Eye Food

On Jens’s recommendation, I’ve picked up Shadow & Claw, by Gene Wolfe. I’ve so far read the first half, The Shadow of the Torturer, and it is excellent. I get the impression that I’m not really smart enough to catch all the allusions and what not, but that’s fine. I’m enjoying it and eagerly look forward to seeing more of this dark, declining world. It’s difficult to summarize, but if you took my advice and read and enjoyed any of China Miéville’s books, you’ll probably like these, too.

Between the two halves of that I happened to notice Sharpe’s Tiger at the local HalfPrice Books and nabbed that. It’s the first of Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe books. I’ve always wanted to read them, but never actually came across the first book of the series before. Technically, it’s not the first, but it is the first chronologically, being Sharpe’s first big military adventure, and set earlier than the other books. I’m guessing it doesn’t really matter what order you read them it, but the comic book reader in me wants to read it this way. I love that period of history, with the rampant deluded colonialism and technology just advanced enough to be dangerous to user and victim alike. There is still plenty of opportunity for adventure in 18th-19th century Earth. It’s been a lot of fun so far.

I’ve been obsessed with Phonogram: The Singles Club lately, having finally obtained the couple issues I missed when they first came out. Written by Kieron Gillen with Jamie McKelvie on art.  It’s a series about music, the effect it can have on us, and how magical that is. These comics haven’t left my side for the past week.

The series is set in a London dance club and all takes place over a single night. Each issue presents the night from a different character’s point of view, and by the end of the (fantastic) last issue you get a pretty complete idea of everything that happened. Each of the tales has a bit of a supernatural twist (in the Phonogram universe, music is literally magical), but the stories are still grounded and human. It’s a beautiful, funny, heartbreaking series. At some point I need to pick up Rue Britannia, the original Phonogram series.

I don’t think it’s vital to be familiar with the music that’s referenced throughout to enjoy the stories, but I noticed my enjoyment of the series ramped up considerably once I started checking out the bands (praise be to Pandora).

What are you reading?


5 thoughts on “Eye Food”

  1. Neil Gaiman wrote an article on how to read Gene Wolfe:
    It helps.
    Keep reading. It gets better and better with each volume.
    Cornwell, eh? Haven’t read him, but I love some historical fiction, and I love Britain’s imperial struggles of the 19th century. Have you read George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series? They follow the career of Harry Flashman as he participates in all of Britain’s “little wars” of the 19th century – Afghanistan, the Sepoy mutiny, the Sikh wars, the Opium wars, etc. And they’re devastatingly funny and ribald, a hilarious, dark, subversive counterpoint to so much straight-laced Victorian fiction. And, they happen to be among the best books I’ve ever read.

  2. Just looking this series up on wiki, and read this quote from the writer:
    “Best plan I have is just writing series 3 and then writing into my will that assuming I die young and Jamie’s still around, lob him whatever’s in my bank account to draw it. Which is assuming he’d even be willing to do it then. It’s not that we’re bitter about it — well, not just because we’re bitter about it — but that it’s been emotionally exhausting. We’ve been doing “Phonogram” for over 4 years, not including the years before the first series came out. Imagine if we could have just done the comic and not had to deal with any of the shit we’ve had to. We’d have been up to issue 44 now. Instead, we have 13 issues.

    I feel frustrated. Enormously lucky, sure, but frustrated. We’ve done this wonderful thing we’re crazy-proud about. But if the whole economic system was just a couple of degrees to the left, everything would have been different. I mean, just to give you an idea about narrow the margins are between what we are and what we could be, if we were selling 6K instead of 4K, we could have done those 44 issues. The difference between breaking even and actually being able to do it in comics is insane. It’s like being kept under ice, clawing. I feel like a bonsai plant.”

  3. It’s crazy, isn’t it? I remember a few years ago I saw the numbers on another series that I absolutely loved, Christopher Priest’s Quantum & Woody. I knew that I was one of only a few who actually read it, but then I saw that the circulation numbers on that book were less than 3,000. Meanwhile, the latest issue of some fourth-tier Batman book or whatever sells 50,000 copies a month.

    I remember a couple years ago I went to a local comic shop and asked if they had any of Virgin’s excellent Dan Dare comic, and they looked at me like I was crazy. Unless it’s Marvel or DC they hardly bothered. Virgin totally went under a few months after that.

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