Thursday, August 4, 2011


Suzanne Collins

(The Hunger Games)

Finally, after a month of putting it off I can write about Mockingjay, it's not as good as Catching Fire but it is a very exciting and satisfactory ending to Katniss's ordeal.

The weakest part of the story is the first half of the book. We are dealing with new characters and settings and it can be a bit tedious. This is on purpose, though because Katniss is feeling that same tediousness and slowness, so in part the reader is sharing her experience. The second half of the book is much better. It brings the excitement and the panic of the Hunger Games and the Quarter Quell but on a horribly larger scale.

The characters grow and mature though the story and the love triangle between Peeta, Gale and Katniss takes a turn for the worst. Peeta has been brainwashed by the Capitol to kill Katniss, and Gale is realizing his skills as a trapper can be used in the war against President Snow. Katniss' loyalties are tested. Their ending is predictable but the journey is full of twists that damage the couple and makes their epilogue the very definition of bittersweet.

Although Katniss' story has been told (in part- another problem might rise that needs the Mockingjay) there's a lot of Panem's history that I would like to know. It's big playground and other writers might do something fun with the different districts. I wouldn't mind more stories about the Rebellion of the Districts or the first ever Hunger Game. Hopefully, the movie (which is looking very very good) can spark Susanne Collins into writing more about Panem and it's citizens.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Battle Angel Alita Vol. 3

Yukito Kishihiro

The co-worker who lent me this didn't have volume two. It seems that all I missed was a human kid obsessed with Tiphares, the awesome city that floats above the Earth, and then his body got destroyed and he became a cyborg. Then Alita turned him into her pet project and he killed himself. So that's that.

Alita was so traumatized, as she should be, so she runs away to drown her pain in Rollerball. She's the best player in the third division. Ido finds her after a long search and because she doesn't acknoledge him, he decides to destroy her pride so she'll come back to him. What?

There's a lot of fast pace, arm ripping, panther kunst, blading action. All so Alita can become second class and fight the best player of that division, Jashugan. Who happens to be hanging out with Ido.

The climax of the book is Alita and Jashugan arm wrestling while talking about the power of Chi. He blows her arm with his Chi. This to Alita is like foreplay and even though Jashugan let her win you can feel the cyborgy sexual tension as his arm falls from his shoulder.

They are meant to be.

Dead Until Dark

Charlaine Harris

The first book of the Sookie Stackhouse series is very similar and completely different from the True Blood (Season 1) TV show it eventually morphed into. I won't go into spoilers, both the book and the TV show feature a murder mystery, but I will discuss Sookie and Bill's relationship.

Sookie in the book comes off a bit more stable than the TV version. It could be because the book is narrated by her and so we understand more of her motivations. She's not as wishy washy as you'd think but she is way more naive than you could realize.

One of the biggest differences between the book and the TV show is that vampires in the book are suffering from a virus, so they can't help drink blood. Or that's what they want you to believe. Everyone can smell the bullshit except Sookie. When she understands that she's been having sex with a dead person instead of an infected one, she pukes. Then promptly forgets about it because Bill is so dreamy.

Bill for the most part is very unlikable, and treats Sookie like a pet. Once she finally gives in and has sex with him, that's pretty much all he wants to do. Not that Sookie complains, but sheesh. He's not as romantic as the TV version or as fleshed out. One could argue that True Blood is as much Bill's story as Sookie's (or Eric's for that matter) and you kind of miss that in the book.

Most of the secondary characters in the book are just that, secondary. We hardly know anyone outside of Sookie's immediate circle of friends and family.

All in all it was an enjoyable quick read, but you can see how the writers of True Blood really fleshed out the world and it's inhabitants.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Battle Angel Alita Vol. 1

Yukito Kishihiro

I don't read a lot of manga, and when I do it's usually the girly kind, but since a co-worker insisted that I give it a chance here we are. It's set in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) where a apparently wonderful city floats over the Earth. The refuse and the unworthy people live on Earth, and modify their bodies with cybernetics in order to survive.

