were therefore had to make some very difficult decisions. We regret to inform you that you have not been selected to move forward in the contest.


Your Excerpt was reviewed by two Amazon Vine Reviewers, however, and their feedback will be made available to you via your CreateSpace ABNA Dashboard in the coming weeks. You will receive an e-mail from CreateSpace to let you know when these reviews are available.


Best of luck with your novel,


ABNA Admin Team

Interestingly enough, they lied to me, as I received this e-mail just today:

Warren,


We mistakenly sent you a message on Monday stating "Your Excerpt was reviewed by two Amazon Vine Reviewers, however, and their feedback will be made available to you via your CreateSpace ABNA Dashboard in the coming weeks."


We regret to inform you that based on reviews of your Pitch, you were not selected to move forward to the Second Round (Excerpt Review) of the contest. You will therefore not have reviews of your Excerpt posted in your CreateSpace ABNA Dashboard. We sincerely apologize for this notification error and regret any confusion it may have caused.


We hope you will accept a $5 electronic gift card which you can use for any Amazon purchase along with our apology. To use this gift card, place items you wish to purchase in your Amazon cart and begin checkout. Before you click "Place your order", enter your gift code (listed below) in the space provided and $5 will be credited towards your purchase.


Gift code for Warren Pawlowski:


XXXX-XXXXXX-XXXX

Sincerely,


ABNA Admin Team

At least I get a nice gift card out of the deal--something I could actually make good use of, though I would've liked to have feedback on the excerpt (the first 3,000 words or so, which I feel is some of the weaker material in the book, a fact that I will reconcile at some point now that is has cost me quite a few submissions).


In regard to the second novel, things are progressing strongly there. While I've only done limited work on it, the final draft is nearly complete with several additions amended throughout this edit. I'll keep you informed.


I finished a collage I was working on for awhile, but there's a few more adjustments I'd like to make to it before posting a picture online. The pencils based on the first chapter of The Nobodies are looking nice... the first half of a two page spread is nearly complete, so I'll post that soon though it will take longer for the full effect to hit.


That's all the news for today. A review for The Stand and one for Rex should be up within the next few days, and there are a few rants I'd like to write/post soon, so plenty to look forward to.


Til next time, good luck getting published!


Review: The Stand by Stephen King (March 25, 2009)

This title is available for purchase here.

The Stand (9.6/10)

After starting the Marvel adaptation of the book (the first hardcover of which is currently available exclusively in comic shops), I felt the need to run out and grab King's original version, and I must say, despite the talent of the comic's writers and artists, the novel still remains the definitive story. The Uncut Edition, which I read, includes several scenes left out of the original release, but since I did not actually read that version, I have only King's new introduction to compare. The story, while not flawless, left me riveted. I carried that book (which comes in at a whopping 1152 pages and must weigh several pounds) with me for ages, including the trip to the New York Comic Con and back, but I never tired of it. What King wove throughout the extensive novel is nothing short of magical, and now that I've finished it, I can see why fans eagerly beg the author to follow up the main characters in a new story like his recent conclusion to the Dark Tower series. While I can't imagine any such sequel--or prequel--living up to expectations, this book is epic and one that every fan of the English language should read.

What drew me the most was King's portrayal of good and evil, a dichotomy he doesn't examine until readers have already been well drawn into the storyline. The end of the world is handled as masterfully as any other, perhaps even more so, but the meat of the story is here, in the final two parts, where the dynamic between the opposing forces is so utterly demystified. And while the ending may leave some unsatisfied, most conflicts are resolved, including the general good/evil relationship, and nothing is held back. Keep in mind, though, if you plan on reading this: no one is safe.

I'd like to kick off a new feature for my reviews, if I may, with this title. At the end of each review, I will now list three additional titles that, should you have interest in the book above, you may also find somewhat interesting. While these will most likely come only from titles I've read, there may be a few suprises thrown into the mix. As always, if you have any additional suggestions for further reading, please leave a comment.

If you like this book, you may also be interested in:

Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein

The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

Review: Rex by Cathleen Lewis (April 5, 2009)

This title is available here.

I worked with special needs children for six years and I can tell you right now that it was never a picnic. Taking care of the children can be absolutely painstaking, but when you see the random glimmer of a smile or hope spread across their face, it all seems worth it. This was the background I had coming into Rex, and now, seeing it from the perspective of a parent, I was touched. Imagining the heartache of discovering your child is blind, only to find out later he’s also autistic… my God. Questioning God, as Lewis did, would likely be the first thing I would do and possible the last time I would ever consider God again.

But their journey is far from over, and the promising effect Rex had on other children, special needs and not, was so thrilling. Yet, while the story was amazing, Lewis’ writing was simply average, nothing too outstanding. She can hold her own against young authors, with some basic, yet sublime, imagery, but I doubt I would buy another novel from her. This is the story of Rex, however, and it is one definitely worth reading, especially for the millions of parents who have to power through a traumatic event similar to that of Lewis.

If you liked this book, you may also be interested in:

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda, by J.P. Stassen

Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews, by James Carroll

Murder Mysteries, by P. Craig Russell and Neil Gaiman

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