March Booklogging
By Dwip March 31, 2013, 1:05 am Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

So, we’re still at this thing. Picking up steam, even, since this project may be causing me to read a little bit more than I was.

A few stats, just because I’m amused by these things:

January: 3 total; 3 fiction (1,712 pages)
February: 3 total; 3 non-fiction (1,098 pages)
March: 13 total; 10 graphic (2,432 pages); 2 fiction (1,462 pages); 1 non-fiction (290 pages)

Year to Date: 19 total; 10 graphic (2,432 pages); 5 fiction (3,174 pages); 4 non-fiction (1,388 pages)

Details for March after the jump.

2/27/13 Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life (2004 Oni Press paperback, 168 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

2/28/13 Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2005 Oni Press paperback, 208 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

3/1/13 Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness (2006 Oni Press paperback, 192 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

3/2/13 Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together (2007 Oni Press paperback, 216 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

3/2/13 Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (2009 Oni Press paperback, 184 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

3/2/13 Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (2010 Oni press paperback, 248 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

So, Scott Pilgrim. A series about the trials and travails of a nerdy slacker who likes the Smashing Pumpkins and video games, and if you’ve been reading this blog for the last decade this should all pretty much sound familiar. Also a pretty much brilliant movie that happens to be one of the few explicitly romantic movies I can bring myself to watch without cringing. I read these before, about the first time I watched the movie, and…yeah, I dunno.

Here’s the thing. As I’ve established, the movie is brilliant. Likewise, volumes 1-4 are highly engaging, very entertaining, seem to know precisely what story they want to tell, and do so well. It’s no surprise the movie follows a lot of the scenes fairly closely, and the chief difference is that there’s less evisceration of Kim Pine’s character in the books. Wish that whole backstory had made it into the movie. But then you run into volumes 5-6, which were produced during the time the movie was also producing, and these are…less good, and feel for all the world like O’Malley either lost control of his story, got too bogged down with the movie, or just stopped giving a shit, because all of a sudden the story balloons dramatically and can’t decide if it wants to be a story about Scott and Ramona or a sitcom, which makes both of these angles suffer, especially in the last volume, wherein there are entire subplots that seem to happen for no apparent reason, and resolutions that switch from being inspirations for the movie to feeling like they’re pale imitations of the movie – the whole twins thing was essentially comic relief in the books and badass in the movie, and the entire Chaos Theatre scene in volume 6 pretty much feels like O’Malley wanted to do an expanded version of the movie scene and biffed it.

I have other minor quibbles as well, such as the lack of color making some of the characters indistinguishable from each other (Scott, Young Neil, and Ramona are notorious here, and two of them are main characters)*, but pretty much if romance, nerdy 20-somethings, music, and video games seem cool to you, and at least some of them probably should, I’m going to tell you to go watch the movie, which benefits from tighter plotting in the end scenes. Or don’t let me dissuade you, and go read these anyway.

* – Of note, the new hardcover editions coming out now are colored, and they are quite nice. They are assuredly the way I would choose to go were I picking the books up.

3/11/13 George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones (2002 Bantam hardcover, 694 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

So, for the last I don’t know how long, people have been telling me I need to pick up some GRRM, and for the last I don’t know how long, I’ve been saying that yeah, I hear he’s good, and maybe if he finishes his series so I’m not stuck in another 20 year lurch like with Wheel of Time, and to put that in perspective I started reading WoT in 8th grade and finished it 3 years after I got my masters. That was a fun ride, but doing it again…dunno.

But, I get tired of saying that, and anyway the family has the HBO series to watch, and if I’m going to do that I need the books, so here we are. And…yeah, I dunno. Maybe I’m just losing my connection to my fantasy roots, or I don’t know what, but this one didn’t really grab me. Martin seems to care a lot more about his narrative than his characters, and even expecting most of the cast to die off, it ended up being less wrenching than I expected because the only characters I’m really invested in are Arya, Jon, Tyrion, and maybe Daenerys, and then less than I ought to be after 700 pages.

Thus far, we’ve got all the sweeping plots of really a really good history book, with few of the characters of a really good history book, and I kind of struggled with it. We’ll see how I do with the next one.

