The Quatermass Perpetual Book-Reading Blog...Part 2

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Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#1
Given how unwieldy my previous thread has become, I've decided to make a new thread, and start over with this book-reading blog thread. Here, as usual, are the 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...
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#2
BOOK 1

The Illustrated Mahabharata: The Definitive Guide to India’s Greatest Epic, by Devdutt Pattanik, Bibek Debroy et al.

It’s perhaps only thanks to the Nasuverse, specifically the anime series of Fate/Apocrypha and the games Fate/Grand Order and the Fate/Extella games, that I am aware of the Indian epic known as the Mahabharata. Having had my curiosity aroused thanks to those works’ portrayal of Karna and Arjuna, I decided to read a book that was not only a digest of the epic, but also explained the cultural, historical and religious context for the Mahabharata. But how well would that go down?

The Illustrated Mahabharata is an examination of the famous Indian epic about two feuding families and their trials and travails. It details the rise, fall, and rise of the Pandavas, as well as their escalating conflict with the Kauravas. In addition, the story is presented not only with lavish images of artwork made of the epic, but photos from performances, as well as detailed and exhaustive explanations of the context.

I have to say, the story itself feels like it goes into way too much detail. I am glad I read only a relatively digested version, as for all the fact that the story itself is compelling, it also digresses and diverges a touch too much for my liking. In addition, the ending is a punch to the guts, even if it was apparently meant to be that way.

However, the story is still a compelling one, with a surprising amount of moral ambiguity mixed in for such an ancient epic. Not only is it fascinating, but so too are the pieces of information about Indian history and culture that help give the Mahabharata context, as well as information about religion and other epic stories. The book is also well-presented. It helps elevate this book above what would have been my reaction had I tried to read the Mahabharata in its full form.

Overall, this book was an enjoyable one. Though the epic itself feels unwieldy in parts, the presentation and the information provided adds needed context that helps keep up the fascination with this work…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#3
BOOK 2

Berserk Deluxe volume 2, by Kentaro Miura.


Having gone back to Berserk with the first omnibus volume, I felt a bit more inclined to read the second omnibus volume, covering the fourth, fifth and sixth volumes of the original publication. But would this dark fantasy series keep my interest? Or would it only serve to repulse me from it forever?

Guts’ childhood continues to be filled with hardships and betrayals, and for a time, his teenaged years are little different. But then, the charismatic Griffith conscripts him into the Band of the Hawk, a renowned mercenary group, to the bemusement and even ire of some of its members, including Griffith’s aide de camp, female warrior Casca. Guts soon finds himself finding a reason for being than just a wandering mercenary, but between horrific demons, assassins, and court politics, he may be out of his depth…

No doubt about it, Berserk is not for the faint of heart. Hell, this volume begins with a vile act perpetrated against a young Guts, and we see the same thing nearly happen to a young Casca later. Plus, there’s a lot of horrific violence, and a couple of the characters, like Casca, take some time to warm up to the reader.

However, this volume is a vast improvement over the previous omnibus, helped by the fact that the tone isn’t quite as ridiculously grimdark as the previous ones. In addition, many of the characters, including a pre-Eclipse Guts (in contrast to his more vicious and almost completely sociopathic self seen before), are actually quite interesting, as are the conspiracies aimed at Griffith. Casca’s confession about her past is also welcome, as her character, shortly before that point, had been more than a little unlikeable, though to be frank, so is this extended examination of Guts’ past, for the same reasons.

Overall, this second omnibus of Berserk is a welcome one, showing the quality of the series climbing. True, it’s still a touch too dark, but compared to the previous volumes, it’s a marked improvement…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#4
BOOK 3

Dangerous Days in Elizabethan England, by Terry Deary.

Terry Deary is most famous for his Horrible Histories books, snarky history books written for children. However, he has also written a series of similar history books meant more for adults, the Dangerous Days books. While the two I have read were entertaining and informative, they were also overly facile and overly slanted. Would this book focusing on the Elizabethan era do so as well?

