Reading Roundup: Zombies, Graveyards, and Superheroes

My last reading roundup post got several comments from people thanking me for my reviews. That’s awesome, so I decided that I would post again about some more of the awesome books I’ve read recently. These three books are the three best I’ve read lately.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

I checked out this book from the library after my thesis advisor referenced it in a Twitter discussion about the Miami zombie. Weird, right? Anyway, I found this book to be a fascinating read. The premise of the novel is that it’s actually a documentary history of the zombie war, and honestly, there were times when I forgot that Brooks was writing a novel and not a work of nonfiction. I’d have to remind myself that, oh wait, the zombie war hasn’t actually happened. The book is written in a series of “interviews” with people involved in every phase of the war, from the initial reports of Patient 0, to the confusion and cover-ups, to the military plans designed to stop the zombies, to the recovery efforts. The great thing about this book is that most of the sections are short, sometimes just a page or two, sometimes up to maybe twenty pages. Either way, I could sit down, read one section, and set the book down to do something else. Usually, that’s what I had to do. The story is heavy and violent at times (as befitting the subject matter), and I don’t think I was ever able to read more than about 40 pages at a time. The only drawback I found to this book, though, was that Brooks attempts, and almost succeeds, to write in many different voices. Occasionally, I had to flip back a few pages to the beginning of the section to remind myself who was speaking and what role he/she played in the war. I’d venture to say that it’s impossible for a writer to capture so many voices well, but Brooks almost manages. I’ve heard, too, that the audiobook version is excellent because so many great people provide the voice for the different speakers (people like Alan Alda…I love him!). I have some friends who are listening to the audiobook right now, and if they like it, I might actually purchase it. Obviously, this book is not for everyone, but if you really appreciate the use of the zombie as social commentary, then I highly recommend it. Brooks really plays up the political and social ramifications of fighting a global war against zombies, and I’d argue that the book is really more about societal tension than fictional monsters.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This children’s novel by Gaiman won the Newbery Award several years ago, so it’s a shame that it’s taken me so long to read it. This last year or so, however, has been a year when I’ve really jumped into the world of science fiction and fantasy, so it’s appropriate that I’m reading so much Gaiman now.

I had a friend telling me a story on Wednesday, and she made the comment, “He was beautiful like death is beautiful. Does that make sense?” To Sarah: absolutely! Gaiman’s stories (and many other things in life, actually) are beautiful like death is beautiful. I think there is beauty in darkness just as much as in light, and The Graveyard Book is a dark, beautiful story.

In the beginning of the book, a man breaks into a house and kills a family. The only survivor (accidentally, of course) is an infant whose name is unknown. A mysterious man named Silas rescues the baby and takes him to a graveyard in town, where the baby is raised by a ghost couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens. The baby is dubbed “Nobody Owens,” but is called “Bod.” Bod grows up in the graveyard, rarely venturing out into the land of the living and learning the ways of the graveyard (such as how to Fade to avoid capture). Silas is Bod’s caregiver when Silas is in town (and it was a lot of fun, for me, at least when I figured out why Silas leaves town so frequently). Eventually, as Bod grows older, Silas knows that Bod cannot stay in the graveyard forever, and Bod learns of his mysterious origins and of the man named Jack who killed Bod’s family and is still hunting for him.

I find the premise of growing up in a graveyard to be delightful. Highly illogical (I bet it’s hard to find food and good internet connection there), but delightful nonetheless. In Gaiman, I find that I’m very willing to suspend my disbelief, and in doing so, his stories become real and alive and bright and beautiful.

Batman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder (writer), Jock, and Francesco Francavilla (artists)

Two weeks ago today, I attended my first comic book convention, HeroesCon in Charlotte. It was wonderful, and the best part, easily, was attending a panel in which Snyder and Francavilla discussed writing this comic book series. (Insert fangirl moment: I’ve met two of the three creators of this wonderful book!!!) My friend Guy, who met me at the convention, brought his copy of the graphic novel, insisting that I read it. I finished on Thursday.

So many readers have declared this book to be one of the best (if not the best) Batman book. I’m not a connoisseur of Batman, having only just begun to read the series when DC rebooted their entire universe last year. (Side note: Scott Snyder is the writer of the current Batman series, and it’s phenomenal! The first seven issues have just been released in a hardcover edition called Batman: The Court of Owls. Check it out.)

I sort of did things backward with this book: sitting through an hour-long panel about the book before actually reading the book. Still, I think that actually made me appreciate it more. I knew how the story would end, and I knew what the best scenes in the book were, so I read it slowly and savored it. I picked up on a lot of foreshadowing in the book, and I peered closely at panels that I knew were important.

Okay, the premise of the story. Bruce Wayne is not Batman here; Dick Grayson has picked up the suit while Bruce is away from Gotham for a while. Dick is a different kind of Batman than Bruce is, and that distinction makes me appreciate both their characters more. Dick is working side-by-side with Commissioner Gordon on solving the mystery of who is behind an auction house that is selling off artifacts from Gotham’s greatest villains when Gordon’s son James arrives back in town. Something is wrong with James–something has always been wrong with James–but Jim has never been able to figure out exactly what. Through the rest of the events in the book, they finally discover what’s going on with James, but I won’t spoil that for you.

There are so many great things about this book. The idea of a mirror, reflecting duality with both Jim/James and Dick/James. A black mirror, reflecting the darkness of Gotham City, which is basically a character in and of itself. Also, there’s a huge, dead killer whale discovered in a bank, and that’s just crazy and cool.

Anyway, between this graphic novel and Snyder’s current run of Batman, I have become a huge fan of both Batman and Snyder. And this is a really great, literary graphic novel.

Currently:

I’ve read some other books, too, in between all of these. Expect a post soon about the wonderfulness of John Green, who is one of my favorite persons on the planet. I’m in the middle of two books right now: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bagicalupi (the companion to The Ship Breaker, which I previously reviewed) and Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), which I’m trying to push through because I feel like I need it to end soon. I also have The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore, the follow-up to I Am Number Four, which I need to read soon because A) There’s a long line of holds at the library, and B) the next book comes out in a few weeks. 1Q84 is still standing staunchly on my bookcase, waiting patiently for me. Soon.

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One thought on “Reading Roundup: Zombies, Graveyards, and Superheroes

  1. […] In the process, I shopped for myself. I first found a paperback copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. I love Neil Gaiman, and though I read this book last year, I don’t own a copy; I’d […]

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