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Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#1
Okay, well, given that the COVID-19 has pretty much confined people to barracks, I thought I'd start my latest book-reading blog with a COVID-19 theme. However, there will be some modifications. Here are the standard rules...

*I must, at least for a period, review at least one book per week, at least until I get tired of doing so.

*If I have started, but not finished, a book prior to starting this thread, then I may include it, as long as I have not read it all the way through at any stage.

*I must write a review.

*The book has to be relatively substantial. That is, I will not read an individual issue of a comic or manga (though an individual collected volume is fine), or a screenplay, unless said screenplay is accompanied by a making-of book, or a children's picture book. In addition, I will not be reviewing webcomics (unless available in printed form) or fanfiction.

Now, some caveats...

*I will NOT take reading suggestions. Anyone who does so will find themselves being given a very rude answer. However, comments and dissenting opinions (NOT reviews: this is MY review thread) are welcome, as long as they are decent and well-thought out.

*One of the unofficial rules, albeit one I might break (as it is an unofficial rule) is that I don't review two things of the same sort back to back. That is, I don't read two graphic novels back to back, two Doctor Who books back to back...you get the idea. I may break it on rare occasion, depending on circumstances...

It's worth pointing out that if I miss the one week thing, I may just give that rule up completely, for now...
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#2
BOOK 1

The Monuments Men, by Robert M Edsel and Bret Witter.

There are so many tales to tell of the Second World War, of both horror and triumph. But one tale that gets obscured is of the art-looting and subsequent repatriation. But will this book, the inspiration for the film The Monuments Men, be any good?

When the Nazis took over Europe, they also took the treasures of the art world, some to be displayed, others to be kept in private collections, and others still to be destroyed. Recognising this, the Allies set up the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section to protect and repatriate art and cultural property. But between an ad hoc operation that not enough wished to support, and the Nazis looking to destroy some of their loot out of spite, they had their work cut out for them…

I have to say, in some regards, I felt this was a minor letdown. It feels like only part of the story was told, possibly in part to both fragmentary recollections and the censorship during the war. In addition, I felt that there wasn’t enough about the initial seizure of the artworks, to say nothing of the fact that I believe Rose Valland’s story would easily fill a book by itself.

That being said, the book is written very well in a manner that, while not exactly entertaining, is nonetheless lively. In addition, it feels more like a story than the previous book on the looting and repatriation of art I had read, and a good story can be a very informative one. The pathos of dealing with the theft and loss of so much art, as well as dealing with the ad hoc nature of the operation, is a palpable one.

Overall, The Monuments Men was a damned good book. Not perfect, but certainly a good entry into a fascinating part of the Second World War…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#3
BOOK 2

Akame ga Kill! Volume 1, by Takahiro and Tetsuya Tashiro.

While there have been a number of manga series of some note lately, one that I have been meaning to try for some time has been Akame ga Kill! This infamous dark fantasy series gave the anime world some of its more memorable characters, and I thought I’d give it a go. But would it grab me?

In a land dominated by a long-standing Empire, Tatsumi has travelled to its capital in hope of raising money for his impoverished village, a couple of his friends having come in advance. But he soon learns that life in the capital is far from glamorous. Unable to join the army, swindled out of his money, and then taken in by aristocrats who turn out to have disturbing hobbies, Tatsumi finds himself conscripted by the assassin group Night Raid. Night Raid, allied with a rebellion, intends to topple the child puppet Emperor, and put an end to his Prime Minister, the hedonistic Honest. With the taciturn Akame, the wild Leone, the temperamental Mine, the flamboyant Bulat, and so many others, Tatsumi will fight for justice, even if it means getting his hands bloody…

If the synopsis wasn’t warning enough already, I’ll spell it out: Akame ga Kill! is violent and bloody. While not quite at the levels of Berserk, there’s plenty of dark themes and horrific violence that will put many off, and it certainly doesn’t quite have the gravitas Berserk had either. It’s also rather early in the manga’s run, so plot and major bits of characterisation aren’t really that present, and I wish they had more of an explanation of the concepts of Danger Beasts and Teigu as well.

