My fall reading list has been all over the place, but I want to comment on some of what I read. Here are some reviews of all the books I’ve read in the last month and a half.
I’m almost certainly a bit late to the party with this one. Knightfall is a comic collection bound and published together in 2012, but the comics themselves come out of the early 90s. This shows both in the art style and appearance of some characters.
Comic fans will tell you that Knightfall requires a bit of pre-reading to enjoy. You should be familiar with Azrael introduced in Batman: Sword of Azrael. Some readers suggest an introduction to Bane as well, but I think he is pretty well introduced in Knightfall. In fact, Batman doesn’t even show up until you’re at least 30 pages in. The first section is dominated by Bane’s early life.
It’s worth mentioning that Batman starts the story feeling sick. He was run-down by Black Mask, Superman recently died elsewhere in the DC universe, and he’s been unable to rest for some time. The process continues as Bane releases the entire criminal population of Arkham Asylum. Most of the book involves Batman running after one villain after another until he’s so tired that Bane can make short work of him. The rest of the book involves Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley) taking up the mantel of the bat and wailing (often unethically) on various bad guys.
If you’re into Bat-lore at all, it’s worth the read. It’s a hefty tome, but but it’s still split into the original comic book sections and each of those reads takes only a few minutes.
If you’re looking for a good graphic novel that is a bit less comic-y, but still set in the DC universe, The Sandman is right up your alley. If that seems strangely specific, don’t worry. It’s also a good read if you just want to try out a graphic novels or if you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman. And, if for some super bizarre reason, neither of those things are true, I still recommend it.
Preludes and Nocturnes introduces The Sandman, a deity responsible for sleep, dreams, and (sometimes) stories. We start the tale with him locked up by some magical order. Unable to age and unwilling to give to any demands he sits and waits while the world of dreams falls into disrepair. Meanwhile, humans all over the earth find themselves either unable to sleep or pulled into endless sleep. Eventually Sleep’s captors die and he goes out to find all he lost.
I was surprised to find the series contains some cross-overs. Sleep hangs out with Constantine and retrieves an item from the Martian Manhunter. Gaiman admits in his notes at the end that he considers those sections weaker. Still, if you’re a DC fan it’s kind of fun to see these characters in a new context.
Now for something completely different. Equus is a Peter Schaffer play written in 1973. It was on the news a couple years back when Daniel Radcliffe was cast as Alan Strang, a mentally disturbed boy who blinds a stable full of horses with a hoof-pick. The media/public (it’s very hard to tell them apart, but that’s for another post) was mostly caught up on the fact this would have “Harry Potter” appearing nude on stage. Sadly the beauty of the play was lost in discussion.
The story follows a psychologist trying to diagnose and help a 17 year-old boy. It explores topics of religion, sexual-repression and expression, and coming of age. The story also left me with plenty to think about as I try to piece together what really built a boy’s psyche this way. I’d love to go into it more, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
As with any play, I recommend seeing a stage version if at all possible. Otherwise, the script takes about an hour to read and is well worth the time.
This is the one book I read, that while highly entertaining, doesn’t have my “absolute read sticker.” For one, it’s the first book of a series which will become evident at some point in the last few pages. For another, it’s a young adult novel containing a fair amount of violence and general grossness.
That said, I enjoyed it. It follows a 12 year-old boy as he deals with a excentric and extremely self-involved Monstrumologist — someone who studies monsters. Together they, a couple local police officers, and a sociopath for hire, hunt down a pack of “anthropophagi” — meaning literally, man-eater. The tale has few surprises but plenty of action.
The entire book is set in the late 1800s, and the author Rick Yancey has chosen to write in a pseudo-classical style. The narrator, now an old man looking back on himself as a young boy, often writes long florid sections concerning this philosophy or that tragedy. I quite enjoy classical prose so modern classical was quite a treat for me. I love to think the style still has a bit of life left in it. Unfortunately, Yancey isn’t consistent in it’s use. I often found myself being jarred around by sudden tonal changes.
Still, the good outweighs the bad and I’d recommend the book to some. I just don’t think it is for everyone.
If people like these reviews, I’ll be posting more. My current reading queue includes The Princess Bride, The Graveyard Book (also by Neil Gaiman), and Marvel’s Civil War.