Nov. 25th, 2008

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Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've read a lot of Neil Gaiman's stuff, so when my wife and I were on a rare outing to see a movie, Stardust was a natural compromise.

It wasn't bad. It seemed, somehow, a little light and flat; amusing and well-done, but not something we would pick up on DVD.

You're probably thinking that I've forgotten that this is a book review site, and not a movie site. Fear not! I'm getting to it.

I'm a voracious reader. Picking up Stardust at the library was a no-brainer. I had to order it via inter-library loan, and when it came in I was disappointed to see that it was the non-illustrated version. It turned out to be slightly less interesting than the movie; one of those semi-rare examples where a movie actually improved on the book.

Later, I saw the graphic novel version was available at my library. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, but I found it better than the text-only version, and roughly on par with the movie itself. There are differences between the two, of course, but it seems clear that Gaiman's strength as a writer really requires a visual aspect as well; he needs to be paired with a good artist to do his best work.

Not that Stardust is his best work, of course. For that you'll need to read Sandman or The Books of Magic. But it's an interesting, entertaining tale that makes use of what was once a fairly original idea: the juxtaposition of the "real" world and the rather specifically English world of Faerie. That sort of tale is in danger of becoming a bit stale, I fear, but Gaiman was...not a pioneer of that form (I think Lord Dunsany was probably the first), but probably the preeminent modern popularizer of it.

The adventures of Tristan in Faerie are a good way to pass an hour or two, both as a graphic novel and as a movie. You're not likely to be forever changed by the experience, but what can you expect? Not every book can be a classic, even from a good author like Gaiman.

I'd give this a strong three stars. If it had been just a little better, I'd have given it a four. As it is, I enjoyed it...but not enough to go out and buy a copy. I might take it out again from the library in a year or two, if I can't find anything new that interests me more.

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Incredible Hulk Vol. 1: Return of the Monster Incredible Hulk Vol. 1: Return of the Monster by Bruce Jones

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

After plowing through a long string of stinkers from Marvel and DC, I finally found a decent one. And to my surprise it's from Marvel, which I generally consider to be the inferior of the two.

How did they do it? Mainly by giving up the tired old cliches, of course. The writing style is very sparse; there are whole pages with no dialog at all. What dialog there is, is actually handled surprisingly well. It's not aimed at the usual 9-year-old level, but more at the late teens.

Rather than the usual over-explaining (so many comic books seem to be written with the assumption that the readers are morons), there's a nice sense of mystery; you actually have to think a little while reading, which is a remarkably refreshing change from the usual Marvel fare.

The art is different from the usual style, too. There's a touch of manga to it, I think; it works, though.

As for the plot, it's based on Banner-as-fugitive with a fairly interesting admixture of mysterious super-agents and an X-Files-like quality.

The Hulk himself is extremely well-handled; he's seen only fleetingly, no dialog, with a sense of sheer size that's truly impressive. Kudos to the artist; the Hulk reminded me of Godzilla more than anything else, simply in terms of size, power, and danger.

Unfortunately the book leaves off without any sort of resolution. It also gets into an area that could potentially be a problem in the long run; the organization behind the agents chasing the Hulk can apparently bring back the dead with ease, which could deprive the series of a lot of threat potential down the road. If death becomes virtually meaningless, a major motivator has been lost!

This book left me wondering that the hell had happened. How did Marvel end up greenlighting this? Was it their main Hulk book? That seems inconceivable. Perhaps it was a mini-series? That seems more plausible. If this was a regular series (and I had the cash to spare), I'd definitely consider subscribing. Not that I was ever a huge fan of the Hulk, but I DO like decent writing and art.

I'd call this a strong 3.5, and if I liked the character more or if it hadn't ended on a cliffhanger, it could easily have been a 4.

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bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
Mister Penny Mister Penny by Marie Hall Ets

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a hard book to review.

Why? Because my parents read it to me as a baby. My love for old books, particularly old children's books, all comes from Mister Penny. So naturally I read it to my little boy, often.

It's a book that has been forgotten by the world. Google as much as you like; you won't find a review of Mister Penny (well, except for this one soon, I assume), although you'll doubtless find a few old reasonably priced copies. More than reasonably priced, actually, because this book is a treasure.

But because it has been virtually forgotten, and is unlikely to ever see print again, I feel as if it's up to me to perpetuate the memory of least for a little while longer.

Mister Penny is the story of an old man who lived "in a tumbledown shed on a stony field by a path to the village of Wuddle". He lives there with his "family" of seven animals: Limpy, an old horse, Mooloo the cow, Splop the goat, Mimkin the lamb, Pugwug the pig, Chukluk the hen, and lastly the troublemaker, Doody the rooster. Mister Penny spends his days working in a factory to earn the money he needs to feed them all.

The animals have vivid personalities, and speak to each other when Mister Penny isn't around to hear them. Unfortunately they end up goading one another (led by Doody, who is, as my son says, "very naughty") into devouring a large part of a neighbor's garden. The neighbor is not amused, and Mister Penny is faced with either doing an enormous amount of free farmwork for the neighbor or letting him take the animals to butcher.
Read more... )
Mister Penny is simply a wonderful book that shouldn't have been forgotten: a lost treasure, one well worth the effort of finding. Although it's rare, it can often be found via inter-library loan. Once you read it, I think you'll likely want a copy for your own.

View all my reviews.


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