Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stephenie Meyer - New Moon (Book Review)

"New Moon" (Amazon: US, UK)
by Stephenie Meyer
Format: Paperback, 608 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Yeah, I know what I said about reading 'New Moon' in my review of 'Twilight' – I marked it as 'for hardcore fans only', not knowing that my sister is one of them and that I'll just happen to be the one to pick 'New Moon' up for her. She was away for that week, I had no other things to read and well ... I was curious.
But then, we all know that curiosity killed the proverbial cat. And even though 'New Moon' didn't exactly kill me (after all, I'm no cat), it surely tried very hard to do so. At least, I ended up feeling like something has eaten my brain, as if 'New Moon' wasn't a regular novel but rather a Tome of Un-knowledge. Yes, it's that bad, and from now on, I won't touch the Twilight series again. Unless I'm dying to read something and there are no other books available (which is not very likely!).

The thing is – I knew what happens in the book. Most of my girlfriends were talking about it for weeks, so it was really hard to dismiss everything being said. It really is fairly simple: Edward leaves, Bella is devastated and turns depressive, Jacob Black falls in love with her, Edward thinks that Bella is (after a series of unfortunate events) dead, so he wants to commit suicide; Bella rushes to Italy to save him at the last moment and he promises to never leave her side again. Awww. That is all I heard, and it was enough – you don't really need to know all the details (not that there is so many), and you most certainly don't need to read the whole book. Don't take me wrong, I have nothing against emo culture, but Bella really does create an impression of a most pathetic, wannabe-tragic and caricaturised emo, only the razors missing from the picture. I wallow in self-loathing; my heart is broken, torn and numb! - that sort of things.

I concede one thing to Stephenie Meyer – she kind of manages to pull it off despite everything. You read, read and read New Moon, until it suddenly hits you how pathetic everybody and everything is. Of course, you decide to bang your head against the wall for some time ... but then, you go back and read some more. I don't really understand it, but I know that it's not just because I try to finish books I read ... it's something else.

Well, whatever it is, it's not character development, because that does not exist in 'New Moon'. Characters who are given the most 'screen time' are Jacob Black (who is, despite all the physical changes he's undergoing, essentially still the same), Edward (since he's a vampire, the lack of change in him is at least explainable) and Bella (who, after months of being excessively emo, even takes a step or two backwards instead of forwards). Here's some of her typical problems:

*she is not able to hurt her loved ones. Okay, that's very nice, but begging Jacob to be her friend, even when she knows that's most likely to cause major trouble, because his feelings might be a bit hurt otherwise, still makes no sense whatsoever. Wasn't it said a million times that Bella is a very rational person?

*she is extremely perceptive (she figures out immediately that it was Sam who scarred his girlfriend's face), yet she cannot figure out what Jacob is changing into. I can't see how a sensible reader is supposed to believe that, I really can't.

*she is fatally in love with the most gorgeous guy anybody's ever seen and their love is the deepest, purest, most perfect love ever. She's also (almost literally) dying to become a vampire, and yet she'd rather wait for all those things than marry the above mentioned Mr.Perfect, which would result in instantly getting everything she wants. That's more than illogical - it already borders on plain stupid.

If plot was almost inexistent in 'Twilight', nothing's changed much in 'New Moon'. There are some uncertain attempts at creating an actual plot, but they all quickly end as the author returns to the thing she does best – dealing with Bella's feelings. The saddest thing is that in 'Twilight,' there was enough style to make it up for the ragged plot, but in 'New Moon', that’s not the case. It’s more like a recycled ‘Twilight’ – the problem is that describing a girl’s feelings just doesn’t give enough material to make up for another book. There are some (successful) attempts at humour and the style of writing isn’t really that bad, just worse than before – but even taking that into account, 'New Moon' doesn’t come even close to 'Twilight'.

I guess I have to repeat myself – Reading 'New Moon' is recommended only for hardcore fans of Meyer and for the utterly bored voracious readers. It’s an easy book to read, despite all the drawbacks, that much is true. But it also seems to simultaneously destroy your brain cells, so read it on your own responsibility. And to the guys (excluding those who enjoy the series, I guess, I heard that they do exist) out there, I’d recommend steering well clear of it, if my fellow blogger Thrinidir is anything to judge by – I tried to entertain him with excerpts from the book, but had to stop as he threatened to drain the whole bottle of whiskey otherwise.

- Trin -

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Eye Candy Covers VIII


Joe Abercrombie, author of the much acclaimed epic fantasy trilogy "The First Law" (you can read our review of the second book: "Before They Are Hanged"; and the double review of the last book: (1) "The Last Argument of Kings" & (2) "The Last Argument of Kings"), announced the final artwork for the UK version of his forthcoming novel "Best Served Cold" (it's scheduled for an April 2009 release) and if you don't mind me saying: it looks bloody fantastic! Joe is enthused about the artwork as well...

