Monday, October 29, 2007

Making Money

There's been an enormous wave of f and s.f. literature recently that has been focused on economics. I think this started with Cory Doctorow's reputation based economy in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, or possibly Charles Stross' bandwidth based economy 2.0 in Accelerando.

Anyway, my point is that it was only a matter of time before Terry Pratchett got involved. His newest Discworld book (the 36th if you count Strata and Where's my Cow?) , Making Money, is a sharply written fictional history of the end of the Gold standard and the birth of the treasury department. And once again Pratchett proves why he is the best satirist working today.

He's been writing at least a book a year in the same series for 2 decades now, and he still manages to keep the series fresh with his sped up industrial revolution and stand alone story structure to the series. Furthermore I still think he has the best understanding of mass behavior of anyone alive, he could probably show up most sociologists.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Metal Men

Yes it's a bonus review today thanks to the benefit of an overdue lazy weekend. This time it's the first volume of Showcase Presents: Metal Men by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru. The Metal Men are one of DC's quirker comics, it even has a mad scientist at it center, and probably because of that they've always been relegated to cult status, with the low sales that entails.

Which is really a same because the Metal Men are some of the best characters DC has, as this book shows. The stories are simple (typically a giant space robot of some sort attacks the Earth for some poorly defined reason) but that doesn't matter at all. There's just so much fun and downright joy to be had in this book.

I Killed Adolf Hitler

I Killed Adolf Hitler is the latest comic from Jason, Norway's greatest comics creator. This book is up there with his best works, Sshhhh! and the Left Bank Gang, and somehow manages to stand out despite maintaining all of Jason's usual hallmarks. All of his books feature a very minimal page layout and a cast made up of some combination of fuzzy animals and Universal Horror characters. This is his first book to appear in color, and I'm pleased to say that Jason's line work supports that flat color used in the book very well.

The story itself is hard to describe without spoiling it. Roughly it's a romance about aging and apathy, but with time traveling assassins, and of course Hitler. But despite that description the book feels more like an Ingmar Bergman drama than it does a piece of fantasy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

A friend of mine has been begging me to read Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim for a while now. It's great to have those sort of friends. I read the book over a long breakfast (I had one bite, read the book, and then finished my cold pancakes and coffee). In all that time the big stupid grin I found myself with never left my face.

It's been a while since I've read anything that was filled with this much joy. And the best part is there are still more books in the series to be read.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Of all the things the internet has brought to mankind over the last few years; lolcats, dancing rodents, maps, etc..., the greatest by far is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. For those who may not know, the church of the FSM (a.k.a. Pastafarianism) was created as a protest to the Kansas City School board when they wanted to add Intelligent Design to the science curriculum. The idea behind this being, that if they wanted to teach an alternative view of creation in the schools, then they should allow for the teaching of all such views, and thus Pastafarianism was created to be one such view.

And now (well actually last year) the church has its own Gospel. Unfortunately, it doesn't add very much to the mythos that hasn't already been covered on the website (see the link above). Admittedly I prefer a book to a website any day, but I was really expecting something more from this.

However, if you're coming to the religion as a newbie then this'll probably be a great read. The two central jokes of the gospel are brilliant (the FSM's role in unintelligent design and the divinity of pirates), and the rationals behind these are equally wonderful. However, the joke can get a little stale by the time you reach the end of the book and have processed the ontological, teleological, mathematical, theologebraical (yes the book makes that a word) and even corporate proofs of the gospel.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson is one of those books that I've put off reading for quite a long time. I'm not entirely sure why. It's a shame really because it's a great, immensely readable book with a fascinating plot concerning the fall of the Soviet Union, gorilla marketing, and alternative means of video distribution. Oh and the protagonist has a debilitating phobia of trademarks.

I'm actually planing to hunt down more of Gibson's novels now. All I had read previously was Neuromancer (twice), which I never thought lived up to the hype. But this book proves that he can be a truly great writer, as well as proving that he has moved beyond the cyberpunk movement he began.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Daredevil

Sorry for being lax in my posts again. This is what I get for splitting my reading time. The upside is I'll probably end up finishing three books in a week.

Anyway, I just wrapped up vol. 4 of the Essential Daredevil. This book was really disappointing to me. On the creator side it had the great Gene Colan on art, and the holy trinity of Marvel 70's writers (Steve Gerber, Gerry Conway and for one issue Steve Engleheart) and it was still a complete misfire. Furthermore, this is the volume in which the Black Widow entered the cast as DD's sorta, kinda, but not really s/o.

This book should have been so much better. The art was good, but not up with Colan's better work. The Widow's back story interrupted the stories far too often, with her chauffeur/father-figure Ivan serving no function. The semi-famous story with the Black Widow standing trial for murder (or for as she puts it, "the crime of being a Russian"), was done in an issue and really never went anywhere. And taking DD out of Hell's Kitchen and putting him in San Francisco was probably the dumbest move in the entire run of the comic.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Doctor 13

It's always nice to see a author write something outside of their comfort zone. I can' think of a clearer example of this than Brian Azzarello's comic collection Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality. Azzarello is a writer mostly known for telling brutally dark crime stories. His series 100 Bullets is one of the few true masterpieces to have come out of the medium in a while.

And now he's written a meta-satire focusing on the more absurd corners of the DC Universe. The protagonist of the series, Terry Thirteen (a former supporting character of the Phantom Stranger) is a professional skeptic who adamantly refuses to believe in anything out of the ordinary. The absurdity of this being that he exists in a world in which things like aliens (Superman) and mystical beings (Wonder Woman) are not only accepted, but are fairly commonplace.

Throughout the course of the story he encounters a number of DC's other oddities, ranging from the relatively well known Haunted Tank to the truly obscure Anthro (a French cro-magnon). Together they go on a mission to defend their own existences against the forces of the architects (a very thinly veiled grouping of the writers behind DC's 52) who wish to make their fictional universe more relevant.

This book was simply the most enjoyable thing DC has produced in years. To see a story like this come out of a company that seems to have all but lost their sense of humor was something on the order of a small miracle. To see it come from the mind of Brian Azzarello just made it all the better.