September 20, 2012

Your micro-review roundup: 20 September 2012

(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.)

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, Color Edition, by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, Color Edition
By Bryan Lee O'Malley
Oni Press

I was a huge fan of the Scott Pilgrim movie when it came out a few years ago, but had never gotten a chance to read any of the actual graphic novels it was based on; so I was extremely glad to receive a review copy of the new color edition of volume one earlier this year, which for those who don't know is merely the first of six parts making up the entire saga of this twentysomething Toronto slacker and indie-rocker. And indeed, perhaps the biggest surprise is how little the film changes any of the story found in the original book, many times simply copying entire scenes word-for-word and action-for-action; and that's a big testament to O'Malley's strength as a writer, within a medium that is instead mostly known for the strength of its images. Although that said, another big surprise is just how differently this exact same dialogue and action actually comes across, depending on who's handling the material; for while filmmaker Edgar Wright infuses every second of the movie version with a sheen of surreal absurdism, O'Malley clearly means for the book version to be mostly a grounded character study with just a few absurd touches thrown in, a fascinating example of how two very different visions can come out of the exact same written manuscript. Well worth your time if you're a comics fan (but of course you already knew that -- the black-and-white version of this book has been out for almost a decade now), even usual non-fans would be wise to take advantage of this new color print run of the entire series, and to check out what many call one of the best examples ever of what this medium is capable of when the artist in question is firing on all cylinders.

Out of 10: 9.1

A Smudge of Gray, by Jonathan Sturak

A Smudge of Gray
By Jonathan Sturak
Pendan Publishing

For those who don't know, whenever I finish reading a book I plan on reviewing, I actually wait two or three weeks before writing that review, because hindsight and contemplation almost always tends to bring out nuances in my write-up that wouldn't have otherwise existed; but every so often I'll sit down to write that review and realize that I have completely forgotten everything about that book in just those two to three weeks, always a bad sign because it doesn't designate a bad book but merely a bland, generic one. And so it is with Jonathan Sturak's A Smudge of Gray, which I want to reiterate is not terrible at all, a competently written crime thriller about a cop and the criminal he's trying to catch, both of them genial middle-aged fathers whose lives sometimes accidentally intersect in interesting ways (both their sons are in the same basketball league, for example), even while both of them remain oblivious to the fact that the other is the subject of their antagonism. And that's what makes reviews like these so painful, because I hate having to pan novels that aren't actually that bad; but in a world that now sees the release of 50,000 new novels at Amazon every single year, it's becoming of greater and greater importance to an artist now to ask themselves not just whether their own book is well done, but whether it has even a chance of standing out amongst those other 49,999 books it's directly competing against in just that year alone. And the simple fact is that this one doesn't, no more than a random April 1993 episode of Law & Order does when compared to every other episode of Law & Order ever made; and that's a shame, because Sturak is a decent writer and I'd love to see him do something a lot more memorable than this. A middle-of-the-road score for a middle-of-the-road book, it comes with only a limited recommendation, to diehard crime fans who find themselves burning through a book a day and don't mind that many of them are only mediocre.

Out of 10: 7.5

Beautiful Disaster, by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Disaster
By Jamie McGuire
Simon & Schuster

The whole reason I decided to review this book in the first place is because of receiving a general-interest email about it from digital ARC service NetGalley.com, promising me that it will be the "most talked-about book of this fall" that I "am guaranteed to love;" and coming as this did from an apparently objective organization like the NetGalley staff, I made the foolish mistake of believing them, and signing up for a review copy. But alas, this turned out to be a sneaky paid advertisement that was never clearly labeled as such, and the book itself turns out to be a largely unreadable piece of Young Adult chick-lit crap, a ridiculously unrealistic soapy melodrama about a bad-boy undergraduate who literally pays his tuition through participating in an illegal fight club in his small genial college town (like, OMG!), and the intolerably idiotic undergraduate girl who falls for him despite her best intentions not to (like, LOL!); and I have to confess that I barely made it through even fifty pages of this nadir of contemporary literature before giving up in angry disgust. NetGalley, if you want to avoid in the future having cynical middle-aged reviewers like me trashing the teenybopper books you've been paid to promote, you might want to be a little more selective and a lot more transparent about who you're recruiting; because I gotta say, this kind of sneaky carpet-bombing marketing bullsh-t doesn't sit well with me at all.

Out of 10: 0.7

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:36 AM, September 20, 2012. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |