book review: the children of men

Disclosure: I loved the movie version of P.D. James’ The Children of Men and without having read the book made the assumption that they would be very similar. Because I am strangely naïve about movie adaptations I guess? I’d have thought I was a cynic in these matters by now, whatever. The book in this case is very different from the movie.

The best way to think of it is to consider the two stories to be parallel tales about the same world. In this world, there have been no babies born for decades. Humanity has inexplicably gone sterile. Here, the book and movie part ways.

In the book the protagonist Theo is in his fifties and is a history professor with no real students anymore since even the youngest people are over 25. The youngest people are known as Omegas and they terrify the aging populace, since they were brought up doted on and knowing they would be the final humans ever. Theo is the cousin to Xan, the despotic ruler of England. A bumbling bunch of fools ask him to talk to the ruler to make some sort of change. Against his better judgment, he does so.

The book is about that relationship between Theo and Xan, who are both not-young men. Theo has all this guilt from accidentally killing the daughter he and his ex-wife once had, which plays a big part. The bumbling fools are trying to be terrorists to get England changed, but they aren’t effective. There is talk about the Isle of Man, where the prisoners are exiled to, but the book doesn’t take us there. The climax in the book takes place in a woodshed near Wales. It’s very different.

I like the movie version better but I love the idea that both stories happened, with different participants and results. If more stories from the childless future intrigue you, the book is worth your time. If you mainly loved Children of Men for that amazing Steadicam shot, there’s not a lot for you in the book.

book review: a monster calls

I made the mistake of reading the last third of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls out in a park on a sunny day. This was a mistake because the book is so sad I was sitting there sniffling and holding back tears in the midst of happy people in the sun looking at boats and such. If you read it on a rainy day you will feel much more in tune with the world.

A Monster Calls is about a monster who comes and visits Conor, who’s been having terrible nightmares. The monster tells him the monster will tell Conor three stories and then Conor will have to tell the monster one, and in this way the monster will help the boy.

Put like that it kind of sounds like a cool little fable kind of thing. But it’s actually a story about how death and love and cancer and everything in the universe is just not fair at all. It isn’t a fantasy story; it’s a coping with reality story.

It is so good.

book review: apocalypse suite (the umbrella academy vol.1)

Apocalypse Suite is a time travel, get the team back together to fight something that’s gone horribly wrong, high adventure style comic that I enjoyed immensely. It’s Gerard Way’s first time writing a comic and it doesn’t really show.

The Umbrella Academy super team was once a bunch of orphan kids brought together to fight terrible threats (including an animated Eiffel Tower). This story takes place when their mentor has died and they regroup after scattering to the winds (or the moon) for years. Then one member comes back from the future and the team member who doesn’t do anything special feels slighted and it all spins out of control. It’s a great story, illustrated superbly by Gabriel Ba. Highly recommended.

book review: sebastian o

Sebastian O is a Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell comic about a dandy killer in a high-tech Victorian England. He’s been in jail and then busts out to get revenge on those who put him there. It’s not a bad little comic, and there is a bit of a weird Morrisony twist to the ending about how the world can be the way it is. I quite appreciated the timeline at the beginning of the book that gave me a sense of what Sebastian was capable of. It was a good way of getting a lot of backstory in so the story itself could be stylish and quickly moving.

book review: captain swing and the electrical pirates of cinderry island

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cinderry Island is the story of a London constable in 1830 who tries to solve the murder of a fellow Peeler (or Bobby as the police are sometimes known) and gets mixed up with pirates in a flying electrical ship.

Written by Warren Ellis, it’s filled with cursing and scientific emancipatory exultation. Raulo Caceres’ art is dark and bloody. I liked it a lot. One of the cool things they do is have pages with the pirate captain discoursing in prose (over schematic engravings) explaining all sorts of history and background. It’s more effective than putting it in as expository dialogue, and enhances the notion of this being a document of secret history.

I haven’t read enough of Doktor Sleepless, but the two books feel connected. I’m unsure how deep that connection is.

book review: junk

Junk (also titled Smack) is Melvin Burgess’ story of teen runaways who get into drugs in 1980s England. It’s not explicitly judgmental, and the characters don’t die at the end, but even still, today it feels a lot like an after-school special.

One of the good things about the book is the profusion of viewpoint characters. While most of the story is told through Tar and Gemma’s points of view, we also get sections from the characters surrounding them. Everyone is clearly unreliable when they narrate, be they racist or naive or disapproving or defensive.

In class we heard how much disapproval there was of this book winning a Carnegie medal for YA literature from parents and librarians because it wasn’t clearly disapproving of the practices in the story. I don’t know. It seemed pretty uncelebratory of drug culture to me, kind of like a lighter version of Requiem for a Dream.

book review: the tale of one bad rat

Bryan Talbot’s The Tale of One Bad Rat is a classic of YA comics. It’s about a girl who’s run away and heads north to the place where Beatrix Potter wrote her books. It’s about child abuse and dealing with it and confrontation and being fascinated by rats and other things that make people say you’re terrible. It’s a beautiful book and doesn’t seem too terribly simplistic about everything it’s doing. And near the end there’s a Tale of One Bad Rat in the Beatrix Potter style, which is pretty good.