Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Books: February to March

The Iliad occupied most of February. I worked my way through two translations: the funny, pulpy Rieu, and the beautifully written Fagles. It's an impressive war story with a surprising focus not on the beginning or end of the war, but on the showdown between Hector and Achilles. It makes me keen to read the 7-part graphic novel Age of Bronze that tells the story of the war from Paris' dream to the post-Trojan Horse slaughter.

The Hunger Games started off as a ho-hum rip-off of Battle Royale and a third of the way through the book became utterly gripping due to a single character reveal. Vivid, tough, brutal and the sequel (coming up in a few paragraphs) is even better.

I read the script for Tell No One, an adaptation of a Harlen Coben novel. A fast tight read with that thriller plot arc: amazing hook, great second act where you have no idea what's going on, and then a conventional finale. Conventional, but with strong emotional pay-offs.

It makes me think about Se7en, which follows a similar structure but whose finale transcends the conventions through some magical combination of simplicity, implication and acting. However, I've always been taken with the idea that the true ending to Se7en involves David obeying John Doe's instructions: becoming Wrath, conducting the execution, and then - in full view of the camera - blowing his own brains out.

I know that version of the movie could never have been made in 1995, but there's such a dramatic purity (and relentless logic) to that ending that I can't help reshooting it in my head (heh) every time I watch it.

Bully In Sight is an English book about bullying. A little bit of research for Workplace Bully, natch. 

The Complete Indigo Prime - in my mind, Indigo Prime is a classic 2000AD serial, riffing off of Sapphire and Steel, and creating an amazing story about reality engineers saving the universe. Turns out that it's far crazier, patchier and more incoherent than I ever remembered, and that I read far less of it than I thought. Nice long story arc involving Jack the Ripper and a time-travelling train, though. 

Catching Fire is the sequel to The Hunger Games, which is basically a version of Battle Royale (teenagers fight to the death in the wilderness for the amusement of spectators) in post-apocalyptic America, with a fair bit of class warfare thrown in for good measure. It took me a while to warm up to the Hunger Games, but Catching Fire was excellent - mostly because it completely defied my expectations about how it would play out.

If it's the obligation of the writer to find the way forward that you didn't expect but realise makes perfect sense, then Susan Collins definitely fulfilled her obligation to me. I won't say I'm a raving fan, but I am very much looking forward to Mockingjay.

Shafts of Strife was published as a comic in the Listener in the 80s. I can remember the beginning and the end but had no idea it told such a tight little story.

I followed that up with Aliens vs Pooh, courtesy of Mr Morgue.

The Complete Persepolis is a lovely story about a girl growing up in Iran, that contains an unexpected detour into another country that I found delightful, funny, boring, off-topic and ultimately moving. It's odd to read an autobiography that straddles the line between finding a deeper meaning in the author's life, and just being a series of events that happened.

Dark Days is the sequel to the graphic novel 30 Days of Night. It didn't leave much of an impression on me, except that there were some good action sequences.
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