Dangerous Days in Elizabethan England is a showcase of what life was like during the reign of Elizabeth I. Casting an unflattering eye over the supposed golden age of England, it purports to showcase Elizabeth I’s true nature as a monarch. And it also shows that the golden age was a misnomer, that those times were pretty filthy…

I have to say, Deary seems to be pretty prejudiced against Elizabeth. He makes her out to be little better than her father, Henry VIII, and he seems to portray a fairly unrelentingly grim and gritty view of her reign. In addition, some of the humour seems either vestigial, or just plain off.

However, the book does entertain as well as inform. There’s much to read and enjoy here, and to be fair to Deary, he does show why Elizabeth turned out the way he purports her to be, what she had to live through before she ascended to the throne. Not only that, but there’s a lot about the various plots she had to fend off, the Spanish Armada, and the theatre culture.

Overall, while flawed and slanted, Dangerous Days in Elizabethan England was enjoyable and informative.


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#5
BOOK 4

Elfen Lied Omnibus volume 1, by Lynn Okamoto.

Elfen Lied has become something of a byword for anime that is both extremely dark and violent, yet behind it is a very moving and tragic story. Until recently, the manga has never been released in English, possibly due to the content. But now, it has, as a series of omnibus volumes consisting of three of the original Japanese manga volumes. Would I enjoy it?

Kohta and Yuka, a pair of cousins who hadn’t met since their childhood, intend to go to university at Kamakura. However, while going down to the beach, reminiscing, they encounter a naked girl with horns, apparently infantile and incapable of looking after herself. In truth, this girl is a Diclonius, a member of an extremely aggressive and violent human subspecies with telekinetic powers who escaped from an offshore facility. Her infantile state, dubbed ‘Nyu’, is actually a secondary personality. Her true personality, ‘Lucy’, is vicious and violent, unbeknownst to Kohta and Yuka, and the people behind her captivity will do anything to retrieve her, for the fate of humanity is at stake…

As anyone who read my reviews on the anime series, Elfen Lied is a very dark and violent work, touching on a number of dark themes that will repulse many who try to read it. The sexual humour around Nyu and Kohta also gets very cringe-worthy, especially after the revelation of Mayu’s past abuse at the hands of her father. And many of the darker themes seem overly gratuitous, as if the author was doing it more for the shock value than anything.

That being said, for those willing to push through, there’s a good story beneath it. In fact, the manga actually feels a bit better than the anime, in that there’s a bit more context that was cut out of the adaptation, and the slightly more cartoonish art style actually helps mitigate the worst of the impact of the violence, with some violence being more bloody than visceral. It overall feels more like a polished product, though admittedly, this is probably because I am reading through a larger block of the story at once than the episodes I watched for my reviews.

Overall, while definitely too grotesque and dark for many to stomach, Elfen Lied is a good story, if one can get past the more gratuitous darkness and violence…


***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#6
BOOK 5

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

Until recently, there were a number of Doctor Who stories from the classic series left without novelisations. With those penned by Douglas Adams now novelised, Eric Saward has finally seen fit to novelise the two Dalek stories he penned in the Eighties, two of the best Dalek stories done for the classic series. I know embark on the first of these, Resurrection of the Daleks

A derelict warehouse in Shad Thames in 1984 houses mysterious objects, and is the site of a vicious massacre of a group of people displaced in time. Over two thousand years into the future, a prison ship is attacked by the Daleks and a group of mercenaries working for them. And the Doctor’s TARDIS is trapped in a time corridor linking the two eras. The Daleks are losing a war, and they need the help of their creator, Davros, imprisoned on the prison ship, to save them. But there is more to it than that, and the death and destruction that will ensue may be too much to bear for the Doctor and his companions…

Given the high quality of the recent novelisations of the Douglas Adams stories, along with the fact that Eric Saward is novelising his own material, I expected this book to be superlative. Instead, what I got was mediocre. A number of scenes were either removed or abridged, and Saward tries way too hard to be clever and witty, and fails miserably at both more often than not. This story is one that could have used expansion, but Saward seems to have phoned it in for the most part. There are fans who could have done better, and I know of at least one fan novelisation that probably has.

