Spaceman by Brian Azzarello – A Book Review

With art by 100 Bullets collaborator Eduardo Risso, Azzarello has created a bleak, unsettling landscape where the very rich are well taken care of, and the rest of us are left to survive by any means necessary.

Spaceman follows the story of Orson, one of a group of genetically engineered astronauts meant to explore Mars.  However, most of the story takes place in a flooded, ruined city that, like most of the coastal world, has been overwrought by melting glaciers.  Long since returned to Earth after the demise of NASA, Orson is left to pirate and scavenge in order to endure.

Soon, however, Orson finds himself in the middle of a kidnapping, one in which an orphan has been stolen from a reality television show’s super-couple, obviously modelled after Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  The couple are the stars of a show where orphans must compete to be adopted by the celebrities and live a life of leisure.

Before long, Orson is at odds with the only other surviving member of his astronaut crew, Carter.  His brother has taken a darker path in life, consequently, and he too becomes involved with the abduction.  If the child is to survive, Orson must overcome hauntings from Mars that still disturb him as well as a very present cadre of killers.

Perhaps it helped the book that I suffered from stomach flu while reading it, but the ruin and demise of the world depicted in its pages truly touched a nerve.  Risso’s gritty, detailed artwork is a perfect match for the tale, and he portrays a horrifyingly civilization that may not be that far off.

Quite honestly, I expected Spaceman to take place more in outer space.  I was surprised that the majority of the book unfolded on Earth.  I was further surprised that, at its core, the story presented a child kidnaping case.

However, the story is far more than just that.  I truly believe Azzarello to be an underestimated writer in today’s literary scene.  His stories are often violent, alarming, and graphic, but they also touch on themes that apply to our modern life.  For example, Azzarello realizes that we are ruining our environment and that repercussions await us all.  Those repercussions are evident in Spaceman.  He also has noticed that the poor seem to be getting poorer, while the rich get richer.  Spaceman delivers a painfully realistic portrayal of what the current trend may yield.

And though it’s a matter of much controversy, I find Azzarello’s commitment to language commendable in Spaceman.  Like his rendition of society, he presents a language that is falling apart, shortened, and slowly dying.  Azzarello clearly put a great deal of thought into his vision of our ruined language, and the dedication to his vision reminds me of writers such as Anthony Burgess.

Spaceman is a potentially prophetic science fiction work that offers a troubling glimpse of our destiny.  Azzarello grants us a violent adventure with the life of a child hanging in the balance, a societal warning, and a craftsmanship to be celebrated.

In Regards To The Final Solution, My Apologies To Michael Chabon

I’ve deemed this summer one in which I will reread several books, and one of those book is in fact Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution.  I originally read this novelette sometime in early 2006 and subsequently wrote a scathing review (found here).  During the past seven years, I’ve remembered the book negatively and would not recommend it to others.  This hurt my heart because I tout Michael Chabon as one of America’s greatest living authors and hated to say anything disparaging about him.

I am a fool.

As I reread this book, I am embarrassed, ashamed, and, perhaps most importantly, humbled.

You see, though I’m only half finished with the slender book, I’ve already come to a startling realization about the book’s protagonist, one I never before realized and one that is incredibly significant.  How I didn’t make this deduction seven years ago is beyond me, especially considering I deal with literature and writing regularly in my professional life.  Were I a prouder man, I wouldn’t even reveal this to you.

But wait, let’s see if you can figure it out: the story takes place in 1944 England and features a very old, retired detective.  This detective was once the toast of England, renowned for his brilliance and adventures.  He smokes a pipe, wears an Inverness, and uses a magnifying glass.  Have you solved it?  Yes!  Though only referred to as “the old man” throughout the novelette, he is clearly supposed to be Sherlock Holmes!

I have no idea why I didn’t consider this out upon my first reading, but the book is so much more enjoyable if making this assumption.  So, though I’m not quite done with my rereading, I assure you, it’s thus far a wildly entertaining read if you keep “the old man’s” true identity in mind!

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – A Book Review

I teach teenagers, and because this book is consistently on the young adult best seller list, I felt it only right to give it a read.  After all, if I’m recommending books to my students, I need to have read them, right?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower did not disappoint.  Both charming and brutal, Chbosky captures the essence of high school.  His protagonist, Charlie, conveys his story to us through a series of letters written to … someone.  This first-person narrative device is especially appropriate because Charlie is wildly introverted.  Through his letters, we are able to ascertain his thoughts on the events unfolding around him.  We know him far better than anyone else in the novel, and that may be one reason behind his charisma.

Chbosky has delivered the ultimate outsider, but that outsider wins over a select group of kids, and as Charlie is accepted, we understand that these other teenagers take Charlie as he is, idiosyncrasies and all, which makes us love them as he loves them.  If I may digress a bit, in Charlie, I think many of us see ourselves.  Whether one is currently a teen or an old man like me, Charlie reminds us of some aspect of ourselves, and as he experiences triumphs here and there, we are triumphant with him.  Of course, for most, the comparisons end there, as I will touch upon later.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been banned in many schools, and while I personally don’t believe in banning books, I will admit that this book gets a tad graphic.  There is a lot of sex, a lot of drugs, and a lot of booze.  The language is harsh, and homosexuality is prevalent.  In other words, this book demands a certain level of maturity and perspective.  Would I be comfortable recommending this book to a middle school student?  Personally, I would not.  Honestly, I wouldn’t even feel it appropriate for underclassman at the high school level.  That being said, juniors and seniors could definitely handle it, and I would have no problem putting the books in their hands.

I won’t reveal the ending of the book to you – to do such a thing would be criminal.  However, it caught me off guard, to be sure.  I had pretty much made up my mind about Charlie’s aloofness.  When the true cause is revealed … it shocked me.

I’m glad I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it certainly deserves all the attention it’s garnered.  While I don’t believe for a minute it should be banned, I do think it requires a certain amount of maturity that some students may not yet possess.  Well-written that cuts to one’s emotional core, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an engaging read that will linger in the reader’s mind long after finishing it.

Dr. Nekros: Peripeteia Is Live! (Volume II, Episode VI)

[per·i·pe·te·ia  n.  A sudden change of events or reversal of circumstances, especially in a literary work.]

In this final installment of the second volume, Dr. Nekros and his ex-wife, Zetta Southerland, must face the demon Xaphan once again in order to rescue Zetta’s youngest child, Matty. The last time they fought against the fiend, they both nearly died. Will they fare any better this time?

Expect old faces to return, new grudges to emerge, and an ending you could never predict as the stage is set for the third and final volume.

This ninety-nine cent story is exclusive to the Kindle, and you can read it here!

Peripeteia