Super Spy

Oct. 8th, 2007 12:05 pm
jeregenest: (Default)
I had originally picked up Matt Kindt’s Super Spy to read on my flight between Boston and Philadelphia, unfortunately due to airport craziness I ended up reading it while still on the Logan runway. Fortunately for me it was a good read and I had my laptop. As I didn’t expect to read much on the Philadelphia to San Juan branch I hadn’t bothered to bring a book (the book for the return trip is in my checked-in luggage.

I haven’t read anything by Kindt before, but after reading this I am definitely going looking for his other books. Both art and story were beautiful. This graphic novel is a collection of interlocked stories (not necessarily all told chronologically) that deal with espionage during WWII. Kindt focuses on the missions, the people undertaking them, and the toll the job takes on the individual, their family and the bigger picture and not (usually) the glorious Bondian action it insinuates. Paths cross, stories interweave, some come to abrupt halts while others seem to dangle, the ending uncertain.

The art is beautiful, Kindt does the entire book in this pulpy-yellowing sheen, giving the air of aged stories, the aesthetic of of-the-era printing. The coloring varies between sepia tones, black and white with blue washes and full color (with a four-color sensibility). Kindt’s art is just perfect with this roughness of line and edge that has a tense and rushed feeling, giving into the characters and their often desperate plight.

This is a must read for fans of espionage fiction.

Unfortunately I am stuck at the airport until 5:30 and then I have a 4 hour flight. I’ll probably be hitting the bookstore or I’ll go insane.
jeregenest: (cynic)
There are basically two versions of hell and more importantly Lucifer existent in modern fantasy, and pretty much the western imagination, Dante’s and Milton’s. Oh sure there are a few other versions out there, like Blake’s, but frankly they don’t have the staying power of those two models.

Butcher Bird is Milton all the way. Milton as imagined in the hazy postmodern pagan relativistic world we exist in. Its Gaiman’s Lucifer and the Lucifer we’ve seen in so many other fantasy novels. Frankly I was less than impressed. Though to be honest the Hell was geographically related to Dante, somewhat.

Kadrey is also, in the Cory Doctorow tradition, so sure he’s cool and that his subcultures are cool that he rather looses sight of the actual storyline. And his author stand in, the main character, gets annoying as a result of that.

All that said, I did find the world interesting and well written about. He successfully does some different thinks with the magic shadow-world school of contemporary fantasy that was refreshing. I’ll read the sequel.
jeregenest: (conquering)
I just finished Richard Park’s short story collection Worshipping Small Gods. Parks' stories avoid the plot-heavy (usually) and focus more on an exploration of his all-too-human characters, often by using a variety of techniques and styles to write his stories. The opening "Kallisti," is a retelling of the ancient Greek story of the Trojan shepherd Paris where Parks does an admirable job concentrating on a conflict of desires and impulses that both Paris and Eris herself share, successfully turning old conventions of fate and destiny around. This story sold me on this collection immediately. My other favorite stories were Yamabushi, a nice tale about personal redemption; and, Fox Tails, a good story that fits nicely into the occult detective side of things. On the other hand I found the sequence Eli Mothersbaugh rather dull. One would think I’d be naturally predisposed to a government office that deals with laying ghosts to rest, but wile I respected the choice to make these a set of piece on emotions and not the ghostbusting, the stories themselves weren’t that engaging.
jeregenest: (cynic)
Been reading a lot of spy related books lately. The latest being A Spy by Nature by Charles Cumming which I frankly found disappointing by the end.
jeregenest: (Default)
Magic capitalism, seems like a good enough label for this. I think I found this a better book than Pattern Recognition. For one, while Cayce and Hollis are in similar circumstances for the exact same reason, Hollis is a better character. Not that she does anything, but that seems to be the trend in this series of novels, since Spook Country is a sequel of sorts to Pattern Recognition, an extension of its territory and themes. Basically the characters ehre (and there are two more central characters other than Hollis) are tools for the larger narrative who don't initiate action, and in Hollis' case don't actually do anything but observe and ask questions. 

Both books have as the mastermind behind their narrative the seductive Hubertus Bigend, founder of the avant-garde advertising firm Blue Ant.  Who is probably insane. Bigend is a force of nature and I am glad that Gibson leaves it that way. 

I did like the old man in this book. He is heavy in the literal allusions to le Carree and other dearly loved spy novels. He's the reala ctor here (even more than Bigend) and I like the fact we only see a sliver of his actions.

