Posts Tagged ‘3 stars’

There were a lot of things I liked about this book, and a lot of things I didn’t. Part of it might’ve been my big expectations after watching the movie. The movie ‘children of men’ wasn’t perfect, but it was very interesting, and entertaining to watch.

By contrast I found the book rather slow. A lot of it is the main character telling us about the world. Now, the world he lives in is interesting, but I’d rather see it than be told about it. The style also switches between third person and first (when we get snatches of his diary), only there doesn’t seem much point in the switch. We get the same kind of information either way, and the diary gets thrown away part way through the book and doesn’t get mentioned again. I kind of feel the author should’ve stuck to one (probably third) and not bothered with the diary bits.

Before we go further, a quick summary of the book: Jaded professor guy is asked to help a rebel group in a world where no children have been born for over twenty years. It’s thought everyone is infertile and the human race will end.

The main character was unlikable. Now I love loveable characters, and I love foul-mouthed jerks who everyone but their best friends hate. But a character needs to have some redeeming qualities. Take Jon, my self-declared jerk from my novella ‘when the world ends.’ He’s blunt, rude, slashed other kids bike tires when he was young. He’s the sort of guy to turn his back on the world when things go belly up, and look out for only himself. Except for one thing. There are two people in the world he loves, and he’ll do anything for them, including trying to grow a conscience.

The main character in this book didn’t have much going for him. He had a wife who he never loved, a child who he also never loved. He’s formed some friendships, but none of them are close, and none with nice people. He first starts trying to help people because he has a crush on one of them. Then it’s like he feels he has obligation. He shows a bit more in the way of feelings toward the end. That was nice, but because he’s spent so long being shallow I couldn’t quite connect with what he was feeling.

It’s a shame because there was a lot of opportunity. He was childhood friends (though from reading his feelings it’s more like acquaintances) with the main bad character. A closer connected soured by their differences in opinion could’ve made him a deeper character. Or, like the film did, merging the rebel lady he’s attracted to with his ex-wife, and you have a whole boat load of emotions to play with. I mean, they lost their kid, and this is a world without kids. Plus, in the book the slave immigrants are mentioned, but we see none of them. In the film, we actually had one as a main character. And the prison island where everyone who commits any kind of crime is shipped off to. That annoyed me because we hear so much about it, but we never go there. In the film going there is a huge part of the plot.

In fact in the book the plot starts off very slow. It speeds up toward the end, but this is not an action packed book.

So. Plot = slow. Characters = shallowly developed and unlikable. Writing = ok, but a lot of telling (particularly at the start). Feels = not that much. I get that the author might’ve gone for a desolate feeling, but the whole book feels way too empty feeling-wise. slightly more feelings toward the end.

What saved this book for me was the world. This is a fascinating world. With no new babies about, it’s become the kind of place where middle age women are congratulated in the streets for their baby dolls by strangers who coo over the models as they would a real infant.

Baby animals are christened and treated as children. There are even fights over custody. And most fascinating of all was the thought put into how the youngest members of this society turned out. As you can imagine, they were doted on, and until they were found to be as sterile as the rest, they were treated as the future saviors of the human race.

The result? sociopaths who believe themselves better than anyone else. They murder people for fun (and get away with it because of their status), and make no efforts to better themselves. The parallels between those worshiped children and how some of the more spoiled children in the real world turn out was a little scary.

I give this book three stars over all. Brilliant world. Fascinating idea. Not so good execution of said idea.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41913.The_Children_of_Men

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Be warned, this is not a finished story. It’s a serial novel, and it looks like we might never see how it ends.

Having said that, it has its interesting parts. This is about an editor in a publishing house who gets a letter from a very strange aspiring (and possibly crazy) author. The author sends a manuscript about magic, and some very scary photographs. Our responsible editor sends said photographs to the police and doesn’t publish the manuscript. Needless to say, our aspiring author doesn’t like that one bit, and he sends a strange plant to the office.

The most interesting part of this book is that it takes the format of letters, memos, and diary entries. That worked better than I thought it might. Usually I find those kind of things get boring after a while. Not all of them, but if you aren’t careful it can be difficult to keep the tension high.

The tension stayed pretty high throughout this story, so yay. The characters were interesting enough. Not particularly fascinating or deep, but I did like the range of different personalities. It made for good chemistry between them. Our main character and his boss were my favorites in that respect.

The plot is good, but not great. I was interested enough to keep reading, but it’s not something that will stick with me. While it is unfinished, it does come to an ending of sorts, so hopefully you won’t leave completely unsatisfied. The world wasn’t fascinating, but had a reassuring normality to it. The office with cooky co-workers, and the nice friendship between our main character and his boss.

Then in the middle of this normality, there’s this plant. And you’re wondering what it’s going to do. Whether it’s good or evil. It all has a classic Stephen King feel to it. Not his best work. The plot is a bit too loose for that. Still, entertaining enough if you like Stephen King, and feel the need to read through all his work like I’m doing.

