Reading list for Oct-Nov.06, then out to Anakin’s for a week and a half

Betcha thought I’d forgotten about it, eh?
So here’s what I read in the last couple of months, the monthly comics or weekly periodicals obviously notwithstanding.
I’m going out for a week and half to deliver this training in R**** d**** J****, which is our National Headquarters and it probably means takin’ it straight up from Lord Vader himself, so I’ll be back on the 21st providing I survive.

Title: Panel One: Comic Book Scripts by Top Writers
Author: (various)
Year: 2002
Publisher: About Comics
What: A compilation of several comic book scripts from many well-known professionals, mostly mainstream such as Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, Jeff Smith, Marv Wolfman, Kevin Smith, Greg Rucka, among others, ranging from all sorts of formats, from plot-first to full script to thumbnailed script. Each script is preceded by a page-long text by its author containing notes and observations.
Comments: Actually I was really hoping for something… else. I was more interested in the comments per se than in the scripts. I personally feel that, story-wise, learning about how the magic’s done straight from the magician, than just to see the trick in slow-motion.
It’s not that it’s a bad book for it delivers what it promises: scripts. Only, you get sort of hanging in there for something else. Or more.
Oh well. It’s a little interesting anyway, only not for the price of admission.

Title: Lord of Light
Author: Roger Zelazny
Year: 1968
Publisher: Eos; Reprint edition
What: A very famous, award-wining sci-fi masterpiece. It’s the story of a planet many years in the future, settled by the survivors of an Earth that’s been long gone. Through the use of body-transfer and cloning technology the settlers impose themselves as gods before their own descendants, and rule that world as if they were the Hindu pantheon.
Sam, the alleged personification of Buddha (one of the first settlers) rise to oppose his former comrades and free the world.
Comments: Highly-recommended. This one will blow you away, trust me on this one, and all this coming from a guy who does not really like sci-fi novels.
Even though it’s a tale from classic science fiction vintage, it’s makes for a terrific stand-in for a “Hinduism and Buddhism for dummies”.
Definitely interesting to expand your general knowledge of worldly matters (which is always good).

Title: Glamorama
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Year: 1998
Publisher: Vintage
What: It’s starts out as the misadventures of one Victor Ward, a NY male model involved in the celebrity world in the days (and nights) preceding the opening of a jazzy nightclub. After the opening, though, he’s involved in a crazy international conspiracy… and I’m not making this up… involving models, actors, famous people in general and terrorists.
Comments: Ohhh strike out for Mr. Ellis this time around! I’ve read most of his works so far and they all rank among my favorite books of all-time, but Glamorama is just too odd in a sense it really lacks the author’s well-known character-driven lack-of-plot and focus on a PLOT-DRIVEN narrative which, to be frank with you, aims very high and gets pretty much nowhere.
In a sense, I suppose, the characters from Ellis’s “universe” have approached their 30s in this book and doesn’t seem so interesting anymore. Know that bit from a Natalie Merchant song, which is ironically enough, called Hey Jack Kerouac? It goes like, “Have all the boys grown up and their beauty faded.”
I think that’s what happens to this book; but also it’s too damn long- and Ellis should always leave a taste for more in our literary mouths.
Want the truth? I want to blame 100% on its weird plot but to be frank, well, 20% of my not liking this book probably comes from the fact that the Ellis-verse has finally pulled out of the 1980s… and the sheer fun of reading Ellis is the depiction of life in the 1980s.

Title: Batman: Face the Face
Author: James Robinson (writer), Leonard Kirk and Don Kramer (pencilers)
Year: 2006
Publisher: DC Comics
What: A comic book compiling Detective Comics #817-820 and Batman #651-654 from earlier this year. This is Batman & Robin’s first foray in the “One Year Later” DC Universe. What happened is, after this cataclysmic all-out war Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman have retired for a year and this is the first storyline after that hiatus. The Dynamic Due return to a Gotham City plagued by crime and investigate the mysterious deaths of a number of gangsters and villains.
Comments: This is a mellower Batman, which resembles the Batman from the award-winning 1990s Animated Series instead of the psychotic lunatic he’d become in the comics in recent years. It’s not that he smiles but he actually talks to people and stuff. Robin, on the contrary, has gotten darker and somber given his father’s death in the preceding year… which adds to a big development (ie: shift) in the relationship between Batman and Robin, from the older-brother role to a more father-son approach, as it should be from day one.
All in all, the drawings are very good and realistic and the characterization is superb, even if the new-kingpin-in-town plot itself is a bit too passé.
Mildly recommended, but interesting enough.