However, the plot is more immediately intriguing than Berserk was this early in its run, and certainly has more humour to offset the violence. Many of the characters have something interesting to them, like the titular Akame, the protagonist Tatsumi, and the others. And Tetsuya Tashiro’s art does well in portraying not only the other characters, but also the more frightening ones, with the art design of some of the more vicious characters like Honest or Aria after she is exposed being suitably freaky.

Overall, the first volume of Akame ga Kill! was a surprisingly enjoyable one. While rather dark and violent, it still had a compelling enough story and characters for me to want to continue…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#4
BOOK 3

Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks, by Eric Saward.

Revelation of the Daleks is one of my personal favourite Doctor Who stories, or at least the TV version is. But after the disappointment of the novelisation of Resurrection of the Daleks, I had to admit to some small anxiety as to how well this one would go. Would the last novelisation of a classic series story go out with a bang, or with a whimper?

Tranquil Repose on the planet Necros. A rather tacky place where people go to die, or to be put into suspended animation. The Doctor, upon hearing of the death of old friend Arthur Stengos, heads to Necros with Peri in tow, believing Stengos’ death to have more behind it. And indeed it does. For the Great Healer of Tranquil Repose is none other than Davros, and he has plans involving the Doctor, as well as the various people interred at the facility…

If there’s anything bad I have to say about this novelisation, it’s that I feel it could have been expanded considerably in many regards. We got a number of Doctor Who novelisations lately, particularly of the Douglas Adams-penned stories, that expand greatly on the story. True, there is some expansion, but it feels like a token effort.

However, that is a minor quibble. Eric Saward clearly enjoyed this story more than the previous novelisation, as it actually feels closer to the story as done on TV, but with added elements which, though a bit cursory compared to what they could have been, actually help give a sheen to it. We also have some subplots added that help give an extra layer to proceedings, and the style of the writing as a whole feels less pretentious than the previous novelisation.

After the rather mediocre novelisation of Resurrection of the Daleks, Revelation of the Daleks is a breath of fresh air. A touch too short, but it does ensure that the classic series novelisations go out on a high note…

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#5
BOOK 4

Berserk Deluxe volume 3, by Kentaro Miura.

Berserk is one of those series where a brilliant gem of a story is buried under a ton of violence and transgressive themes. But I’ve persevered, and have come to the third omnibus volume. How well would it do?

After discussing Griffith’s past, Guts and Casca flee through the forest, with Guts forced to make a stand to help Casca survive. Soon afterwards, Guts believes the time may be right to leave the Band of the Hawk. But before that, he must help Griffith capture the infamous fortress of Doldrey. And even if they succeed, and Griffith survives a conspiracy against him, Griffith himself may refuse to let Guts leave without a fight, something that will have dire consequences for Griffith’s ambitions…

So, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. Berserk is most definitely not for everyone, with a lot of graphic violence involved, and even some torture. And there’s of course the rather uncomfortable sex scene between Griffith and Charlotte, as well as Charlotte having to fend off her own father in a much more disturbing scene.

That being said, it feels more like the series is coming together, the more philosophical moments helping to balance out the action and violence. We also get more than a few twists and turns and character development, including Griffith and Guts’ relationship coming to a head, along with Guts and Casca’s, culminating in some interesting scenes at the end of this omnibus. Certainly, the scenes and twists make wading through the violence and disturbing scenes worthwhile.

Overall, this omnibus volume of Berserk continues the upward trend of the series. Time will tell if that continues…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#6
BOOK 5

The Ankh-Morpork Archives volume 1, by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Briggs, and Paul Kidby.

The Discworld series offered a number of spin-offs, partly authored by Stephen Briggs. While these spin-off books, mostly diaries and the like, have become collector’s items, they also had interesting background information on the various organisations of Discworld. And a recent re-release of that material has just been made…

Ankh-Morpork, one of the most populous if not the most populous cities on the Discworld, is filled with life and culture, even if it’s in the same way a Petri dish is. Compiled in this book are a quartet of previous works. We get a glimpse into the workings of the Unseen University, the Assassin and Thieves Guilds, and the Post Office, and see the colourful characters and odd customs and rules that go on behind their doors…

I have to say, part of this book feels like a cash-grab. It feels rather awful of me to say such a thing, given that many fans may not have the books that this material is derived from, but it also feels a bit like a cynical attempt to reheat old works into something new. In addition, the information given feels like it could have been expanded beyond what is presented, like there was more of a story to tell, beyond this and the Discworld novels, and I feel more commentary could have been made by Stephen Briggs and Paul Kidby, beyond the brief comments they give in between sections.