And now I want to see some actual locotive art!

One of the major themes of this duology (I suspect a third, its a pattern Gibson has used before) is that hyper-capitalist consciousness has evolved to such sophistication that it becomes indistinguishable from art, philosophy, even magic.  So its no surprise that one of the characters is tied in with the loa.

I hope I don't sound down on this book, I really loved it. Its important to realize that the narrative complexity of Spook Country, with its fugue-like advancement of melodies toward an oddly harmonic resolution at a port in Vancouver. This incredibly compelling, the techno-thriller mechanics of these recent Gibson novels are largely beside the point. Gibson doesn't engineer his labyrinthine plots to disclose the meaning at their core: The maze is the message. Which makes this very firmly in the tradition of novels that use espionage to tell us how we live Graham Greene in its intensity.
jeregenest: (oberon)
Phonogram by Kieron Gillen (story) and Jamie McKelvie (art and lettering) is a comic about magic and about music. And yes its incredibly preteniious and cute at the same time. Miraculously it succeeds in taking a musical period I have absolutely no connection to and making a fun story out of it. Which is a pretty big success in my mind. In the world of Phonogram, music is magic, in the same sort of way that works like Unknown Armies strive for. It would probably make a great Unknown Armies campaign, especially as there are no guns or violence. I appreciate that. Characters in the series use their knowledge of pop and rock music to perform spells to gain influence and power. The comic basically illuminates an underground rivalry between magical factions through the story of a young guy who uses his powers to take advantage of women. All in all not my perfect cup of tea but I’ll certainly pay attention to these fellows work in the future.
jeregenest: (Default)
Nicholas Christopher is on the list of authors that I don’t understand why he’s not more popular amongst fantasy fans. Probably because he is firmly in the literary camp and thus ignored by most genre people. It’s a pity because he writes good fantasy of history. A literary omnivore (which I always appreciate), he is versed in classical lore and pulp fiction, and his books are a thrilling amalgam of the two: erudite, lyrical and breathlessly paced. Unlike Christopher’s previous novels, The Bestiary merely teeters on the edge of fantasy. But it teeters in such a delightful way.

The Bestiary concerns a medieval manuscript with a whiff of heresy, suppressed and possibly destroyed by order of the pope. And the story is primarily that of a fable. The main character’s – Xeno - hunt for this bestiary is quixotic — it is, he soon realizes, a thinly veiled quest for his own identity — and the novel is less a detective story than a kind of theme and variations on the failure of man’s dominion over nature.

I recommend folks read this book, I also really recommend going out and finding Veronica and A Trip to the Stars, which are on my must list of book recommendations.
jeregenest: (Default)
A recent favorite kid book in my house was The boy who was raised by librarians, written by Carla Morris and illustrated by Brad Sneed. It made me (and [ profile] peaseblossom) sniffle. The starchild just loves it. This amusing, warm-hearted picture book celebrates the impact that public libraries and librarians can have on the lives of children, and I’d guess most of my friends would resonate with it.

The boy continues his fascination with comics, space, robots, bionicles and the like. I really should post some of his comics some day.
jeregenest: (Default)
I've just read (second time kind of if reading in manuscript counts) [ profile] chrislehrich's The Occult Mind: magic in theory and practice, which has, by the way, a very nice cover.

Chris basically sets out to discuss how magic is viewed scholarly, in particular renaissance magic. Which in many ways makes it an elegant thing to read after just finishing the Aegypt quatrology. The book is a very heavy read, filled with necessary jargon and highly complex concepts. Chris successfully uses terminology and material consistently, and writes extremely well, keeping the book understandable to the casual reader as well as the specialist (or I’ve been reading this stuff way to much). Though it definitely helps to be familiar with at least the basics of Dee and Bruno, Yates and Eliade, as this book fits in a conversation with those authors and the scholarship around them.
jeregenest: (Default)
Generation Loss is about Cass, a casualty of the punk rock generation, one who barely limped out of it. This era is a great inspiration to Hand’s creativity and I certainly don’t mind that she keeps returning to it. Cass is a photographer who has an interesting view of the world, and most of the book hinges on strange and different ways of viewing the world, mostly through a camera lens, but like most of Hand’s book it dwells on creativity in a myriad of forms, including music a big concern of hers. This makes sense given how primal music is.

Photography is very important and the title has multiple, very important, meanuings.

Hand uses an island on Maine as a setting, and captures much of the winter crazinesss and bleakness well.