"Best Served Cold" is set in the same world as "The First Law" trilogy, but stands on its own. Judging from the prior trilogy we are up for some great fun! You should be adding this book to your shopping list for the next year...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons - Watchmen (Graphic Novel Review)

"Watchmen" (Amazon: US, UK)
by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons
Format: Paperback, 416 pages
Publisher: DC Comics
I was technically never a big comic books/graphic novels fan, but there are always works that trespass the boundaries of their assigned genre and become ‘immortal’ in some way. Well, “Watchmen” are supposed to be one of those – movie adaptation that is coming to theatres in March 2009 was just an extra incentive for me to read them – since they are dubbed as (one of) the most influential comics or rather graphic novels of our age. “Watchmen” were written by Alan Moore, an acclaimed writer in this medium who was also the mind behind such classics as ‘V for Vendetta’, ‘Swamp Thing’ and ‘Promethea’, and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, also a well-known name in comic book industry; the illustrated novel in question won several prominent awards and worldwide praise from critics and fans alike. The question I’m trying to answer here is ‘do “Watchmen” deserve all the credit and praise they garnered’? My answer would be both yes and no, but I’ll return to this question and the reasoning behind my somewhat ambiguous answer a bit later.

The story begins with the murder of the Comedian, one of the masked heroes of America. It’s the era of President Nixon, the Cold War is burning hot and the temperature is still escalating. The Comedian was formerly of the league of Watchmen, a gathering of masked men of America to fight against crime of all kinds, but they were outlawed by the government, because they were perceived more as a nuisance than a benefit. Most of the masked men quit their vigilante activities and got back to their ‘puny lives’ and personal traumas, but some of them decided to soldier on. One of those who persist in the game is Rorschach, a cautious and methodical man, who has no prejudice against physical violence and sees threat in everything that happens. He is certain that the Comedian’s death and some of the latter occurrences form a pattern that leads to believe that there is some kind of evil plan to get rid of all the masked heroes. I won’t ruin your fun, but let me tell you that this isn’t your typical detective story as the author shrewdly entwines the ‘whodunnit?’ plot progression device with the portrayal of the human condition, some quality drama as well as sensible and thoughtful characterization (this is where “Watchmen” actually shine the most).

The Watchmen are really an ‘omnium gatherum’, but the author goes a long way – Moore uses flashback narration – to portray the personalities of masked men and what makes them tick. In most cases they are scarred, troubled, traumatized and/or confused individuals, but some of them turn out to be obsessed megalomaniacs or worse. The outside world reflects its troubled heroes and is in as much flux and turmoil as they are; the impeding nuclear war, crime, poverty and similar phenomena leave a bleak and pessimistic impression on the reader. NY is a pit of depravity and the masked heroes who are all too human under the hood have to deal with their own personal problems as well as with the barely tangible exterior threat. But this is only what comprises the main plot, there is actually a lot more going on in the background (political commentary, delving into the human soul, morally ambiguous themes etc.); the interludes that tell of events that happen around a small newsstand are heavy to bear at times, but the mini pirate story that is included and dispersed throughout the chapters (there is a guy that sits in front of the stand and reads comics) is ingenious; it’s really dark and foreboding, but beautifully written and it perfectly resonates with the main story.

The ending is sufficiently unconventional and off the grid to justify reading Watchmen on itself, not that the rest isn’t good; the book also ends on a morally shady ground, which might be off-putting for some, but for those jaded by “the hero gets the damsel that was previously in dire straits” endings I heartily recommend "Watchmen".

I’ve already stated that the story and dialogue are smart, but Moore couples this with the ability to create believable characters. They are hard to empathize with though, since all have skeletons in the closet and make some unchivalrous choices along the way. The most agreeable (likable?) character is arguably the Nite Owl.

Alas, all the major strengths of “Watchmen” also grate on it the most and make for a heavy read (intelligent, but heavy-laden dialogue, somber tone, pessimistic atmosphere and the semi-philosophical interludes). There is not much of ‘comic’ in this ‘comic book’; it demands time, concentration and involvement from the reader – it’s not hard to comprehend, but you have to be focused not to miss all the gratifying nuances. All this is not a bad thing per se, but I won’t lie to you that I was completely immersed in the book – I’ve read it slowly and in small dosages, and I believe it’s best consummated that way. That being said, I still believe that “Watchmen” deserve to be called a seminal work of fiction and that all its strengths surpass the shortcomings, they just weren’t that enjoyable for me to read and that is a key factor as far as I’m concerned.
p.s. as an afterthought: you can see the trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation of "Watchmen" here.

- Thrinidir -


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