Sunday, September 20, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: September 13th to 19th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by asking my dog to pose with every book I read, barring the digital comics I get in single issue form. Sometimes he cooperates. Sometimes he doesn't.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday.

Not pictured: I read another volume of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, the first arc of UNCANNY AVENGERS, and the two miniseries I discussed last Thursday.

I'm also plugging away at A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY, which I've made my in-between read for the foreseeable. I'll read a chunk every time I finish another book.

And I read the first arc of JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, which I didn't photograph because I received a DRC that contains only the issues, sans covers and back matter. I adored it and will have a full review for you on its release date in late October.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, sits slightly behind a trade paperback copy of Gotham Academy Volume One. He's right beside a sheep-shaped pillow on a black leather couch. The book is positioned so only the title and the image of a hand clinging to a rope against a large, yellow clock is visible.

GOTHAM ACADEMY represents my latest attempt to break out of my Marvel bubble. While I'd heard this book toted as a good entry point for DC newbies, I felt like it expected me to know all sorts of things I had no way of knowing--most notably, who Olive and her mother are within the wider context of the DC Universe.

And yet, there are fresh character designs in the back of the trade, so maybe Olive and her mom are new characters who've never (or maybe barely) appeared elsewhere? I dunno. Either way, it seemed like I needed to know a lot more than the text gave me.

On the one hand, jumping into a series rife with established characters is just part of reading comics. Y'all know I read the X-Men in any damned order I please, and that usually works fine for me. But part of why it works is that in most cases, I feel like the story in my hand serves as an invitation to go back and see what these characters were doing before this. GOTHAM ACADEMY felt like it required prerequisites.

I seem to be in the minority on this one, though, so proceed as per your own whim.

Murchie lays on his side on a red tapestry comforter. His visible eye is almost closed, but the white shows. At an angle in front of him is a white iPod with The Queen of the Tearling's cover on its screen. The cover is indistinct in tones of black and orange, with the title prominently displayed.

Lately, Murchie's been flashing the white of his eyes whenever he's particularly relaxed. As you can see, the results are somewhat disturbing.

I liked THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johanson quite a bit, but I fear I didn't love it the way many of y'all do. The world gripped me far tighter than any of the characters. I kept listening because I wanted to know where exactly these people had Crossed to, given that they were a mix of British and American stock, and what sorts of systems they'd put in place following whatever apocalyptic event sent them back to a medieval level of technology, and how their lives worked, because this is the sort of stuff I'm interested in. (And, okay, because I wanted to know who the hell the Fetch was. I sure hope he's not Kelsea's father, because gross.)

The book also got me thinking about the wider tradition of post-apocalyptic speculative fiction. Y'all know I haven't read a whole lot of classic SFF, but back when I used to try I was forever running up against books set so far in the future that everyone was riding horses and wielding hand axes again, even if they weren't using magic. You'll recall I'm also reading A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY by Vernor Vinge at the mo, and societies' tendency to revert to medieval technologies and social systems following some sort of catastrophe is a prime issue there, too.

I'm halfway tempted to put together a reading list of qualifying books so I can examine how different authors have handled this idea over the decades. Maybe once my reading mojo returns and/or la TBR is toast.

Returning to this particular book, I should mention that Katherine Kellgren's narration is worth the price of admission. I'm such a sucker for a good audio performance, y'all. Kellgren sells every word, and she sings when necessary. It always bums me out when narrators don't actually sing the songs, dude who played Shadow in AMERICAN GODS.

(AMERICAN GODS was great. But the dude who played Shadow should've sung. Likewise, I remain disappointed Lenny Henry didn't sing Daisy's Evildoers Beware song in ANANSI BOYS.)

Murchie bends over to sniff the base of a small bush. Directly in front of him on the grass is a trade paperback copy of Hexwood. Its cover features two young people walking along a tangled mass of branches with a lone tree and some mountains in the background. One of the branches looks like a robot.

I tried to interest Murchie in HEXWOOD, my first Diana Wynne Jones novel in far too long, but he was like, "Lemme sniff this bush instead."

And I couldn't even blame him, really, because I wasn't enamoured of HEXWOOD myself.

I mean, it's not bad. It's probably really clever, what with everything happening out of order and all the genres blending together and the sorta-Arthurian thing that maybe becomes a full-on Arthurian thing later on. But my reading mojo, she ain't great right now, and I needed something more immediately engaging.

Luckily my DWJ Guru (that would be Jenny) stepped in to tell me it was all right, I could abandon it, no hard feelings, she'd never particularly liked it either even though she'd been trying for frickin' ages.

So I dropped the book fast as gravity would let me.

It did get me thinking about Arthurian mythology again, though. I'm not particularly keen on Arthurian mythology (I know, I know, I'm a terrible fantasy fan), but I love the bit where Kay forgets to bring his sword to the tournament. Yes, that's technically Arthur's job, seeing as how squires are in charge of wrangling weaponry, but I still giggle my arse off at the thought of knight forgetting to bring his sword to a tournament.

I thought about that for a while after I put the book down. It doesn't tie in with HEXWOOD or anything. It just amuses me and I take any excuse to think about it.

Murchie stands on a black couch, his sheep-shaped pillow beside him. In front of him is a trade paperback copy of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Its cover features various monstrous people walking down a causeway to speak to a person at a computer desk. The sky above them is red, and a gnarled castle is visible in the background.

Further proof I'm a terrible fantasy fan: this is the first time I've read THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND.

And it is wonderful, friends. I love it so much more than HEXWOOD.

I'm reading it sort of out of order. I'll plug away through an alphabetized section until I come to a "See Also" notation, then I'll pop over to whatever entry I'm supposed to Also See before I return to where I was before. This makes it feel like the book's taking me longer than it actually is, but I don't really care because it's frickin' hilarious and I can't stop laughing.

Diana Wynne Jones knows what she's about, son. What's more, she knows what fantasy is about. THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND is funny because it's true.

It's also a durned good What Not To Do manual for writers who wish to avoid and/or rework fantastical cliches.

I hope I finished it yesterday evening as part of the Dog Days of Summer Readathon.

Next week: I don't even know. Books? Hopefully more than one?


  1. Aww, I'm sorry to hear you felt that way about Gotham Academy and the DC universe - it was pretty much the opposite of my experience. But I remember very well being in your shoes re: Hawkeye, so I know these things happen!

    You are NOT a terrible fantasy fan. But the Tough Guide is just the best and I'm so glad you get to discover it :D

    1. I feel like such a weirdo for failing to love GOTHAM ACADEMY. Hopefully I'll manage to redeem myself in the future.

  2. Awwwwww, the Tough Guide to Fantasyland. My eyes are made of cartoon hearts right now thinking about that book. I picked it up from a book display when I was thirteen years old, and that is how I first encountered Diana Wynne Jones. LO THESE MANY YEARS AGO. If I had not happened to grab it then, I maybe would have never discovered my all-time favorite author.

    1. And I mostly read DWJ because of you, so I also owe the Tough Guide a debt of gratitude. Thank you, book!

    2. I loved Gotham Academy, but yes, it felt a little as you said. But for me, it's still a very good comic.
      If you are trying to read more non-marvel comics, maybe it'll be great to read some Image, Boom Studios or IDW comics 😊

      Thiago - Doctor Corgi

    3. I read lots of Image and IDW, but I definitely want to explore Boom in more depth. I like what I've seen of them so far.