That being said, it’s not all bad. There’s some enjoyable expansion of a few moments, and some changed moments are for the better. We have more background on the prison ship’s crew than we had in the serial, intriguing hints of the Doctor and Lytton having met before, and a few other bits here and there that, while they don’t save this novelisation from undeserved mediocrity, they do prevent it from being any worse than it could have been.

Overall, the novelisation of Resurrection of the Daleks was disappointing. There’s so much wasted potential here, and I only hope that the upcoming novelisation of Revelation of the Daleks won’t be as disappointing…


***
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#7
BOOK 6

Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family volume 1, by TAa.

I’m fairly obsessed with the Nasuverse. However, one series I only learned about relatively recently, and that I was surprised had an English translation, was the manga Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family. But how would I enjoy this?

Fuyuki City. Once the site of the Holy Grail War, now things are peaceable. And sometimes, all that’s desired by the Emiya family and their friends is a nice meal to come home to. From Shirou making Hamburg Steak for his father years ago, to him teaching Medea how to cook, there’s much to learn and cuisine to cook…

The biggest downfall of this series is that there is literally no plot. It’s a slice of life series that basically has no connection to the continuity of Fate/Stay Night and the like, and those unfamiliar with the Nasuverse will feel at sea. Plus, the emphasis on cooking is not for everyone, I am sure.

However, what it is is still good. It’s a heartwarming series that you just wish was canon if you know anything about the Nasuverse. The humour is charming and on-point, as are the heartwarming moments, and even with the lack of plot, the sheer charm of the series will win people over.

Overall, this book, while hampered by a lack of plot, was nonetheless enjoyable.

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#8
BOOK 7

Final Fantasy Ultimania Archive: Volume III, by Akira Yamashita et al.

After the first two volumes of the Final Fantasy Ultimania, I was looking forward to the third, and to date, final book in the series. But given that it crams five of the most recent games into it, would it do well? Let’s find out…

The third volume of the Final Fantasy Ultimania Archive is a compendium detailing the story, characters, and creation of Final Fantasy X through to XIV. From Yuna’s pilgrimage to save Spira from Sin, to the trials and travails of the l’Cie, this book has a vast array of information presented here. Not to mention interviews with the creators, as well as behind the scenes material offering an insight into the series…

I actually feared there would be far less information on the games than before. This is certainly the case with Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV, the MMORPG instalments of the series, particularly the latter. I am also disappointed by the lack of information for Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, sequels to the volumes within. And, of course, there is the usual lack of substance compared to presentation that plagued previous volumes.

However, this volume is still pretty informative. There were a few plot points clarified, especially one in Final Fantasy XII that wasn’t clear in the finished game, but clarified by this book. In addition, some of the behind the scenes stuff is fascinating, and the book is extremely well-presented, as is the norm for these volumes.

Overall, this volume of the Final Fantasy Ultimania Archive was an enjoyable one. I just wish these books were a touch more substantial…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#9
BOOK 8

Tokyo Ghoul: re volume 4, by Sui Ishida.

So, I’ve come back to Tokyo Ghoul: re, after the end of one story arc. Now, with another beginning, I have to wonder, will it do well? Or will it mark a decline?

Some months after the Auction raid, the Quinx squad have received recognition for their deeds. Haise has established a rapport with the imprisoned Hinami, even as he worries about her connection to his past. However, trouble is brewing on the horizon. Kanae Rosenwald is growing ever more disgruntled with the condition of her beloved master Shu Tsukiyama, and the CCG are now beginning to set their gaze on the Tsukiyamas…

This volume is something of a transitional one between major story arcs, and unfortunately, it shows in a lack of proper plot. Well, more of a substantial one, given the transition rather than an actual absence of plot. This just makes the volume a bit more of a chore to get through than it should be. In fact, it feels like a lot is being crammed in, introducing some new characters, but sacrificing interesting plot elements.