This book also drops names to other Hand books, including Cass being from Kamensic.

Unlike most of Hand’s books this is not straight fantasy (it has hints that something more is going n but the characters are probably just crazy). Generation Loss is difficult to classify, uncomfortable, spiky. She both fights with and against the conventions of the thriller genre to get at an evil deeper than its mere perpetrator. When the killer is revealed, it's more a confirmation of dread than a surprise. So although Generation Loss moves like a thriller, it detonates with greater resound. Highly recommended.
jeregenest: (Default)
Some books I've read since the last time I did this:

  • Fables. wolves / Bill Willingham, writer. 
  • White night : a novel of the Dresden files / Jim Butcher. 
  • The Medici giraffe : and other tales of exotic animals and power / Marina Belozerskaya. 
  • Descartes' secret notebook : a true tale of mathematics, mysticism, and the quest to understand the universe / Amir D. Aczel. 
  • The view from the center of the universe : discovering our extraordinary place in the cosmos / Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams. 
  • Birds of prey : of like minds / Gail Simone, writer ; Ed Benes, penciller
  • Statistics : concepts and controversies / David S. Moore. 
  • Stupid, stupid rat-tails : the adventures of Big Johnson Bone, frontier hero / written by Tom Sniegoski ; and drawn by Jeff Smith ; Riblet / written by Tom Sniegoski ; and drawn by Stan Sakai. 
  • Birds of prey : sensei & student / Gail Simone, writer
  • Birds of prey : the battle within / Gail Simone, writer
  • The three musketeers / by Alexandre Dumas ; translated with an introduction by Richard Pevear. 
  • Plumage from Pegasus / Paul Di Filippo. 
  • Endless Things/ John Crowley
jeregenest: (Default)
I've finished reading John Crowley's Endless Things. For those who haven't drunk the kool-aid (and if you haven't what the hell is wrong with you!) this is the fourth, and last, book in his Aegypt series which first begun in 1987 when I was in high school. So this is a series I've been reading my entire adult life (sort of mirroring in some ways the life of the main character Pierce).

The Aegypt series involves the search, the dream quest of Pierce that there is a story that will uncover an alternate reality or a secret history where magic is possible. Pierce's pursuit of magic, alchemy, and other Gnostic systems of knowledge is less concerned with acquiring supernatural abilities and more preoccupied with a very natural longing for a lost romanticism, a philosophy of hope which will instill meaning and significance into Pierce's own great work, a palimpsest of half-forgotten memories and half-remembered stories. Along the way we glimpse Prospero, Dee, Shakespeare, Rudolph, Bruno, and even Dame Yeats (as a guardian angel of sorts).

Endless Things is really a love story about books and reading and romance. Lyrical and poetic, it is hard not to read in one giant gulp and savor for its complexity. If you’ve been following along with Aegypt at any point in the last 20 years go and read this. If you haven’t find the first book and embark on the journey with Crowley as your psychopomp, it is richly rewarded. And luckily the first book is coming back into print later this year, but you can find it at most libraries.
jeregenest: (sandbaggers)
I read way more than I ever remember to post about. Below the cut is a bunch of books I've read so far in 2007. Its not exhaustive as it doesn't have books not obtained from the library. I should really review more.

Read more... )
jeregenest: (Default)
I'm currently reading Michael Oren's Power, Faith and Fanatsy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present which is a hugely ambitious history of America's invovlement in the Middle East, providing a finely balanced overview of this enormously complex subject. Highly recommended, I've delighted in its treatment of how the Barbary Coast was a huge incentive behind getting a constitution and Federalist government; the fact that the Statue of Liberty was originally intended for the Suez Canal; that the first Zionists to settle in Palestine were in fact American Protestants, who planted successive, ill-fated colonies aimed at “restoring” the Holy Land to Jews, so that their subsequent conversion to Christianity would speed the Second Coming; that Civil War veterans officered Egyptian campaigns in Sudan and Abyssinia; that before landing in North Africa during World War II, the United States Army dropped leaflets advertising the arrival of “Holy Warriors ... to fight the great jihad of freedom”. I could go one and on about this book, its probably the best and most comphresnive book on the subject I've read. It can absically replace 3 or 4 other books in my collection, which should make [ profile] peaseblossom happy.
jeregenest: (Default)
I just finished Pynchon's latest and I must say its an amazing piece of genre love. I'll try to write a review this weekend, but for now satisfy yourself with John Clute's


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