July 12, 2008

Your micro-review roundup: 12 July 2008

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

Lottery, by Patricia Wood
Lottery (book; 2007)
By Patricia Wood
Putnam / ISBN: 978-0-399-15449-2

So what do you think -- do you think it's okay for a book reviewer to occasionally recuse themselves from reviewing certain books for ethical reasons, kind of like how judges sometimes do it during certain trials? Because I have to admit, I originally wanted to pick up Patricia Wood's Lottery because of it being a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2007, but realize now that it would be almost impossible for me to give it a fair review; and that's because Lottery is one of those Forrest-Gump "Retard with a Heart of Gold Teaches All Us Smart Folk About What's Truly Important in Life" stories, and I have to plainly admit that I freaking despise "Retard with a Heart of Gold" stories, mostly for the secretly neocon, semi-fascist, anti-intellectual messages such projects espouse*. I'm not saying it's a badly-written book, although I'm not saying it's well-written either; I'm saying that the very premise offended and bored me so much, I could never get around to even checking out whether Wood's writing is any good or not, which is why it'd be ethically unfair to even give this book a score today. Which...er, is why I'm not.

Out of 10: N/A

*"Don't think too much! Don't question things! Obey authority! Never dream for goals bigger than yourself! Never aspire to anything beyond petty daily survival! Dumb people are noble and happy! Smart people are manipulative and miserable! Smart people got that way by thinking too much! SO DON'T THINK TOO MUCH!"

Shooting War
Shooting War (book; 2007)
By Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman
Grand Central Publishing / ISBN: 978-0-446-58120-2

So Chicagoans, did you know that our public library system is starting to make grown-up graphic novels more and more an acquisitional priority, based I guess primarily on customer suggestions? Here's one, for example, that I recently found on the "new" shelf of my own neighborhood library, Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman's Shooting War, a supposed black comedy/political thriller concerning bloggers, political wars held in third-world lands, and the world of instant media fame we now live in, which I picked up because of hearing it favorably mentioned at a number of places I respect. But now that I've read it myself, I have to plainly wonder just what manuscript those other places read; because as much as I hate being mean and obvious here at the blog (and really, I do), I have no other choice seemingly but to say that the writing on display here is just terrible, it's just f-cking terrible. It's crude, obvious, juvenile, chock-full of ridiculously simplistic political points, the exact thing you expect when a visually gifted artist decides to do a full-length book but has no decent full-length story to base it on. And that's a real shame, because I'm a huge long-time fan of ACT-I-VATE, the independent online comic-artist collective that Goldman is a founding member of, and wanted very badly to be a champion of this latest full-length project of his; but the fact is that I simply cannot be in this case, that Shooting War is one of those projects that makes non-fans laugh at cocktail parties whenever snotty creative-class web-development a--holes try to convince them that they should take graphic novels seriously. Ooh, be wary of this one.

Out of 10: 1.8

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born
Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born (book; 2008)
By Peter David, Robin Furth, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove
Marvel Publishing / ISBN: 978-0-7851-2144-2

And then this is another graphic novel I recently found on the "new" shelf of the Uptown Public Library, which I guess collects up the first seven issues of a massive new agreement between horror writer Stephen King and comics company Marvel, I guess to let them redo King's entire seven-volume "The Dark Tower" epic genre-bending story as a series of comic books, but this time retelling the story completely in chronological order. But sheesh, I thought while reading through this first hardbound collection of the series (issues 1 through 7), wasn't it precisely the hopping and skipping of the timeline that made the original series tolerable in the first place? That's what sucked me in with the first book, after all, like it did with many, although let me plainly admit that I finally gave up on the whole thing around volume four; the original book starts as a straight-ahead Western, and lets us become comfortable fans of that before finally revealing some of the Medieval-style King-Arthuresque backstory that led us to where we are.

It's only after we've gotten invested in the story, after starting to root for all these characters and get intrigued by the post-apocalyptic Sergio-Leone environment, that we're able to swallow the more ridiculous details of bringing two such different genres clashing together; and for proof of this, see this comic-book version, which starts off right-bang on page one with the full "we're cowboys but we're knights but we're stoic but we live in castles" mishmash, making it plainly as ridiculous as the premise actually is, when thought about in the cold light of day. This is always the problem with Stephen King, which is why Stephen King is such a frustrating writer to be a fan of; because there are so many good details to his work, but he can never make them finally hold together as a fantastic unified whole, because of his need to just sneak too much freaking unreadable crap in there to serve as the narrative glue. That's what makes the entire "Dark Tower" series better than average for him, after all, and why it generates so many more passionate fans, is because he precisely holds off on a lot of the silly stuff until volume four, volume five or so, putting together a surprisingly tight and mature three-book tale at first; starting here with the backstory in Marvel's case, though, the precise silly stuff from volume four that I'm talking about, makes it a lot harder to actually get into the story and care about these characters. It's something to keep in mind, if you're picking up these comics without reading the original novels first.

Out of 10: 7.0

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea [1997 TV movie]
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (TV movie; 1997)
Written by Joe Wiesenfeld, from the novel by Jules Verne
Directed by Michael Anderson

In the words of Homer Simpson: "Sweet merciful crap."

Out of 10: 0.0

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:37 PM, July 12, 2008. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Movies | Reviews |