Book Review: Romeo and Juliet

The cover of the graphic novel

The cover of the graphic novel

The classic Romeo and Juliet, originally written by William Shakespeare between 1591-1595, is a tragedy of feuding families wherein the innocent die. We all know it well, for most of us it was required reading in school. Learning of the well-to-do families of the Capulets and the Montagues who’s blood boil whenever they run in to each other.
I picked up Romeo and Juliet: The War at the San Diego Comic Con in 2013, and it is a re-imagining of that classic story except with one important difference: the Capulets are race of genetically enhanced super humans, while the Montagues are a group of powerful cyborgs made of artificial DNA. Yup….you heard me. The story was written by Max Work, and the artwork by Skan Srisuwan. While the writing was great, after all it closely followed the original Shakespeare story, the artwork was the winner. It was published as an oversized coffee table-style book, with massive full and dual page works showing the beauty and darkness of this futuristic Verona.
I really spent most of my time looking at the landscapes, the character art, the buildings, the shadows, the colours, the style. It is a massive work in the visual realm, and I highly recommend checking it out.
Further, the book was in partnership with Stan Lee! Though I’m not sure how much of a hand he had in it (I believe a bit of the re-imagining, but mostly on the production side), his influence is there.

Happy reading!

Book Review: Preludes & Nocturnes

After reading the epic novel The Brothers Karamazov, I was sad, and for two reasons: 1. After reading a book I really love, I’m always sad to see it end, to no longer be part of it, to see the characters stop, but also, 2. because I didn’t have any other booked lined up to read after it. Usually I have a stack of 2 to 5 books somewhere on my shelf that I’m dying to read, but haven’t gotten to yet. At the end of BK, I was not in the same position. This time, I was left wondering ‘what to read next?’ Sure, there are a couple books I haven’t read that are on my shelf, but I’m not dying to read them. One for instance is the follow up to the Mars Trilogy: The Martians by Kim Stanley Robinson, which is a collection of short stories. Or perhaps I could finally dive into Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I also have Flatterland, the differently authored follow up to the amazing Flatland by Edwin Abbott. But none of these were itching at me. All sitting on my shelf, but none were calling my name.

So this was my frame of mind, sitting at my book shelf, hopelessly looking for a new book to read, when I ran across The first instalment of the comic series The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. I had gotten this graphic novel a few christmas’ ago (and I can’t remember which of my family members gave it to me), but I just put it on my shelf and forgot about it. As I was apparently in a world of literary lostness, I decided it couldn’t hurt to at least flip through it and see what it was like. After I got started, I really didn’t put it down!

Preludes & Nocturnes is the first of 10 graphic novels in the Sandman series, each consisting of multiple mini episodes. This novel tells the story of Morpheus, the king of dreams, who is somehow summed by a human cult leader. This leader was actually hoping to summon Death itself, but ended up with Dream. Not sure of what to do, the cult leader imprisons Dream for decades, until Dream finally escapes. In order to regain his full strength he spends the course of the novel looking for the three objects stolen from him: his helmet, his ruby, and his bag of sand.

I actually found it very hard to switch genres from the epic Russian drama The Brothers Karamazov, to the graphic novel fantasy The Sandman. In reading graphic novels, most of the tone and story line is not told in the reading, but in studying the images given. If you only read the conversation bubbles, you’re missing everything! I had to force myself to slow down, and appreciate what I was seeing, and not just reading. My experience in graphic novels is limited only to The Watchmen, which I loved, but it has been a while since I read it.

I very much enjoyed making the switch, and have decided to purchase the rest of the series. Come on Amazon, ship faster! I have nothing to read while I wait! I recommend reading this series if you are at all into graphic novels/comics.

Happy reading!

Book Review: Maus II -..and Here My Troubles Began

This is the second book by Art Spiegelman, telling the story of his father’s journey as a jew trough the second world war. I wrote about the first Maus here.

So in this one, Vladek (Art’s father), has just made it to Auschwitz. This is arguably the most well known prison camp from the holocaust. Vladek goes on to describe what it was like living here. He talks of how they treated them, how they didn’t have clothes that fit. You would have one size 13 shoe and one size 9. one spoon for food, if you lost it…tough luck.
The constant fear of being sent to the chimneys was always there. Always hiding, always in fear. There was death all around. These two books are very powerful. It’s a graphic novel, so you have pictures to go along with it.
What I found to be really well done in these books is that the story is told in pieces, and you see Art talking with his father in the mid 80s and then you’re transported to the time in Auschwitz as Vladek narrates. You constantly see the man he was, and what the experience did to him in his later life; how he dealt with it, how he’s changed.
With all the horror I read about in this book, it gave me one big smile at the end. I suggest you go looking for it!
happy reading!

Book Review: Maus

This book was both recommended and provided by my friend Vicky. I was over at her place because a mutual friend was in town, and I was staring at her case full of books. Vicky pulled Maus off the shelf and said, ‘you should read this’ in a very convincing manner. I’m not one to turn down a recommendation like this so I borrowed it and I couldn’t put it down.

The book is actually a graphic novel written and drawn by Art Spiegelman. The novel actually has a subtitle Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, I: My Father Bleeds History. The story is told through the conversations between a young man and his aging father, that are real events that happened to the author’s father.
The young man, Artie Spiegelman, was born in America, but his father, Vladek, was born and lived in Poland during the holocaust. As a jewish man, Vladek went through some of the worst the holocaust had to offer, and Artie wants him to retell it so that he can write a novel and publish it. (it looks like it worked).
I should mention that the main characters I just described are actually mice. The entire story is drawn such that all the jewish people are mice, all the Nazis are drawn as cats, and the polish people who are not jewish are pigs. This added dimension reinforces the power and control the nazis had over the jewish, and how helpless the jews were.
This installment starts in the mid 1930s when the jewish discrimination starting ramping up, and follows Vladek’s plight straight through to 1944 when he was sent to Auschwitz. This was one of the most well-known camps during the holocaust, though Vladek does not arrive here until the end.
The story really makes the holocaust real. Each story the father tells has you hanging on every word. He tells of how he was sent to work camps, and then had to pay off nazis to escape. He lived for years in bunkers built into the attics of his friends house, or into the ground under his home. He went years barely being able to find enough food for him and his wife. He tells stories of how his friends and family were all taken away by raids and sent to camps where everyone was gassed, or shot.
They’re horrific stories, but not graphic. No one in my family was in Germany or Poland during the holocaust so I have no personal viewpoint on this topic, but this novel REALLY brought the holocaust home for me. For us, the things that happened during those times to the jewish people was insane, and it’s hard to understand what it was like. But the father in this story knew nothing else, he lived every day in fear of being taken away, and it comes across in the telling. I felt connected the story in a much more personal way than when I learned about the holocaust in textbooks.
Perhaps the reason it was so impactful was that I knew it was based on real father/son conversations.
I really enjoyed it because it was a simple straightforward story of the holocaust. My friend Vicky said its great for teaching junior high/high school students with because its able to teach the facts behind the very emotional story. I would agree!
I highly recommend reading this one, there are more in the series as well. I think I might go after that one too.
happy reading!