However, these are relatively minor quibbles. This book is certainly a godsend for those who haven’t bought the relevant Discworld journals, which are now collector’s items. And the information given in this compilation is both interesting and funny. And Paul Kidby’s artwork, as always, is delightful, embodying the nature of Discworld and its varied and sometimes grotesque inhabitants. Indeed, the presentation as a whole is superlative.

Overall, while this does feel a bit like an attempt to cash in on the Discworld franchise, fans will do worse than to buy this, especially if they don’t have the journals this material was derived from…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#7
BOOK 6

Berserk Deluxe volume 4, by Kentaro Miura.

So, here we come to the fourth volume of Berserk Deluxe, a volume that starts off a key event in the storyline, the Eclipse. But how would this omnibus go down? Well, let’s find out…

Guts, Casca, and the Band of the Hawk are united in their resolve to save Griffith from imprisonment and torture. With the help of Princess Charlotte, they manage to extract Griffith, but even the princess’ pleas cannot sway her deranged father’s heart, for he sends the Black Dog Knights, a group of criminals led by the brutal and hedonistic Wyald, after the Band of the Hawk. But even if they survive this, they may not survive the coming apocalyptic event known as the Eclipse, for a crippled and decrepit Griffith will be given an offer he may not refuse: become one of the demonic Godhand, in exchange for the lives of the Band of the Hawk…

So, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. Berserk’s unfortunate fixation on extreme violence, both gory and sexual, will put off many. Even those used to it will cringe at times, especially when Wyald, an unabashed hedonist and rapist, enters the picture. And, of course, there’s less of the meatier story elements that were present in the previous volume, being mostly about the Band of the Hawk’s desperate escape, and Griffith’s betrayal of them at the Eclipse.

But there’s still much to enjoy. There’s the event followers of the series have been waiting for, the Eclipse, when Griffith became the diabolical Femto. There’s some brilliant battle scenes, as well as Griffith having his dream brutally deconstructed by the Godhand to persuade him to join them, who themselves make a morbidly impressive entrance. Certainly, his increasing derangement is shown, and we have some interesting bits of information that offer a tantalising glimpse into the backstory.

Overall, this omnibus volume of Berserk, while not as good as the previous volume, nonetheless does well. It’s only its preoccupation with transgressive themes and imagery that truly hampers it…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#8
BOOK 7

The World of RWBY: The Official Companion, by Daniel Wallace.

Rooster Teeth is a cornerstone of internet-based entertainment, and one of its biggest stables is the fantasy action series RWBY. So, having enjoyed the series so far, I thought naturally to get a book about the series. But how would it do?

The World of RWBY is a look at the Rooster Teeth series created by the late Monty Oum. From its conception in the mind of Monty Oum, to the pre-production work on its seventh volume, this book looks at the colourful characters, settings and weapons of the series. And through this, we get further insight into the series…

Okay, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. I often say that books like this are triumphs of style over substance, and this especially applies here. I feel that this book could have had so much more added to it, both in the background lore as well as the making-of elements. In that much, it was vastly disappointing, and I believe it dragged down what could have been a superlative book significantly.

However, the book is extremely well-presented. In addition, there’s quite a lot of information here that is hard to get normally, even for die-hard RWBY fans. Certainly, it’s very interesting, and it just leaves me wanting more, and I know that there is more.

The World of RWBY was disappointing, but it’s still a good and enjoyable book. Well-presented and informative, but lacking in value for the price…


***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#9
BOOK 8

My Hero Academia volume 8: Yaoyoruzu Rising, by Kohei Horikoshi.