Daisuke, a tinkerer of sorts, finds Alita among the garbage and in a paternalistic twist tries to fix her and protect her from the filth. He's not only a scientist but a hunter as well. The first story arc is very interesting, a mix between Jack the Ripper and Frankenstein. The payoff does not deliver though because even though this is meant to be a very dark story, it's surprisingly upbeat. Alita is ever positive and ever chirppy. Alita always triumphs and it's not because she has an awesome killer body (literally!) but because of her spirit.

The art is pretty standar manga fare but I'm sure it turned heads when it was first published. The color pages you sometimes find on the beginnings of collected volumes here are drenched in fine crosshatching and ink washes and I kinda wish the whole comic was like that.

I would be interested in reading more about Alita just to see how she matures as a person and how that affects her realtionship with Daisuke.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Parker: The Outfit

Darwyn Cooke

You'd think there wasn't room for improvement from the first book (Parker: The Hunter) but Darwyn Cooke manages to surpass himself in Parker's latest adventure. And by adventure I mean systematically destroying the Outfit because of revenge and money. Parker's favorite things.

The story is a bit convoluted but then again I don't like mob stories too much. Parker had plastic surgery since his last "adventure" and goes about recruiting people he can sort of trust, and hits on the Outfit. Stealing the money from the businesses and such. Parker gets what he wants, because he always does. He's Parker.

The art is stunning. Cooke is in top form. His grays and blacks complement each other beautifully creating a sinister mood that persists even if it's a sunny day and Parker is drinking beer with one of his recruits. It ramps up the suspense. The ink lines cut through Parker's new face in angles and planes making him look determined and cold. I must admit I miss his pretty boy looks from the first book and it took me a while to get used to it.

The highlight of the book is a long sequence where we read about the guys Parker hired casing and hitting on the Outfit's businesses. It's done in the style of various magazines of the sixties and it's a showstopper.

The book as an object is beautiful too, the pages are a creamy yellow which complements the cool grey-blue tones perfectly. You can tell this is Cooke's baby and we are lucky to share the experience.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Catching Fire

Suzanne Collins

(Hunger Games)

What I like most about Catching Fire is the subtle way the story raises the sense of danger for Katniss. A meeting with President Snow is filled with tension and foreshadowing. The announcement of the Quarter Quell, that past victors will have to compete makes Katniss react so brokenly, we question her sanity. Everything is charged with a sense of finality and doom. It makes Catching Fire seem like a dark shadow of the first book.

The world building in this book is much improved. Katniss narrations are not as "expositional" since we already know what she's talking about. She can revel in little details, which is what I was expecting from The Hunger Games.

The new cast of characters is very fascinating, they are all very deadly indeed. The Quarter Quell arena is something of horrid beauty with exciting new traps. I admit I was entertained by the painful deaths of the victors. Katniss carries herself expertly, using her smarts and reflexes to survive but still being sweetly naive about the motivations and machinations of her fellow contestants. She's a joy to read about.

The ending is a great cliffhanger that made me run to the third book and devour it as quickly as possible.


Adrian Tomine

Everyone in Shortcomings is a bit selfish, but none more so than the main character Ben. He doesn't deal well with change, he's complacent and opinionated.

One of the main themes is how Ben views Asian women and White women. He is Japanese American, and so is his girlfriend Miko. She is trying to embrace her culture by supporting a local Asian film festival, but he is running away from anything remotely cliche or sterotypical. Miko accuses him of having a White girl fetish, because he likes to watch porn movies with blonde White girls. He denies it, but when Miko leaves for an internship in New York he immediately hits on a white young girl who works at the same theater as he does. He tries to kiss her and she rebuffs him in a very awkward moment.

Later, manages to have sex with a bi girl he met at a party. He seems to view White women only as recipient of his desires and not as people. Which is how many men view Asian women. When Ben visits Miko in New York he finds out that she's been cheating on him for a while with a White man who loves Asian things. Ben accuses her of being another Asian knick knack, and leaves New York in a huff having learned nothing from the experience.

The art is impossibly beautiful. The characters are really expresive and it's amazing what Adrien Tomine can do with a few inked lines. Enviorments and characters are rendered perfectly in a minimalistic but realistic way. The last sequence in the book is breathtaking and heartbreaking, and worth the whole reading experience.