Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Graveyard Book

I started reading Neil Gaiman's latest novel, The Graveyard Book, yesterday evening, and finished it just before dinner tonight. I loved it, from start to finish, it totally hooked me. I had read the first third of the book in one go before I realised that I had done it, and then I was about halfway through when I turned the light out last night.

As with most of his other work, it has a fantastic cast of characters and an intriguing set-up, where all is not as it seems. The story moves along at a great pace, the chapters moving forward over years as the main character (Bod, short for Nobody) grows up, raised by a mysterious guardian and watched over by a graveyard full of ghosts.

As National Novel Writing Month approaches The Graveyard Book inspires and scares me in equal measure: inspiring because I want to write something good, and scared that I'll never be able to do anything as brilliant!

Thursday, 9 October 2008


Yesterday and today I read Maus, an excellent and compelling account of the Holocaust. I started it in the early evening, then stayed up late reading, and finally finished reading it over breakfast. I've read a lot of good graphic novels, but it's been a long time since I've read something which has hit me as hard as Maus.

It's quite famous, and I should have read it years ago. A young cartoonist recounts his father's story, the story of a man who survived the Holocaust, who lived through terrible times... The story is told with very simple artwork (the Jews are mice, the Nazis are cats) but doesn't leave out the details of the suffering that people faced at that time. I think if the artwork showed humans it would be almost too much to take.

All I can really say about it is that it is amazing; there were times when I couldn't quite believe the cruelty of the Nazis, or the selfishness of some of the non-Jews that the author's father met as he tried to survive, and to try and say more about it now would diminish the story somehow I think. I can just recommend it to you without reservation, and tell you that you will not regret reading it.

EDIT: As Matt pointed out, there are two volumes to Maus, and these are collected in The Complete Maus; I read both volumes, but didn't count them as separate books.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Graphic Novels

I really don't know how I missed the graphic novel section in my local library when I first went a few weeks ago. Last time I was there I got two books from that section; this week when I went I got five graphic novels, two sci fi novels and a popular science book. I've read three of the graphic novels already, and as two were quite long I'm putting them in as two of my 101 books.

Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale is a fantastic mystery story; the recent Batman film borrows some of the story's beats and themes (though not in their entirety), with Batman, Harvey Dent and James Gordon joining forces to take down organised crime in Gotham City. All of their plans are in disarray though, thanks to a killer striking on holidays throughout the year. 'Holiday' kills criminals from the mafia - but who is he? A mob rival? A villain like the Joker? Harvey Dent? And why is Catwoman circling the major players?

The Long Halloween
has beautiful artwork and a totally engrossing story. The mystery running throughout makes it stand out as something really, really special. As the good guys try to discover the identity of Holiday they are also forced to question whether or not he is doing some good by eliminating criminals previously untouchable by the law. I'm hoping that the library also has Batman: Dark Victory as well, if memory serves that's a kind of sequel by the same creators.

On the other hand, Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean is an intriguing graphic novel, but I'm torn as to whether or not I really enjoyed it. It's a dark and stormy night, and the inmates of Arkham are loose and have taken hostages; their list of demands calls for Batman to come to the asylum, but all is not what it seems... He is forced to play their demented games, trying to survive until midnight - and trying to unravel the real mystery for the inmates' escape.

Dave McKean's artwork is really incredible, but it gives a very strange, dreamlike quality to the whole book. This supports Grant Morrison's story, but at the same time it all feels a bit strange - Batman is a hero by virtue of his personal dedication, more than a man because of his training and will, and yet I've never seen a story where he has seemed more lost, more human... On reflection, I guess I did enjoy the story, but can't say that I would recommend it as readily as The Long Halloween.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Just Like That - Thing 79

How did I forget to report about Thing 79, organising my comics? This was quite a big effort actually, although spread out over a few weeks with one final push; the stuff for the next two years, Thing 80 (cataloguing them) is going to be even bigger. Organising them wasn't so bad. I wouldn't claim that there was an absolute order on them now, but at least they aren't overflowing on to everything, just taking over my room. I bought a big shelving unit to put DVDs and games on, and then used the space that created in my filing cabinet to store the comics.

Marvel is with Marvel (mostly), DC is with DC (mostly) and the indies are off doing their own thing. All is as it should be.

I didn't really get the chance to separate out the ones I was thinking of putting on eBay, but I figure that I can roll that into the next two years of Thing 80.

I'm happy. Nine down, ninety-two to go!

Thing 22 - Done!!!

So, 8/101... Life is good. Just to fill you in on the final few days of Thing 22:

Day 26 - Off To London
In which I talk about my then forthcoming trip to the capital.

Day 26b - Sleepwalking to Dystopia
In which I have to talk about identity cards.

Day 27 - Metropolis
In which I wonder if we've kind of lost our way.

Day 28 - Weekend in London
In which I'm excited to have been away.

Day 29 - End In Sight
In which I talk about not very much at all.

Day 30 - Work Work Work
In which I really have to keep it brief!

And that's that. I ended up with 31 posts in 30 days! Not bad at all, even if I do say so myself. And as soon as I settle into a routine with work I'm going to try and keep it up.

Not during NaNoWriMo though. That would just be crazy...