So, I’ve decided to come back to My Hero Academia, picking up where I left off, partway through the exams of the students. But would I enjoy what follows? Let’s find out…

The exams of the students of Class 1-A are intensifying, but even as Izuku and Bakugo win, their fellow students are struggling, not only against their teachers, but against their own doubts and fears. Soon afterwards, Tomura Shigaraki, the deranged figurehead of the League of Villains, loses his temper when new recruits Himiko Toga and Dabi are brought in, and goes on a walk in an effort to clear his mind. On this walk, he encounters Izuku doing shopping…and this encounter may either end with Izuku dead, or worse, Tomura gaining a new perspective on his twisted mentality…

As usual, My Hero Academia suffers somewhat from the curse of many a shounen manga. To whit, the emphasis of action over plot and character development. The exams arc feels more like a transition to the next arc, set at the camp the students go to, and already, I feel that Kota, despite his past being revealed, is already too obnoxious for me to feel any sympathy towards him.

That being said, the character development actually shown, particularly of Momo and, surprisingly, the perverted Mineta were interesting. So too was the conversation between Izuku and Tomura, with Tomura’s epiphany and resulting smile given one of the most disturbing images in the entire series. And we had some enjoyable and interesting fights during the exams, as well as the debut of a couple of intriguing new characters in Toga and Dabi.

Overall, this volume of My Hero Academia, while a bit of a transitional one, sets things up for the next story arc. Here’s hoping the next volume is as good if not better…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#10
BOOK 9

How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord volume 1, by Yukiya Murasaki.

The isekai genre is one that is one of the most blatant examples of Sturgeon’s Law. For every Overlord, The Saga of Tanya the Evil, and GATE, we have the likes of No Game, No Life and Konosuba. I had to admit, I didn’t have high expectations of How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord, but would I be surprised in a good way?

Takuma Sakamoto is known as the Demon Lord Diablo in the MMORPG Cross Reverie, for his skills and ruthlessness. But somehow, he is summoned to a world virtually the same as the game he played, in the body of his character. His summoners, the Elf princess Shera L Greenwood and the Pantherian Rem Galleu, try an Enslavement Ritual, only for it to reflect back onto them. Takuma decides to play along with the role he has been forced into, but is there anything in this world that is a danger to him?

I’ll be perfectly honest here. This book wasn’t that great. In fact, it feels like a cheap knock-off of Overlord with a lot more sex comedy, and particularly disturbingly cringey sex comedy at that, given the respective ages of the characters involved.

The book isn’t without its redeeming features, few though they are. The admittedly thin plot was interesting and entertaining enough (sex comedy elements aside) for me to continue reading it, and the characters, while not as complex or compelling as those in Overlord, were at least intriguing enough when they didn’t devolve into caricature.

Overall, while entertaining enough, I can’t recommend How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord. It’s basically an Overlord ripoff with too much cringe-factor and not enough originality.

**
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#11
BOOK 10

Übel Blatt volume 0, by Etorouji Shiono.

I had the manga series Übel Blatt recommended to me. Having enjoyed the dark fantasy manga series Berserk, I wondered how this series would compare. Could it compare to that infamous series, be better, or worse?

Twenty years ago, fourteen heroes were chosen within the Empire of Szaalenden to fight off an attack by the neighbouring nation of Wischtech. Three perished in the attempt, four betrayed the Empire, and seven slew the traitors, and returned to become known as the Seven Heroes. Except…in truth, it was the Seven who were the traitors, and the four dubbed the Lances of Betrayal who completed their task, only to be slaughtered. Except…one survived. Appearing to be a part-elven boy called Köinzell, he is really the only surviving Lance, the infamous Blatt Meister Ascheriit. And his mission is to take down his former allies, as well as anyone in his way…

Okay, let’s get the negative stuff out of the way. As with Berserk, there’s a lot of very uncomfortable subject matter. Thankfully, the violence isn’t quite as explicit and brutally visceral as Berserk, but there is quite a lot of it, and perhaps more pointedly, there’s a lot of very uncomfortable cases of sexual scenes involving Koinzell (who appears to be a teenager), as well as some rather disturbing dressing of some characters, like Peepi. In addition, Altea going from a rather tough character to a rather cowardly one was rather disappointing.

However, in many ways, the story is considerably more compelling than Berserk’s initial volumes. Köinzell is a considerably more likeable protagonist than Guts in many regards, and he at least acknowledges the moral ambiguity of his actions early on, unlike Guts, who doesn’t seem to care. In addition, much of the humour in the series, when it isn’t very cringey, actually helps alleviate the otherwise grimdark atmosphere. In addition, while some elements are clichéd, the more high fantasy elements actually help give this a better air than Berserk.

