Monday, October 27, 2008

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

This book has had a lot of hype lately among the nerd community, thanks to an upcoming film adaptation. Now that my kids have finally convinced me to read manga, I thought I might be ready to try a 'real' American-style comic book. This one seemed to fit the bill - all twelve titles in the series bound into one book makes it feel more like reading a novel, which is still far and away my preferred format. Just give me straight words. I don't need all those stinkin' pictures!

Watchmen turned out to be worth slogging through all the pictures, though. It's set in an alternate 1980s universe where real people actually do dress up in costumes to embark on crime-fighting careers. They even grow up and have kids who go on to become costumed superheroes themselves. They aren't all nice people - in fact, I wouldn't say any of the 'heroes' in Watchmen bears much resemblance to the squeaky-clean Clark Kents of the comic book world. Nevertheless, they're interesting and compelling characters trying to save the world in the only way they can, against the backdrop of the cold war and the real possibility of a nuclear disaster that could destroy everything.

I don't really want to give too much of the story away, but even if you aren't someone who has ever thought of reading a comic book (ahem, sorry, GRAPHIC NOVEL), I'd recommend you give this one a try. Alan Moore has a way of really making you think about bigger issues, and he uses some very clever ways of telling his story. For instance, there's a minor character who occasionally turns up, sitting at a newsstand getting a free read of his favourite pirate comic book series. We get to see little snippets of what he's reading, while in the background the news vendor is talking to his customers about current events. The pirate story somehow reflects what's going on in the bigger 'real' world of Watchmen, and yet is interesting in and of itself. Watchmen has so many layers to it, there's so much to digest and consider so that even after I finished reading I still find myself thinking back on it and figuring things out that weren't obvious at first.

Back in the saddle again...

OK, I've decided it's time to revive this poor neglected blog. It's not that I haven't been reading, I just somehow haven't felt compelled to write all summer.

Here's a quick partial list of what I've been reading since I last posted:

the Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin. I enjoyed this, my first foray into epic fantasy in a long time. Martin's a good storyteller, and I appreciated how he slowly introduced his large cast of characters and didn't overwhelm me with a gazillion subplots and names to remember right off the bat.

Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel, the sequel to Airborn and Skybreaker. A great series, though I admit the latest book didn't grip me - probably Skybreaker is the best of the lot, though I'd suggest you read them all. :-)

Vol. 1 and 2 of Yu Yu Hakusho, a manga series which my son became addicted to while we were visiting Japan. It's the story of a young troublemaker who is suddenly killed when he saves a little boy from being hit by a car. The afterlife isn't ready for him and gives him another chance, which he takes full advantage of and uses to make the world around him a better place, one person at a time.

Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman -- this is the companion book to the TV documentary of the same name. These two motorcycle-obsessed pals decide to ride from London, across Europe, Asia and Russia and then fly to Alaska and ride to New York. I loved the show, and this is a neat diary by both men who give us a bit more insight into their feelings about the trip as it unfolded.

I know this is just a short list of all that I've read, but in the interests of getting my kids picked up from school on time I'll publish now and add more later. (Honestly!)