However, it’s still a good series, with this volume focusing on Kanae’s divided loyalties, as well as Tsukiyama snapping out of his funk, and for all that he is one of the more sociopathic Ghouls allied to Kaneki in the previous series, it’s still a welcome return. Plus, the action scenes at the end are well done, and the foreshadowing of later events seems to be working well. In other words, this seems to be building up to something big, and in a good way.

While not at the dazzling heights some previous volumes climbed to, this volume of Tokyo Ghoul: re was an enjoyable one all the same…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#10
BOOK 9

Overlord volume 10: The Ruler of Conspiracy, by Kugane Maruyama.

The ninth volume of the light novel series Overlord ended on a fairly conclusive note, but Kugane Maruyama continued the series. So, I am now at the tenth volume. But would it do well?

Conquest was the easy part. Now, Ainz Ooal Gown finds that actually ruling his newly established Nation of Darkness is a tedious and mind-numbing task. And plotters lurk within the shadows, some on Ainz’s side, and others most certainly not. As Albedo lays the groundwork for her master’s influence to grow, in the Baharuth Empire, Emperor Jircniv is getting desperate, with the realisation that by allying with Ainz, he has a tiger by the tail, one that may turn on him at any moment…

The series’ plot varies in quality, and I have to say, this is one of the lesser novels in the series, being a bit tedious to read through. It feels transitional, setting up things to continue the series, and with no real noteworthy developments, save for Jircniv’s decision to submit the Empire to Ainz’s rule. In other words, no real plot, just some incidents.

However, even with this, the charm and humour of the series still shines through. What’s more, while it lacks plot, it’s not necessarily a bad story per se. The battle between Ainz and Go Gin the Martial King is also one of the better ones, because it shows, if Ainz deliberately handicaps himself, he is far from invincible, even to inhabitants of this world. Plus, the concept of Albedo and Renner sitting down and getting involved in girl talk is just hilarious.

Overall, this volume of Overlord, while a disappointment, was nonetheless a decent continuation of the series. I hope the next volume is better, though…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#11
BOOK 10

My Hero Academia volume 4: The Boy Born With Everything, by Kohei Horikoshi.

So, here I am, continuing on with My Hero Academia. But how will the fourth volume fare? Let’s find out…

The UA Sports Festival is well underway, and Izuku has scored first place in the first event. Unfortunately, the way the second event is set up means that he has just painted a large target on his back. Even if he and his allies can make it through a cavalry battle, there’s a series of one-on-one battles, and even Izuku may not be able to finish them with his increasing control over One for All. Especially as Shouto Todoroki, the estranged son of the vicious Number 2 Hero Endeavour, has his sights set on him…

There isn’t much plot going on here. It’s mostly a series of incidents, one after the other, along with a fairly standard (for a shounen manga setting) tournament, with a lot of trash-talk and strategizing. Plus, we’re starting to get an excess of unlikeable characters on the supposedly heroic side.

However, the cavalry battle was surprisingly interesting. So too was Shouto Todoroki’s rather tragic background, and Endeavour, his father, is too, even if it’s only because you want to strangle him due to his attitude towards his son. And the expansion of the cast is going well, with more about Tokoyami and Mei Hatsume being revealed.

Overall, this was a good volume of My Hero Academia. I just hope it picks up a bit more soon…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#12
BOOK 11

Middle-Earth From Script to Screen: Building the World of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, by Daniel Falconer.

The Middle-Earth films by Peter Jackson stand not only as some of the best adaptations of all time, but also some of the best fantasy films of all time. So, naturally, I’d want a making-of book of those films. But would this one be any good? Let’s find out…

Middle-Earth From Script to Screen is a look at the making of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies by Peter Jackson. Going on a geographical progression from the Shire to Mordor, this book examines the production of the films. Including interviews with the cast, production photos, and insights into the characters, this is an exhaustive look at the epic sextet of films.