Overall, the first volume of this series was a promising one, hampered mainly by cringey humour and an obsession with transgressive themes and grotesque imagery. Not for the faint of heart or the easily sickened, Übel Blatt is nonetheless promising with its early story…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#12
BOOK 11

Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down, by Gina McIntyre.

One of the biggest hits of late on Netflix is the sci-fi horror series Stranger Things. Revolving around ESP research and alternate dimensions, and how they intersect with an Indiana town in the Eighties, the series has skyrocketed in popularity. While I am yet to watch the series proper, I had enough familiarity with it to be intrigued by a making-of book for it…

Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down is a behind the scenes look at the hit Netflix series. From the Duffer Brothers’ first conception of a series originally pitched as Montauk, to the phenomenon it has become, this book looks at the cast and crew behind the series. With a look at influences and how certain scenes were conceived and made, it is a comprehensive look at the show.

I have to admit, part of the bad points probably comes from my lack of familiarity with the show. While I know of some of the concepts and characters, I am not as familiar with them as a fan would be, and that does hamper my enjoyment. But still, I had the feeling that more information could have been put down here as well, as even with two seasons, there’s enough rich lore and character information that could have been added.

Still, despite my lack of familiarity, this book was still enjoyable. It served as a rather enjoyable crash-course in the world of Stranger Things and its characters. In addition, the footnotes and sections explaining many (but not all: Elfen Lied, stated to be an influence by other sources, is conspicuous by its absence) of the influences on the series are welcome and intriguing. Plus, the presentation is pretty well done, with the book having a faux-damaged jacket cover to further tie in its Eighties vibe.

Overall, this book was a good one. It has me intrigued towards Stranger Things, and perhaps one day, I’ll come to watch it…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#13
BOOK 12

My Hero Academia volume 9: My Hero, by Kohei Horikoshi.

So, here I am with another volume of My Hero Academia to go through. But how would the ninth volume fare? Let’s find out…

At the training camp, hosted by the Wild Wild Pussycats, the Heroics Course students are made to push the limits of their Quirks, while having to deal with the spite of Kota, who hates anyone trying to be Heroes due to his parents’ deaths. But during some night-training, a new group of attackers from the League of Villains attacks the area. Izuku is forced to face off against the brutal and sadistic Muscular, the man who murdered Kota’s parents, while his classmates and teachers are forced to face a variety of Villains…

Okay, most of the volume is a series of running battles between the various characters. There’s not much plot, save for the resolution of Kota’s little character arc, and to be honest, I don’t feel much sympathy for the brat. Plus, Muscular seems like a fairly generic sadistic meathead antagonist, of which there are a dime a dozen in fiction, and Mustard and Moonfish, while both disturbing, seem somewhat generic as well.

That being said, the action scenes and dialogue are pretty enjoyable, and the fight scene between Izuku and Muscular is good. So too is the struggle to stop Tokoyami’s sentient Quirk Dark Shadow. And both Dabi and Toga show more potential after their initial appearance in the previous volume.

The ninth volume of My Hero Academia, while enjoyable, nonetheless is lacking in plot in favour of admittedly good action scenes. I just hope the series picks up…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#14
BOOK 13

Bernice Summerfield: The Inside Story, by Simon Guerrier.

Bernice Summerfield is a character I have enjoyed ever since I began reading the Doctor Who novel series known as the New Adventures. Knowing of her adventures in the Big Finish audios, I found out about a making-of book about her, and decided to get a hold of it. Now that I’ve finally read it, was it worth my time?

Bernice Summerfield: The Inside Story looks into the continuing saga of archaeologist Bernice Summerfield, former companion to the Doctor and now adventurer in her own right. From her origins in the New Adventures novel Love and War, to her latest audio adventures. And in addition, through her, the story of the Virgin New Adventures and Big Finish are told…

I’ll be honest, I did find this book something of a slog. It felt like a dryly written book, which is not the case, as Guerrier’s writing style is actually not formal enough to even be considered remotely dry. And I’m sure the book only appeals to a relatively small niche. Maybe it’s because it’s so exhaustive about Benny that it exhausted me in reading it. Or maybe it’s because I felt it did dwell overly long on certain areas.