3/11/13 Kayla Williams, Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army (2005 W.W. Norton hardcover, 290 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

A couple of weeks ago I happened to come across the C-SPAN video of a panel discussion about women in combat roles, spurred by the recent decision to essentially open every job in the US military to women, and it was some pretty interesting stuff. Come to find out Norway has female infantry officers, among other things. As it so happened, Williams was one of the moderators, and I was reminded that she had a book, and since despite my vast reading of military memoirs I hadn’t yet approached the subject from her particular angle, I decided to give it a shot.

So, it’s like this: most war memoirs are pretty much the same for any given war – World War II memoirs tend to follow the format of 1) get patriotic after Pearl Harbor, join the military; 2) train hard and party a lot; 3) get on a boat and go to some overseas location that’s either a shitty tropical island with crabs (Pacific) or kind of like home but wet and muddy (Europe); 4) live in extremely hellish conditions while shooting guns at people for a few years; 5) sudden and abrupt end of war (most of these memoirs have atrocious epilogues). For Vietnam memoirs, these generally shorten to 1) enter the military and get trained; 2) getting off a plane in Vietnam; 3) almost precisely a year of living in even more extremely hellish conditions with way more tropical disease and snakes while shooting way more guns at what may or may not be communists and/or villagers and/or water buffalo; 4) sudden return to the US and home and holy shit what even happened there. By contrast, Iraq memoirs tend to sound like the horrific collision of a high school locker room with Office Space, the worst camping trip ever, camel spiders, and random incidents of explosions, randomly shooting guns at things, and watching pirated movies on laptops interspersed with commentary about trying not to drive like a maniac back in the US and half-formed political ideas.

I say all of this to note that the real difference in any given book about any given war tends to be based on whatever the author was before they actually got in a war. Often this is job-related, and infantry memoirs read differently from tanker memoirs from fighter pilot memoirs, but sometimes it’s something else – education, race, whatever. Williams’ book is different because she’s a woman, and brings that perspective to things. As a record of being in Iraq it’s less interesting than some (she apparently spent a ton of time sitting on a mountain in the middle of nowhere), but where the book has merit is the record of sexual dynamics in the Army. I already know a lot of what gets talked about here from other places, just from the male perspective (relatedly, any given comment thread on a women in the military post is going to be…interesting, to say the least), but hearing some of it from the other side had some value to me.

I don’t have a lot of point other than that – I had a brief question after watching some stuff, this book did a reasonably good job answering it. Good enough.

3/20/13 Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead: Book One (2006 Image Comics hardcover, 304 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

3/20/13 Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead: Book Two (2007 Image Comics hardcover, 304 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

3/21/13 Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead: Book Three (2010 Image Comics hardcover, 304 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

3/26/13 Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead: Book Four (2008 Image Comics hardcover, 304 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

It should be obvious by now that I’m a reasonably big fan of the Walking Dead video game, despite generally not giving a crap about survival horror or zombies in general, and without delving too far into the plot, I’m a reasonably big fan of the comics thus far as well. It is not a series without its problems (a bit of random stupidity for no reason, a bit of cartoon supervillainy), and the dialogue tends to be a bit stilted at times, but that’s more a problem with comics as an art form than with this specific one. It’s hard to pass judgement on the story because not very much of it has been told at the point I’m at, but thus far it seems pretty well-paced and competent – Kirkman seems to know what he’s doing, he’s got characters I can get behind, and I’m pretty engaged with what’s happening. We’ll see how I like it further down the road.

3/30/13 George R. R. Martin, A Clash of Kings (1999 Bantam hardcover, 768 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

Like the first book, A Clash of Kings still has that history book feel going on, but we’ve now spent enough page time with a few of the characters, and they’ve been, you know, characterized enough so that I can actually care that they exist, if not the rather disjointed plot. We spend a lot of time with Tyrion Lannister in this one, and he may have now overtaken Arya as my favorite character so far as it goes, but the plot twists are still essentially random and untelegraphed even a little. What the hell was with Theon Greyjoy and whatever’s with the Boltons?

Thus far, this is a perplexing series, and I’m not entirely sure why I’m continuing to read it, but here we are.

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