Boaz Yakin’s comic Marathon is a retelling of the story of the messenger who ran to Athens to warn the city of the Persians about to sack them. That’s just the third act though. There are plenty of scenes of running beforehand. Eucles wants to be fighting not running, but running becomes the way to victory.
I wasn’t a huge fan. The rough linework in the art and all the beards led to people all looking interchangeably similar. I don’t really give a shit about these kinds of military honour stories either so there wasn’t a lot for me here.
DMZ is almost done. In trade paperback form. I think the final floppy has already arrived, but I read them on delay. Free States Rising is the 11th trade paperback and it fills in a bit of background with a two-issue prequel about the Free States and moves Matty Roth forward on his redemptive path (after being a total asshole a few volumes previously). Loose ends are being tied up, along with the war.
I don’t have any real criticism of the book at this point. If you haven’t tried it yet and you like stories about journalism and about a sense of place, you really really should read DMZ. I give individual volumes 4-star ratings but taken as a whole it’s in my top-5 comics ever. (And yes, the post when I’m done volume 12 will probably be very similar to this. Sorry.)
Scott O’Dell’s book The King’s Fifth is about Spanish conquistadors seeking gold in the New World. It bounces between the young map-making narrator languishing in jail for trying to defraud the king of his share of the gold and telling the story of how they found it. It’s a tale of casual brutality towards the native people, and abandoning your dreams for greed (but then redeeming yourself in the end once everyone has died).
It wasn’t bad, just predictable. The blurb on GoodReads seems to be from a time when casual genocide was still considered heroic. Hm. I didn’t realize until just now how old this story was since my copy was an ebook. I don’t think that makes much of a difference to my response.
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is the story of a group of Japanese soldiers in World War 2 who are stationed on the South Pacific island of New Britain in 1943. There’s no one character that’s the hero, just a bunch of poor saps who have malaria, malnutrition and get eaten by alligators. It’s bleak as hell.
The characters are drawn in this cartoony style while the backgrounds and animals are very detailed, which is an interesting effect. I feel it put me in their shoes as the rookies got slapped for no reason, or as they decided they needed to eat their fill before going on their suicide mission. This kind of manga is a bit different from what the kids these days are all about, but this was a really good comic.
Matt Ruff’s alternate history novel The Mirage is about a world where the United Arabian States are the global superpower, America is a factionalized bunch of small countries with dysfunctional despots in charge (including LBJ in America and the Bush clan in Texas) and Israel is in Berlin, far from the Holy Land. The idea is that back on 11/9/2001 Rocky Mountain extremists flew planes into a couple of towers in Baghdad and the UAS launched a War on Terror. It’s an interesting world and a lot of the fun in reading the book comes from the exposition handled through pages from the Library of Alexandria, the user-driven encyclopedia.
Plot-wise we’re following a couple of Homeland Security cops from Baghdad who are investigating some Christian extremist attacks and come to think there’s another topsy-turvy world out there where America is the superpower. Senator Bin Laden wants something out of that other world, and is trying to use our hero cops to get it. The plot isn’t the point here except as a vehicle for the setting.
My main gripe with the book is that the characters seem a bit too willing to believe they’re in an unreal reality. Otherwise it’s a fun puzzle to read through as you see Lebanon as the UAS’ version of California, and Britain as the Iran-analogue. It feels different, less science fictional and more Tom Clancy/fantasy-ish than The Years of Rice and Salt, but they have a number of similarities. Good book and a light read.
I read John Scalzi’s blog but he’s not an author whose books I clamour for on the day of release. This week, though I felt an urge for his non-bloggish writing and got a bunch of books from the library. First up, the YA novel set in the Old Man’s War universe called Zoe’s Tale.
This book is about Zoe, the teenage daughter to two war-heroes turned colonists. She’s got a special relationship with an alien race and is kind of bored with her life on Huckleberry (though there’s a lot of exciting backstory to her life you can read in the other Old Man’s War books about her parents). She and her parents and her alien bodyguards head off to start a new colony. Zoe makes friends, deals with relationship issues and gets embroiled in interstellar politics.
It’s a really interesting book because of what it leaves out. It takes place at the same time as The Last Colony so you read this knowing that yeah you’re missing stuff, or having it summarized because Zoe heard about it secondhand. It had a different feel because of it. You really felt like Zoe was dealing with a world and events out of her control. I liked it a lot.
I was also reading this to see if I could suggest it as a standalone YA novel (I’ve only read the first book in the series and that was a few years ago). I think I can. It doesn’t hit quite the same beats as usual, but it’s different in a good way, and Zoe’s got a good voice and feels funny and real.
I’ve known about David Petersen’s comic Mouse Guard for a long time, flipped through pages in the bookshops and game stores but never taken the plunge. Now I have and man, Mouse Guard is everything I wanted Redwall to be.
Basically the gist of the setup is that there are communities of mice, who are small and easily preyed upon. They’re the kind of mice that walk on their hind feet and sometimes wear armour but no pants. They have communities that trade with each other. And they have the Mouse Guard, who defend mice (from snakes and crabs and the like) outside their settlements.
In this first book in the series, a spy is selling information about one of the communities to a faction that wants to control it. There are three mice who stumble onto this plot and have to try and save their society. It’s awesome.
The art is all in browns and reds and is incredibly moody. It feels old, like this is a tale from long ago and it works really well.
There’s also a roleplaying game based on Mouse Guard, which is also supposed to be fantastic. It uses modified Burning Wheel rules and I’ve heard it really captures the idea of being small and heroic in a world where anything can kill you.
Doug TenNappel’s Bad Island is a comic about a family of four who go out on a sailboat vacation and end up shipwrecked on an island filled with strange creatures. It’s also about an intergalactic being who went to war despite its parent’s wishes. The comic has lots of good family banter (everyone is funny and trying to make the best of a bad situation) and excellent splash pages of pople running from rock monsters or whatever. I love TenNapel’s drawing style. The intergalactic being story was a little bit confusing with its early lack of context, but it all works out.
The Cross and the Hammer is a self-contained Viking story that is less about a Viking and more about an Irishman who’s murdering his way through the countryside trying to kill off all the occupying Norsemen he can find to save his daughter and his homeland. It’s really violent. The Norseman who’s tracking him is well-educated and sends lots of letters back to his king who is fighting a war while he looks for this killer. There’s a very interesting father-daughter relationship going on, which is different from the Bonnie and Clyde stuff from Metal. It isn’t my favourite Northlanders book but there’s nothing wrong with it.
This is the volume where Matty Roth deals with the aftermath of getting involved in politics and where he makes the decision to get back to what he originally went into NYC to do: journalism. I’m not feeling bad for all of his poor choices any more, because he’s trying to set things right. When he talked about that kind of stuff in Collective Punishment I didn’t have the background of this new decision and it all felt weak. Of course, the people he’s dealing with in that book didn’t get to see all the stuff that happened in this one either, so maybe I had a more authentic DMZ-inhabitant experience when I read it with this hole in my knowledge.
Before that redemption-filled part of the story, there are a great bunch of supershort vignettes with different artists.