Sunday, February 16, 2014

To Read and Not to Read

Popping in here with an unusual Suggested Reading post, mainly because it's including something I decidedly don't suggest!

Before we get to that, let's start positive.

The cover also makes me
want to see the movie...
I recently read Cloud Atlas and was pleasantly surprised. I hadn't heard about the book until the movie was coming out and, while the movie looked interesting, the reviews were harsh enough that I skipped it. Then, some months later, I found a copy in a library's recycle bin (don't judge me, they were giving books away that hadn't sold at their book sale). Being a mild horder, especially of books, I grabbed it. With my long commute and sporadic downtime at work, I've had a lot of time to read, and Cloud Atlas happened to jump out at me during one day's glance at the book shelf for something new.

It is a series of stories set in different times and, potentially, different worlds that are all connected in some way. This relation is in certain story references, but never anything overt or drastic. Instead, there's a running theme that is executed very, very well across time periods spanning from the Californian Gold Rush (not set there, but same time period) to a Post-Apocalyptic future that takes place in Hawaii.

For all stories, there is an incredible attention to detail, a lovely level of awareness throughout the book, and characters that are unique, interesting, and unusually tied together.

That's about as much as I want to say without delving into spoilers. Pick it up, give it a read, and come back to let me know what you think. I personally give it an 8 out of 10, and that's only because I really would have loved to see a couple of these stories drawn out more, possibly into their own books (which is the problem I have with any "short" story, though this book is more of a complete novel and story collection).


The bad kind of breaks my heart. The new comic book series Serenity: Leaves on the Wind is the first comic in the Firefly universe to be a direct sequel to the show. About nine months have passed and we're still seeing the fallout from the 'verse-wide revelations made in the film Serenity, as well as what's come of the crew.

I love that something more is being done, and I'm even happy it's in comic format, but two things have irked me so far, enough that I can't really suggest it, even to Firefly fans. First, not much as actually changed in the 'verse after Serenity. There are some talking heads, done almost in a Dark Knight Returns style, that argue back and forth about the truth of the broadcasts. The main result seems to be a "New Resistance" that has popped up (apparently among disenfranchised kids). This has some merit, but not quite as much as one might hope after the tumultuous film the broadcasts originated in.

That middle panel is River, Mal, and Inara.
Supposedly, anyway. Uhg.
The second problem, and this one is glaring, is the art! Holy cow, I don't believe the artists has ever even SEEN any of the source material, much less pictures of the actors they're supposedly depicting. I'm all for an artist having their own style, but this is not what's going on. A capable, dedicated, or mildly aware artist could still get awesome renditions with the ability this artist has, yet the characters do NOT look anything like themselves. Moreover, they all look alike! I couldn't tell that River WASN'T Kaylee until three pages after she was introduced (some of that may have been on purpose, but it wasn't done well). The worst part isn't even that they don't look like the actors... they simply look bad. The faces are inconstant and ugly. This is the same reason (well, main reason) I stopped reading Red Hood and the Outlaws.

And, yes, there are some issues with the nine month time jump. Things like characters no longer on the crew or other crew members already being in the advanced stages of romantic relationships. These are stories we wanted to see, not have forced on us. But, and this is why I'm not actually adding it as a gripe, we may very well see flashbacks. That'd at least sit well with a Firefly story. But we'll see.

Very, very sad I didn't love this. Or even mildly like it. I'll stick on for another issue, maybe two, but that's probably more abject laziness than actual hope it might get better.

You can't take the sky from me, but I'll be damned if they aren't tryin'.

EDIT: Oh crap. I just realized that the artist here is also responsible for the Buffy Season 8 and 9 comic series. I haven't read them yet, but assume I'm bound to have my heart broken again, just as soon as I finish the show and move on to the comics... Seriously, this guy needs to stop working with beloved characters. I won't say he's without talent, but this is NOT where his abilities lie.

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