Now, if I have to say anything bad about this book, it’s that it shows that it is impossible to cram everything or even anywhere near everything about the films into a single book. Even this large book is a necessarily but regretfully and substantially abridged look at the production, with perhaps a more substantial look being in the special features of the home video sets. And like all books of this type, it struggles to find a balance between style and substance, and I could have done with more behind-the-scenes stuff, like concept art and the like.

However, for what it is, there is a LOT crammed into this volume for readers to devour. It’s well-presented, and even with the abridgement, it’s still jammed full of info well worth the time of any fan of filmmaking, or the Middle-Earth films, including some info that one might have missed. We have nice little anecdotes about production, about techniques used and inspirations for some elements, as well as pointing out some parts of Tolkien’s writings where certain things came from.

Overall, this book, while just shy of perfection and unfortunately heavily abridged, is nonetheless a worthy read. A shame it’s so abridged…and pricey…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#13
BOOK 12

My Hero Academia volume 5: Shoto Todoroki: Origin, by Kohei Horikoshi.

So, here I am again with the fifth volume of My Hero Academia. But how well would it do as the UA Sports Festival arc draws to a close? Let’s find out…

The match between Bakugou and Ochako proves to be every bit as brutal as feared, but Ochako has a strategy that impresses even the belligerent Bakugou. Soon afterwards, Izuku must face off against the sullen and stoic Shoto Todoroki, who refuses to use his left side, the side that can wield fire, out of spite of his cruel and abusive father, the Number 2 Hero Endeavour. But Endeavour approaches Izuku, and tells him to force Shoto to use his flames. Izuku decides to, but not for Endeavour. Rather, he wants Shoto to not hold back anything during their match…

We’re still in the middle of a tournament that seems to be obligatory to most shounen series, meaning more incident than actual story. In addition, the scenes of Shoto’s childhood were rather uncomfortable to me, and Recovery Girl’s refusal to treat Izuku, while meant to spur him to control his abilities more, left a bad taste in my mouth. Plus, Aizawa’s retort against a member of the audience, while well-reasoned, also felt off.

That being said, this volume still hit the right marks for the most part. Shoto’s background was well-done and heartbreaking, and the fights, especially the one between Bakugou and Ochako, were good. What’s more, there’s some good foreshadowing of the next story arc.

Overall, this volume of My Hero Academia was an enjoyable one. Can’t wait for the next one…


****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
#14
BOOK 13

Sword Art Online volume 2: Aincrad, by Reki Kawahara.

The first volume of Sword Art Online, while enjoyable, also felt rushed in many ways to me. So I decided, albeit with some trepidation, to embark on the second volume, a series of side-stories taking place inbetween events in the first novel. How would this volume do?

During his time trapped in Aincrad, Kirito touched the hearts and souls of many people, and was touched by them in his own turn. Silica, the young beast-tamer who needed Kirito’s help to save her pet dragon. Lisbeth, a smith who wished to forge a powerful weapon. Yui, a mysterious girl who calls Kirito and Asuna her parents. And Sachi, a member of the ill-fated Moonlit Black Cats…

Okay, so, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. These stories are pretty short and, well, they don’t exactly allow for much plot or character development. In fact, they only really exist to flesh out the lore of the franchise and to introduce characters who will recur later. They’re not exactly meaty ones. In addition, Lisbeth’s infatuation with Kirito seems a touch unrealistic, and seems to be the author cramming in a potential harem.

However, the stories are still rather enjoyable. Silica and Yui’s respective stories are perhaps the most touching and heartwarming, and Sachi’s story, while brutal and tragic, also shows part of the reason why Kirito was such a loner in the original book. It feels like these stories should have been put into the original book to flesh it out, to make it a bit more coherent and fleshed-out.

Overall, while not as good as it could have been, this volume of Sword Art Online was at least an enjoyable fleshing out of the world of the franchise.

****
 

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