If you’re looking for a good Stephen King horror, and don’t have the obsessive need to devour everything he writes, then go read one of his other works. There’s a lot better than this one. ‘It’ is great if you’re looking for a long read. ‘The girl who loved Tom Gordon’ or ‘The Mist’ are great short ones. ‘Cujo’ is great if you’re looking for more tension and less deaths. ‘The Pet Sematary’ is one that stuck with me for long afterward. ‘The Green Mile’ is a much better serial novel of his.

And I’m probably missing some great ones I’ve read. Search this site for Stephen King, I’ve reviewed a lot of them. In short, there’s tons of Stephen King out there better than this one. But if you’re a fan and have read all the good ones, or if you have this book lying around for some reason, then it’s not a bad read. Just an ok one.

Three stars from me. For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13609593-the-plant

 

 

This one is a graphic novel, so if you aren’t a fan then turn away now. Or stick around, try something new. You might find something you like.

This one is decent, but in no way my favourite graphic novel. That title belongs either to the captivating Maus series (which follows the true story of a jewish couple in world war 2 Poland) or Matt Fraction’s entertaining version of Hawkeye.

If you’ve never read a graphic novel before and are currently pondering whether to give one a go, don’t start with Shazam unless you are already a fan of the comic book character. Maus is a great graphic novel for non graphic novel readers to start with. The artist depicts Jews as mice and Germans as cats in what sounds like an odd idea, but works really well to capture the poignancy of the story. The art captures the emotions of both the artist (who uses his art to bring his father’s story to life) and his father in a way I’m not sure words could manage.

Or, if you’re a fan of humor and the marvel avengers movies, then try out Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye comic. Some issues have been put together into a graphic novel. Words can’t describe how much I love this comic. The main character Clint (Hawkeye) is lovable, and kind of a hopeless case. He puts his heart and soul into everything he does, and usually makes a mess of things.

If you venture into this comic you have to stick around for issue 19. It’s amazing. Clint becomes deaf (which is something that happens in multiple versions of his character and something I wish they’d put into the movies) and Matt Fraction put so much work into depicting it accurately.

When Clint isn’t looking at a character when they’re talking, an empty speech bubble appears above his head. When he is looking at someone, bits of speech appear in the bubble and the rest is a gibberish mess – because unlike movies lip reading is never one hundred percent accurate. You get bits and pieces and have to work out from context what the person is saying. Likewise, the sign language isn’t translated.

Matt Fraction urged everyone reading the comic to read it first without the translation. He said that if someone had read it and was confused, then they had some idea what it’s like to be deaf. That’s what he wanted people to get out of it. Good representation of differences is so hard to come by, but this comic did such a good job. I just wish there was more of it.

Now my gushing is over, lets look at the graphic novel I actually wanted to review.

Ok, so Shazam doesn’t rack up against my greats. The art is oh so pretty, the story has a few laughs, but the plot line doesn’t have much to it. And it broke my character.

Shazam for those not in the know is often described as the superhero made to be a superman rip off. In a way that’s true, but not in the bad way people think. You see, essentially the original Shazam story is one of wish fulfillment.

A wise old man seeks to give all the powers of the gods to one pure of heart. Corny, yeah, but think about it. What would happen? That person with a pure heart is most likely to be a child who hasn’t become jaded yet to the cruelties of the world. Versions range in age, but Billy Batson is usually somewhere between six and ten when he first gets his powers.

When he calls out the wizard’s name ‘Shazam’ a lightning bolt hits him and he turns into a muscle-bound adult version of himself with superpowers. Superstrength, speed, he’s got it all. Only he still has his innocent child mind where all heroes save the day, and that ability to see the good in the world. (In most versions anyway. I ignore the other versions.)

That’s why I like the Shazam idea, because it asks the question ‘what if that sweet kid who wants to save the world from the bad guys actually has the power to do so?’ And it doesn’t answer with ‘well he’s a kid, so he’ll probably screw it up.’

This brings us to the main reason why I didn’t like this graphic novel. They broke Billy Batson. They made him into a troublemaking kid who has about one good trait for every five bad ones. And sure, it’s interesting at first. Then I quickly realised the reason why I like Billy Batson is because he is pure and good and knows how to have fun in a world of heroes who seem to do nothing but brood.

This new Billy Batson broods. He broods a lot.

So, no. Not a fan. I’ll stick to my sweetness and light version of Billy Batson, with all the strength of superman and the optimism of a child. Speaking of, if anyone comes across a good comic storyline with that version of the character, please tell me. I’d love to take a look.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17671918-shazam

P.S. I’ve heard they’re making a Shazam movie! Apparently it’s going to be a lot lighter than your usual superhero movie, so I’m hoping they use sweetness and light Billy Batson and have little to no brooding and lots of small child in a superhero’s body adventures. Here’s hoping!