Tags: reviews


Still October.

Well, instead of studying for my Old English exam, I wound up reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I italicize the title because I suppose the story is long enough to be considered a novella, but really it felt more like a short story to me. Far shorter than I was expecting.

I've never read any Robert Louis Stevenson before. He reminds me a little of Doyle and a lot of Wells -- of The Invisible Man, in particular. And maybe of Hawthorne, too, at least thematically.

It's difficult, I'm afraid, to appreciate Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde these days the way it was meant to be appreciated, since the entire story is just a suspenseful build-up to the reveal in the final two chapters, which any modern-day reader already knows about before he picks up the book. It's almost a detective story, the only difference being that there's a moral, or at least a moral dilemma, in the resolution. But sci-fi elements aside, the last couple of chapters read almost exactly like the confessional monologue at the end of your typical Sherlock Holmes story.

It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was good, in that vaguely impersonal turn-of-the-century English way. Good enough that I'm sorry I didn't somehow manage to read it without knowing the twist. I'm interested to read more of Stevenson's stories now, anyway.

And I'm reminded that I really need to get back to reading classics and avoiding modern fiction, which tends to have approximately the same effect on me that television has -- that is, to leave me with this numbly placid feeling of "life is sure sparkly but what the fuck is the point" as opposed to "life is one long bloody tragedy, but I hope it lasts."
Devil: Temptation

maybe I'm just especially picky about my satanic literature...

Finished To Reign in Hell. The premise was really interesting, but I'm not so sure about the execution... I'm afraid Brust has rather reminded me why I don't generally read sci-fi or fantasy novels. Like so many of them, this one came off more like a really excellent fanfic than like a professional work, I thought. I found it particularly jarring in this case because of how blatantly similar Brust's style is to Zelazny's, yet without being anywhere near as polished or natural as Zelazny is. But besides that, his writing just felt very rushed to me, a bit haphazard, a bit heavyhanded... I mean, I realize it's hard to deal with messiahs and gods and damnation without being heavyhanded, and Brust sure as hell could easily have done much, much worse. But --

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This turned out a bit rantier than I intended. I didn't actually hate the book or anything -- I'm just disappointed because it had so much potential, and I feel like Brust could have done a lot better with such rich material. I'd be willing to try another of his books sometime, though. This one was certainly a quick read, in any case.
Batman: grrr

Yep, Batman again. Comics this time, though.

Been reading a lot of Batman comics lately. I didn't read many comic books when I was a kid, because the few that I picked up were so bad (apart from Sandman -- for a while I really thought Gaiman was the only good comic writer ever). But now that I have access to stuff that wasn't published circa 1960, the genre feels much more respectable, and really pretty awesome. :D

There will be lots of spoilers in here.

Hush by Jeph Loeb. Collapse )

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. Collapse )

Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb. Collapse )

Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison. Collapse )

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller. Collapse )

The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. Collapse )

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I'm also reading Gabriel Garcia Marquéz's The General In His Labyrinth. So I haven't abandoned real literature or anything, I promise. ;) Oh, and if anyone is comparing this to my post about Watchmen -- well, Watchmen is better than any of these comics (bar maybe Arkham Asylum, which is like a whole different genre, anyway); I was just more critical of it because I had set such high standards. I appreciate it a lot more now that I've got in in proper perspective.
V for Vendetta


I really, really wish the cover of Alan Moore's Watchmen was not plastered all over with "Groundbreaking!", "The greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced!", "Peerless!", "A landmark!", "Staggeringly complex!" I really wish it wasn't.

Because I'm positive that if I'd come to it expecting nothing more than a graphic novel, with superheroes in capes and stuff, I'd have been very, very impressed. Overwhelmingly impressed, no doubt. But instead -- in spite of my best efforts to ignore the reviewers and banish all preconceptions -- I came to it expecting the greatest graphic novel ever written. And hell, maybe it is the greatest graphic novel ever written. But when something has been praised that highly, what you bring to it is mostly judgment, and unfortunately most of what I've ended up thinking about it is simply, "Well, it wasn't that amazing."

Which, like I said, is almost certainly purely a consequence of having been told -- by the blurbs on the book itself, by the reviewers on Amazon when I bought it, by the previews for the upcoming film -- that I would be, you know, completely blown away by its epicness. I really wish that I had somehow stumbled across it by accident, because then I could have actually been blown away. Why the devil are we so incapable of seeing past our own preconceptions, and appreciating something for what it is and what it was intended to be, rather than some shapeless anticipation of the impossible?

It seems to me that if people were able to judge things -- including each other -- for what they are and what they're intended to be, half the world's bloody problems would be solved right there. But hell, that's a whole other topic.

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Relatedly, and yet not: I've been rather depressed about how much publicity and hype The Dark Knight has gotten, and I guess now I realize why. Because it's like all the hype surrounding Watchmen, which made it so hard for me to appreciate it, so inclined to judge every little thing about it. I went to see The Dark Knight expecting your typical superhero flick (more respectable than, like, Spiderman or something, but still inevitably silly); I figured the best thing about it would be Bale in his batsuit looking pretty. I was blown away because I had no expectations. If I'd been looking for something revolutionary, profound, nuanced... hell, maybe I'd have been utterly disappointed. I don't even know. I hate that I keep hearing people saying they're not interested in seeing the Batman movie, and I can't tell them how good it is, becuase if I do, they're bound to be disappointed when/if they see it, because its greatness... is relative to what it's intended to be. Relative to its genre and what is demanded of that genre, and relative to the preconceptions you have about it before you walk into the theater. Or pick up the book. Or whatever.

I just wish we could see things as they're meant to be seen, and judge them as they're meant to be judged. But look, here I am quoting Pope again. "Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. In every work regard the writer's end, since none can compass more than they intend; and if the means be just, the conduct true, applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due."

Amen to that.

ETA: I'm pretty excited about the Watchmen film now, though. I was skeptical before, and I'm still a bit worried about how much they'll leave out, but it has the potential to be very neat. Hopefully they'll do like they did with V for Vendetta and make the chick not suck in the movie version...

The Golden Compass

Following several people's recommendations, I've started reading His Dark Materials. I finished the first book yesterday. It was... very much not what I was expecting.

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(Someday I will learn how to write a review that's actually shorter than the thing I'm reviewing. But... not today, apparently.)