The Bibliophile's Adventurers Club

Exemplars of bookish delight

Author: Rooth (page 1 of 5)

The Sandman series

sandman-series

Never let it be said that reading can’t catch you a man.  Now, whether or not you want to catch that man (quick, throw him back!) is another story altogether.

Mr. Neil Gaiman, despite being one of my all-time favourite authors, is going to be the death of me, as a large number of his books have been responsible for “rando” men in my life.  This particular instance was brought on by his classic graphic novel series The Sandman.

I recently shared with an acquaintance, a friend of a friend really, that I owned the entire Sandman series, all ten books.  When he expressed his desire to read them, I enthusiastically offered them up–my poor sacrificial lambs.  What can I say? I get excited whenever anyone wants to read, particularly when someone wants to read Gaiman.  When the acquaintance asked to borrow the books a few days later, I imagined a quick swap over a beer.  In reality, the speedy exchange into a gracious, though very unwelcome, sneak date over dinner (his).

But the books . . .

I feel as though they should inscribe the front of each of Gaiman’s book with the following: Aspiring authors, take heed.  Those who wonder how worlds are woven and created, watch the master at work.

Morpheus / Dream / the eponymous Sandman takes center stage in this series, accompanied by his Endless immortal siblings, as they manipulate and tool with humankind in the dream world.  Dreams permeate the waking world more often than we give them credit.  What would happen if you hid things, such as secrets, objects, treasures, in your dreams?  What if, as you dreamt, you could shape the waking world?  What if you could control everyone’s dreams? Within the world of Dreaming, Gaiman creates an entire kingdom of dreams for Morpheus to rule over and for dreamers to love, live, and kill.  There is, as often in dreams, evil and there is goodness, all mixed together.  And when we think about how broad, wide, and all encompassing this kingdom is, we get a little peek into Gaiman’s own head.

So it’s not necessarily a coincidence that Morpheus / Lord Dream looks a bit like @NeilHimself: a dark, lanky, brooding character with masses of unruly hair. Women fainting in his footsteps. Classic Gaiman.

Unfortunately, my fellow comic book borrower was neither dark, lanky, nor brooding and I wasn’t fainting at any point of the evening.  At the end of the book exchange, without thinking, I foolishly told my “date” to enjoy and maybe we could discuss the books when he was finished–to which he responded, “Yes, and we can go out for drinks again!”

Commence thumping forehead against wall.

Summer 2014 books I can’t seem to get through

Summertime is full of reading lists–not that I’m complaining–but before I start in on those, I guiltily have a stack of books that have sat dusty, half-read on my nightstand for 6+ months or so.  I know, I know, there’s the whole contentious debate about whether or not you should walk away from books that you can’t seem to finish, but the three I’ve shared below are worth getting through.  Sometime.  Maybe.

Under the Dome by Stephen King: With every word, every sentence, every chapter, I admire his genius.  No wonder they turn all of his books into TV shows and movies–they practically write themselves.  You could very easily cast the stories yourself and just hand the actors the books to use as the script–easiest job in Hollywood.  Arguably, I think Stephen King is the most prolific writer of our time and his work just keeps getting better over time.  Oh my darling Stephen King, I do love you; but why does this book have to be as thick as a telephone book (remember those)?  I think I’m actually at the point where the TV show has moved along further than I am in your book.  And I’m halfway through!  I need to finish this one before spoilers start revealing themselves via TV commercials for the series.

 

A Feast for Crows (aka the 4th Game of Thrones book) by George R. R. Martin:  I find that people are typically divided in two camps on this one, either they’ve eaten up all of the GoT series as quickly as they can, or they’ve slowly lost interest during the third or fourth one despite the excitement and anticipation during the first few books of the series.  Quite frankly, the premise is getting a bit old for me.  People die, or do they?  People are lost, or are they?  People are bad, or aren’t they?  It’s all a bit much, this emotional and dramatic back-and-forth, and knowing that the series isn’t finished yet allows for multiple cycles of these ups and downs and plot twists to come.  I’m a little bit worried that by the time I get down to really finishing the books, I’ll have forgotten all the previous ones, but thank goodness for Wikipedia summaries.

 

 

The Last Lion by William Manchester and Paul Reid:  I really like this book.  Really, really like it (count them, that’s three “reallys”).  It’s the third in the trilogy biography of Winston Churchill’s life and was completed by Paul Reid, as the original biographer William Manchester died before he could finish this last one.  This veritable tome dives into Churchill’s life in detail during WWII and despite all of us knowing what ends up happening (the pitfalls of historical nonfiction), it still kept me riveted.  That is, until the Allies won the war.  The last 50 pages of this book have been sitting on a bookshelf for approximately a year waiting for me to get through.  I loved reading about Churchill: the bulldog, Churchill: the obstinate, Churchill: the master and commander throughout the war and the London Blitz.  But after that bit, the rest of the book is about Churchill: the old man with failing health and politician.  I really owe it to the novel and to history to finish this one up properly–but how/where to find the motivation?

And yourself? What books do you find yourself unable to finish?

Tell me a story: Lisey’s Story

Lisey's Story

If anyone knows how to write about writers, it’s Stephen King.  King, who created the terrible and terrifying Jack Torrance in The Shining and Paul Sheldon in Misery . . .  

In Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story, Lisey’s writer-husband, Scott Landon, has been dead and buried for two years.  Lisey, little Lisey, solidly has stood by her famous husband through all the book tours and campus speeches, happy to be relegated to one of his millions of admirers, even though she is the only one who really knows him. Lisey, stoic and calm, has finally taken to clearing his studio of his boxes of papers, drafts, and books.  But the demons, both real and imaginary, that have haunted Scott during his life, have not died with him. Now they’re out for Lisey.

Let me stop there. King is known for his horror, but in my opinion this piece is stunning as King creates a monster you don’t ever really see. You sense its presence and its terror, but it never truly appears in its full form.

King admits Lisey’s Story is his favourite novel he’s written. Having read his other books, I can only guess at why this is. Maybe because it’s written from the other side of the writing desk.  There must be some dose of his wife in this book and her position as the right-hand of one of the most famous authors of our time.  Or maybe it’s because this book lives in the mind instead of in the “real world.”

If you want to read a book about an author’s mind at work–to experience some of the terror that must be deeply rooted in the mind of someone who can create something so wonderful, yet so horrific–study this one. Then ask yourself if those monsters don’t live in the heads of everyone, if they don’t peek out at us through reflections in windows, at dusk or in the deepest hours of the night.  When we do catch a glimpse of them, best cover those mirrors and write; write like the demons are after you themselves.

Tell me a story: Get Jiro

GetJiro

And yet another fun find, recommended to me by my local comic book store (go and find your very own, if you haven’t already done so); trust me on this (and trust them on their recommendations) . . .

If you are familiar with any of Tony Bourdain’s work, this is exactly as you’d expect a graphic novel by Bourdain to be.  If you’re unfamiliar, Anthony Bourdain is a chef/writer/tv personality who was one of the first to expose the real world of the chef’s kitchen and all of the background, behind-the-scenes gritty activity that happens in top commercial restaurants around the world.  He expected to get hacked and sliced by those in the restaurant industry for telling it like it is–the drugs, the hours, the real people who cook and prepare your food–instead, the world fell in love with his honesty and candor and apologetically true stories.

Get Jiro takes place in an alternate Los Angeles where chefs rule the world.  Among other things, they dictate the politics, laws, and borders of the city.  Jiro is a Japanese sushi chef, newly arrived from Japan and skilled with the blade.  Dip your sashimi in soy sauce or ask for a California roll?  WHACK, off with your head.  Jiro’s antics are quickly noticed by the top two competing chefs in the city, heads of their own mafias, and each competes to win him over to their side.  Chef Bob delights in the luxury of eating and of saluting the classics.  Chef Rose is vegetarian, vegan, locally sourced, granola.  With these two characters, Bourdain mercilessly pokes fun at the two extremes of cooking, as he often does in his TV shows, and paints each chef as ultimately hypocritical.

Yes, we the reader can delight in the triumph of one who wants things done with integrity and honor and refuses to bow down to what others pressure him to do.  We root for Jiro, not only because he is the hero of the graphic novel, but because he stands for the individual making a choice, eating being the most basic of the functions we can call our own.

If there’s any disappointment in this book, it’s the abruptness of it all.  What is Jiro’s backstory and how did chefs come to claim power?  We don’t get nearly enough time with him to figure out his motivations, to learn the story behind his tattoos, and find out  how an esteemed chef from Japan came to be in LA.  Bourdain, please give us more and more!

Tell me a story: Agent to the Stars

Agent to the Stars

Did you ever watch Monsters vs. Aliens, the animated film starring Reese Witherspoon as gigantic Susan?  The adorable Seth Rogen provided the voice to B.O.B.–an indeterminate, indestructible, blue blob who digested any substance he chose to ingest.  

In my head, that is what John Scalzi’s alien character, the aptly named Joshua, looks and sounds like.

In Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars, Thomas Stein is a rising Hollywood agent who has been given the Herculean task of introducing Joshua, the representative of the alien race Yherajk, to the human race. Because, you see, Scalzi’s aliens are smart (not to mention peaceful) and media savvy.  They don’t want a hostile takeover, they want a positive public persona, and who else but Hollywood to spin that story?  This novel is only sci-fi in the sense that there are aliens. But quite frankly, the aliens have learned and absorbed so much about being human that, besides an offensive odor, Joshua is very human.  Oh, and I suppose there are several alien abductions, although you can hardly call them abductions if the passengers are willing travelers to the mothership.  So can Stein successfully introduce blobby, smelly aliens to the human race AND make us adore them–or is it a full-on nuclear attack at the first blip of the spaceship?  I’ll leave it up to you to find out.

Agent to the Stars also has the distinction of being John Scalzi’s first novel, even though it was published after his very famous Old Man’s War, and he had originally posted it in 1999 on his personal website as shareware for people to download as they please.  All told, Scalzi estimates he earned ~$4,000 from this book that way.  In 2005, it was picked up by a small publisher, who printed several thousand copies (which are now selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay), and finally in 2008, Agent to the Stars was released in mass market paperback format.  Now if that’s not every aspiring writer’s dream, I don’t know what is.

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