Dead kids, ghost pirates, Ada Lovelace and more: books (#SFWApro)

ANOTHER DAY IN THE DEATH OF AMERICA: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives by Gary Younge looks at the ten teens and kids shot to death in America on Nov. 23, 2013 (excluding some who survived until after that 24 hour period)—predominantly black, mostly poor, ranging from a nineteen-year-old to a pre-teen whose best friend shot him clowning around with his father’s gun. Younge looks at the kids’ short lives, the circumstances of their death and the fallout for their families. He then uses this as a launching pad for discussions of racism, guns, the idea the death is only tragic if the kid is “innocent” (something I’ve written about), poverty, politics, guns, gang life andof course guns (as a transplant Brit, Young is openly gobsmacked that even grieving families see reducing the presence of guns as an impossibility). Grim, but very good.

22822839THE GHOST PIRATES by William Hope Hodgson has the narrator tell how a series of strange shadowy figures lurking on board his last vessel turned out to be the advance guard for some sort of other-dimensional sailing vessel (“Ghosts or not-ghosts, they’re blood-red pirates.”) before the climactic full-fledged attack on the ship. While the hauntings are effectively eerie, the heavy use of dialect is tedious and the amount of time spent talking about the ghosts is far more than spent confronting them. So nowhere near House on the Borderland in quality.

THE THRILLING ADVENTURES OF LOVELACE AND BABBAGE by Sydney Padua (cover by Padua, all rights to current holder) is a rather odd mix of biography and steampunk fantasy, interlacing text and footnotes about the two mathematical whizzes with a graphic novel taking place in a parallel world where they actually built Babbage’s prototype computer. The history is fun, the comic bits are amusing, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Part of the problem is that Padua keeps a lot of the parallel time track too close to what might have happened to have fun, except for broadly comic sequences; the end result is that this is closer to one of Larry Gonick’s cartoon histories than what I expected from the cover.

ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS by Shigeru Mizuki is a fictionalized account of the writer/artist’s experiences as a Japanese grunt in WW II: bullying superiors, pointless suicide charges, scrounging for food, wondering what the purpose of it all is … The experiences are probably universal, but that actually works against it — this is just a graphic-novel version of every American WW II movie I’ve ever seen.

GLACIAL PERIOD by Nicolas de Crecy has an archeological expedition in a future ice age uncover the Louvre and try to fathom what all this art means (this reflects the author’s own amazement at going there as a kid) — do all the nudes mean they were insane hedonists or a repressed people pouring their sex drive into art? Amusing, but not for every taste (it’s not entirely for mine).

THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McElvie is built around the premise that every couple of centuries, various gods incarnate in mortal form, party down, then eventually die or get destroyed. The story in this volume of Lucifer either getting framed or righteously busted for murder is interesting, but it didn’t entirely click with me (the mortal POV character is pretty generic). I’d certainly read V2 though.

By contrast, GREEN WAKE by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Riley Rossmo didn’t hold my interest beyond the first issue. There’s a sinister, supernatural town called Green Wake, there’s a murder, and lots of people walking around brooding except when they’re having hot sex. None of it worked for me.

THE LITERARY MONSTER ON FILM: Five Nineteenth Century British Novels and Their Cinematic Adaptations by Abigail Burnham Bloom looks at Frankenstein, Dracula, She, Jekyll and Hyde and Island of Dr. Moreau to see how the books and related films portray the monsters, the ethical issues they raise, and how these change over time (e.g., Jekyll and Hyde presents Jekyll’s great sin as hypocrisy; in the classic Fredric March film the issue is sexual repression). This was more thoughtful than I expected, given Bloom’s declaration in the introduction that movies always get it wrong because in Victorian horror The Monster Is Within Us (I don’t agree, or at least not to the extent she claims).

 

 

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