Title: Ex Machina vol. III- Fact vs. Fiction
Author: Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Tony Harris (penciler)
Year: 2005
Publisher: Wildstorm
What: This graphic novel collects Ex Machina #11-16 from the monthly series and features three separate storylines: In the first one, retired superhero-turned Mayor of NY Mitch Hundred is called to be a part of a Jury on some trial, in order to boost his popularity, but gets tangled in a hostage situation. There’s also a story of a vicious copycat vigilante trying to fill Hundred’s boots as NY’s superhero, and later on the Mayors sojourn to find his mother and bad memories from his childhood.
Comments: It’s not that it isn’t as the previous two volumes, it’s just that this one is a collection of shorter, separate stories. Still, it delivers the same outstanding quality as the previous stories and is enough to keep Ex Machina up there as probably the best comic book around today.
On a sidenote… and don’t take it the wrong way… but I gotta admit the most interesting part of Ex Machina is the whole “Is he?” bit regarding the protagonist’s sexual orientation. I’ll telling you this because that’s a theme I’m not really comfortable with, only it’s done with so much class here, subtlety and maturity, I can’t help but… wow it. It’s very funny because at times I find myself thinking, “Know what, it’d be really interesting if he said Yes I am after all.”
Absolutely recommended!

Title: Anansi Boys
Author: Neil Gaiman
Year: 2005
Publisher: Don’t know.
What: A lighthearted comedy (though a little dark in some bits) chronicling the adventures of one Charles Nancy, a regular guy who “just happens” to be the son of Anansi the spider-god of African lore. Once Anansi dies, Charlie discovers who his father really was- and all of a sudden this crazy twin brother he never knew he had enters his life to steal everything that’s his, including his identity.
Comments: This is Gaiman reaching for the big screen once again, don’t get fooled thinking otherwise kids… Still, it’s a very interesting book with some great passages that will actually make the reader laugh out loud.
If there’s one thing I have to comment on this book is that Gaiman seems to have moved away from the Douglas Adams-like dry wit towards a more in-your-face North American-sitcom sense of humor and what do you, it actually works here.
Despite being a tried-and-true Sandman fan I’m too often negatively biased towards Gaiman’s novels and despite being too often negatively biased towards Gaiman’s novels Yes! I do recommend this one, especially as a breather or a buffer of sorts between heavier stuff (like, Tolstoy, then Gaiman, then Woolf. Noooo of course I’m just joking in here).

Title: The New York Trilogy collected edition: City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room
Author: Paul Auster
Year: City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986) and The Locked Room (1986)
Publisher: Penguin
What: A collected edition with the author’s praised “existential detective stories”. In the first one a private eye is hired to follow a seemingly deranged, old academic fresh out of jail through the streets of New York during the 1980s. Then it’s back to the postwar 1940s where a detective is hired to watch a man from a window, but in turn the man might be watching him. In the last one, the author is contacted to solve the mystery of a fellow writer’s disappearance.
Comments: Now this is my very first contact with Auster and I’m finding a little awkward to try to surmise the stories in a sentence or two, because with him (at least on these three books) it’s not really about the plot itself but really in the manner the perception of the characters regarding themselves is altered by that very plot. There’s tons of existentialism, self-questioning (though not self-doubt) and the search for one’s identity. Basically all the characters engage in quests that will ultimately lead not only to the deconstruction of their own identities but the completely loss of them, all under the deceptively-simple aegis of the whodunit mystery novel.
What I thought of it? Very odd and as sure as hell not exactly my thing, but yes, definitely recommended! A book clearly written for smart people, and buddy if there’s one thing I love in this world…
Oh yes, and Art Spiegelman (of Maus fame) does the awesome cover for this edition.