So I'm a sap when it comes to well written music. Any genre, any singer; if the lyrics are good, I'm hooked.
This often leads me down a rabbit-hole of folk music, and lately I've been hooked by Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now. And on a recent road trip, while I was thinking about the two graphic novels I've just reviewed (Archeologists of Shadows and Akira), it occurred to me that what I want is for the two books to be like Both Sides Now.
Is it despite or because of Archeologists of Shadows: The Resistance's slick graphics that it reminds me of a video game?
RPGs are one of my favorite forms, but they (almost) all follow the same trope: we, the heroes, dive into the world and are slowly introduced to its key elements. We are Neo, and we need a Morpheus to walk us slowly through the game mechanics. We are Frodo, lost if not for Strider's explanations It's a trope underscoring one of the great weaknesses of science fiction- as the world becomes more unrecognizable, the author's impulse is to explain. And Archeologists is, at times, unrecognizable from the modern world, a cyberpunk alternative to The Matrix, where humanity has become the machines.
The really great works of science fiction simply pull us headfirst into the world, knowing we'll pick it up as we go along. For all of the (just) criticism leveled against George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire (sorry to have brought it up in successive posts), one thing it does well is trusting the reader to swim along in a cascade of information. This is why the story is so much more illuminating upon re-reading. Habibi,Ender's Game, Slaughterhouse Five; these books never really worry that the reader won't get it, they just plow on through.
Fuentes and Clarey strike a middle path. That the main characters of Archeologists of Shadows stumble through their world, finding just the right combination of wary but helpful strangers, nearly made me set the first volume aside. That their success appears to have been part of a more elaborate scheme by the hegemonic enemy sets up quite the Chekov's Gun. Either Fuentes and Clarey have a masterpiece or a dud; if there is a payoff waiting worthy of the immense cliffhangers provided by this first volume, this will be a series worth digging into.
Of course, if you made it to the Open Mic, you already know what I've been re-reading.
I read a lot of memoirs in graphic novel form, and that is not what Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira is.
For all that made it groundbreaking in the 1980s (one of the first manga to be translated into English), volume one of Akira is also a throwback. The sound effects leap off the page like the old Batman live action tv show. The set-up is classic comic: young men, apparently still in school but independently resourceful enough to operate a drug dealing motorcycle gang, stumble their way into an adventure that unfolds slowly enough for them to figure out most of what's going on without any of main characters coming to serious harm.
Fandom has given a lot of attention to how numbing the violence becomes in George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire (and especially the novels after Game of Thrones). And while it's true (for me, at least) that I find it annoyingly disengaging to see Martin kill off major characters just as the readers have gotten to know them well enough to become attached, I also find it ridiculous to see multiple characters survive a dozen close calls within the span of a few hundred panels.
Because of this disinterest in the plot, I've never gotten around to buying volume two of Akira. But on re-reading, I found enough to like that I'm reconsidering my position. Especially in Otomo's framing and shading, and most especially in his speed lines, I find a lot to hold my attention on each page.
Before I dig into In Search of Lost Time as the central pillar of my 30 Before 30, I checked a few books out of the local library to help me get started.
The most disappointing was Samuel Beckett's Proust.
I think my disappointment stems from my sincere enjoyment of Beckett's fiction, plays and poetry. I expected insight and connections from a writer of such cerebral work. Instead, most of Proust was just the kind of psuedo-psychological garble that reads like a parody of Foucault.
It's a slim novel and I was only able to wade through two-thirds of it. Beckett's thoughts weren't organized in a way that I could follow. Having not read Proust's work yet, I can hope that once I begin some doors will open, but despite my excitement at reading one master's views on another, this was the wrong book to start with.