However, it’s a fairly well-presented book, and it’s very dense with information and behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the trials and tribulations involved with Benny in fiction. Guerrier not only looked at the audios, but at the novels preceding them, the New Adventures. We also get considerable insight into fan reaction to the books and the audios.

Overall, while a bit of a slog to get through due to going into a little too much detail, and certainly a bit more for those into the Bernice Summerfield franchise, this book was still enjoyable. Hmm, maybe I should listen to some of the audios…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#15
BOOK 14

The Complete Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, by Don Rosa.

Long ago, when I was younger, I used to be enthralled by the various Scrooge McDuck comics, as well as the Ducktales SatAM cartoon. Later in life, I heard of the acclaimed Don Rosa Scrooge McDuck series The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, which won an Eisner Award. I have a bit of a recalcitrance to reading comics intended for children, and yet, I decided to give this a go. But would I regret it?

From humble beginnings as the scion to an impoverished dynasty in Glasgow, Scrooge McDuck worked hard to accumulate his fortune. After early attempts at success in the Americas, he eventually goes from strength to strength as he makes his fortune. But money can’t buy happiness, and even as he accumulates his fortune, he soon is in danger of losing his heart and soul…

I’ll be honest, the series does show a rather dated attitude towards things. I’m not sure you’d be able to get away with some of the stuff towards certain people or ethnic groups in a modern comic. It’s even more astonishing, considering that, while the heyday of the Scrooge McDuck comics was earlier than this, this series was actually done in the 90s.

And yet, the above is a minor quibble. The series is a masterpiece, and is well-deserving of the award it won. For all the fact that the target audience was for children, it’s actually a surprisingly mature work that will appeal to many adults, and the second volume also gives context to many of the incidents, publishing stories that tie into the main Life and Times series. It’s a very well-done and at times surprisingly dark biography of Scrooge McDuck, showing his ascent to riches, descent into misanthropy, and beginning his redemption that started his role in the comics set later in his life.

Overall, The Complete Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is most definitely a masterpiece of comicbook story-telling. It’s well worth a look for any Disney fans, never mind Scrooge McDuck fans…

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#16
BOOK 15

A Little History of Archaeology, by Brian Fagan.

So, the last couple of books I read and reviewed were about treasure hunters and archaeologists. Not much of a justification for a segue, but still, it’s better than nothing, given my next book. It promised, after all, to discuss archaeology’s history…

A Little History of Archaeology is a look into the potted…well, history of archaeology. From its dubious beginnings in the looting of treasures of the past to the more methodical and careful uncovering of history it is today, this book examines how archaeology evolved. The Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, the past of Europe and the Americas, how archaeology shaped science and vice versa, all is shown in this book…

This is not really that serious a history of archaeology. It’s really more of a series of anecdotes of noteworthy finds, or noteworthy archaeologists, and presented, after a certain point, in an out-of-order manner. It feels like there could have been more stories to tell.

Yet despite this, Brian Fagan writes in an engaging and enjoyable manner. There’s a large number of interesting anecdotes I was not aware of, and they all, to some degree or another, retained my interest, even if they were a bit annoyingly short. Indeed, the book was both entertaining and educational.

Overall, A Little History of Archaeology, while certainly not as good as it could have been, was enjoyable and informative.

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#17
BOOK 16

My Hero Academia volume 10: All for One, by Kohei Horikoshi.

Okay, so, here I am, back with the next volume of My Hero Academia, and this one’s a doozy, considering it has the proper debut of the series villain, All for One. But how well would it do? Let’s find out…

The assault on the training camp ends when the League of Villains retreat, having captured Katsuki Bakugo. With faith in Pro-Heroes in general and UA in particular running low in the public eye, the Pro-Heroes need to do something. So too do Izuku and his friends, who, after a lot of debate, vow to track down and extract Bakugo, even if it means expulsion. But even as Bakugo refutes the League’s invitation to join them, a new player will arrive on the scene, the nemesis of All Might, the criminal mastermind pulling the League’s strings: All for One…

Well, like many shounen manga series, this one does suffer from something of a lack of plot over action, with this part transitioning to the climactic battle. In addition, I have to say that Bakugo’s refusal to join the League of Villains seems…well, for all his motives, I also think he would have been tempted. He’s not a nice character at all.

But these are relatively minor quibbles. The series actually seems to be growing up, with the effects of the attack on the training camp handled rather seriously for the genre, as are the potential consequences for Izuku and his friends as they try to track down Bakugo and the League of Villains. And we finally have the debut of All for One, and it is chilling as hell, being perhaps one of the best villain debuts in manga, if not fiction.

Overall, this volume of My Hero Academia is perhaps one of the best of the series. A shame it cut off before a truly climactic battle could begin…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#18
BOOK 17

Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody volume 1, by Hiro Ainana.

Now for yet another isekai series that I intend to embark on, another entry in that oversaturated genre. But would Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody prove to be better than the norm? Let’s find out…

Meet Ichirou Suzuki, a programmer for a gaming company. Unfortunately, due to the disappearance of one of his colleagues, he’s been forced to do a ‘death march’, doing overtime to get the game he’s working on into a fit state. But a quick nap turns into something stranger when he ends up in another world, and while it seems like a dream about the very game he’s creating, it’s one he may not be able to wake up from. Soon, with mage soldier Zena and a trio of demihuman slaves, Suzuki, in the guise of his avatar Satou, will have to fight his way out of a demonic labyrinth…

Okay, so, if this whole book has a fault, it’s that it is generic. Generic isekai plot with a video game player or someone involved with the same ending up on another world, generic characters, generic plot tropes. It’s a morass of generic stuff, that brings down the tone.

And yet, despite its generic nature, it’s still not actually bad per se. The characters, while generic, do well in their positions, and Satou, while nowhere near as interesting as Momonga from Overlord or Tanya from The Saga of Tanya the Evil, is at least better than the more dubious or perverted protagonists of the like of Konosuba or How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord. And some elements of the plot are promising.

Overall, while generic and filled with the clichés of the genre, Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody nonetheless avoids some pitfalls of the genre to be very readable.

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#19
BOOK 18

My Hero Academia volume 11: End of the Beginning, Beginning of the End, by Kohei Horikoshi.


So, here I am with the next volume of My Hero Academia, one which promises to be the end of an era for the series. But how well would it do for that? Let’s find out…

It’s a clash of the titans as All Might battles against his old foe, All for One. Meanwhile, Izuku and his classmates have a reckless plan to rescue Bakugo from the battle. But as All for One exposes All Might’s true form, as well as a dark secret around Tomura Shigaraki, only one thing will be certain: nothing will ever be the same again…

I’m not really sure I have anything bad to say about this book. True, it’s rather short, and it has the usual faults of a shounen manga of prioritising action over plot and character. And yet, these are but minor faults at best.

The climactic battle between All for One and All Might is brilliantly done, with the revelations and themes and imagery extremely good, as well as their handing over their respective batons to their successors. We also get a somewhat realistic look at the consequences and fallout of what happened. Indeed, I could say that this volume is the zenith of the My Hero Academia manga.

This was perhaps the best volume of My Hero Academia ever. And to be honest, I doubt anything the series will top this ever again…

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,506
27
2,850
#20
BOOK 19

Inside American Gods, by Emily Haynes.

I enjoy Neil Gaiman’s books, and one that stuck with me was American Gods. I am, admittedly, yet to see the recent TV adaptation, but I found a making-of book of the same. But would it be any good?

Inside American Gods is a look at the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s famous novel. From inception to production, this book follows the process of creating the series. Casting, characterisation, and the expansion from Neil Gaiman’s novel, all are shown here…

Okay, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. Books like these are triumphs of style over substance, and this one is no exception. Hell, it’s even more so, as I have seen books about shorter series with more information than this, while this book is rather too short. There could have been so much more to put in, and yet, there isn’t any here.

That being said, what is there is interesting and intriguing. Even though I am yet to watch the series proper, this book does give me more incentive to do so. In addition, the book is well-presented, as is many others of its type.

Overall, Inside American Gods was an enjoyable read, but a less substantial one than I would have liked. A shame, really…

***½
 

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Good Omens

"Pratchett’s wackiness collaborates with Gaiman’s morbid humour; the result is a humanist delight to be savoured and read again and again."

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