Amazing Fantastic Incredible

Today I am recommending Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee and Peter David and Colleen Doran. This memoir is a brief overview of Stan Lee’s life and his work in comics. I say brief because it touches on key moments without delving into anything beyond a the surface. The book is actually a graphic novel which adds a nice touch considering the topic of the memoir. The pages are beautifully illustrated and the setting of Stan on stage delving into his story really makes you feel like you could be in an audience experiencing it alongside other fans.

When I said this was a brief memoir, I meant two things: you can read it easily in one sitting (due to the graphic novel format), and you only get the basic information without too much detail (probably also due to the format). It’s great if you don’t know much about Stan Lee (real name Stanley Lieber), but if you are looking for an in-depth look into his life, I suggest waiting for a full-on biography that will surely come out within the next few years. There are other biographies already out there if you don’t want to wait.

This book/graphic novel is a great introduction to Stan and how he came to be the icon he was. It also provides a great “history of comics” and details about how certain characters were created and interesting tidbits about certain processes and others who were in the field. If all you’re looking for is a little more information about the man himself since maybe you only know him by his many cameo’s in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), then this is the one for you. I’m certain several events mentioned in this memoir are shaded with a little bias. This is both a good and bad thing. The good being there is no negative views of any events mentioned though I’m sure there were some interesting discussions regarding business deals. This I view as good because it makes the memoir available to even kids. The bad I think would be the overall removal of any negative experiences. Something that is far from real life. The few mentioned are quickly passed over.

Since the MCU has been blown into epic proportions that have reached millions of people worldwide and brought superheroes once again into mainstream pop-culture, I wanted to learn more about the iconic man who spent his life laying the groundwork for this incredible adventure.

Overall, I enjoyed this memoir because it has a lot of information and I learned several things, but I will probably be looking forward to an in-depth biography when I want to know more about Stan the Man.

Happy Reading.

The Once and Future King

Today I am recommending The Once and Future King by T.H. White. This book is actually a collection of four books. The first being The Sword in the Stone which was turned into and animated film by Walt Disney in 1963. This first book was originally published in 1938 (Beyond the first book, I’d say this novel is not particularly for kids as war and fighting and sex and death are, for the most part, shielded from the eyes of children). The collection of all four into The Once and Future King was published in 1958.

This recommendation does come with a few reservations. I enjoyed the lengthy novel (roughly 650 pages and nearing 300,000 words) which is centered around the Arthurian tales, but I’m afraid I may have come to it with a slight case of expectations. I know, I know, it is best to remove all expectations prior to experiencing a story so as to allow yourself to form your own opinion of it. I was planning on doing just that but seemed to have caught the little bug, which flew to me upon the words of Ursula K. Le Guin and Neil Gaiman as well as others who provided blurbs or introductions to this book. People whose opinions hold weight with me.

I understand their love for the book. The wit-filled pages that recount Arthur’s education and inauguration as king to his formation of the round table and the era of chivalry and through the years beyond where if falls into ruin. The story is interesting and entertaining. Some areas drag while others are captivating. It stays true to what is known about the legends (which most of us know of but may have never really read about) and White often refers to Mallory or other sources of the Arthurian legend. I felt that White relied on the reader having previous knowledge of the legend during certain passages.

The more I think about the story the more I like it, but I was not enthralled while actively reading it. White was funny and whimsical while also covering the darker story-lines and allowing tragedy. There are no detailed descriptions of fights or battles or hardships. Many are written without providing action but do provide some detail about the aftermath. The result is no blood and gore (which is perfectly acceptable and not really essential to the story) but plenty of description about scenery and the lands of England. The story of Arthur and his knights has captivated the world for centuries. I believe his story and legend will survive for a long time and White’s telling of it will continue to entertain. After all, it is written for modern audiences and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The greatest thing about this book is its arching storyline of how England, through Arthur, was shifted from the “Might is Right” society to a more civilized land of laws. The tragedy of Arthur is in his good deeds. He transforms England into a peaceful land by channeling baser human instincts into a morally superior lifestyle. The new lifestyle is what ultimately causes the personal turmoil of the aged Arthur because he ties his own hands against saving the ones he loves.

If you are interested in, or already love, the Arthurian tales, then this book will likely be of great interest to you. If you know a little but would like to know more about these tales, then this book is a great place to start.

Happy Reading.

The Little Prince

About a month ago I wrote a book recommendation for The Little Prince. Last night, I watched Netflix’s film adaptation of this story with my wife, and all I can say is that it was fantastic. First, I was unaware of how many big-name celebrities were cast. The only one I knew before watching was Jeff Bridges, but there is also Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Paul Giamatti, James Franco, and Albert Brooks. Second, this adaptation did not just turn the book into film. It created a story around the book while leaving the original story unblemished. The book and even the drawings are included. This movie uses the original story as a central them within a new story, and this new story works as a modern translator that I believe amplifies the importance of the original (or at least relates it to modern audiences). After all, the book was first published over 70 years ago when technology was just the first sprinkles of rain that would become the ocean it is today.

For those who read my original book recommendation, I stated I first discovered the book from watching the trailer for this specific film adaptation. I was intrigued by the story, so I went and read the book first. Then I eventually got around to watching the movie. I love them both equally. The movie follows the original text and uses the narrator as an actual character. Then, to my surprise, the movie goes beyond the end of the original story. Continuing it in a way that is both unexpected and touching. The film, overall, does exactly what the book does and maybe even better. It makes us remember things we used to know as a child. It makes us remember a very important part of life that we adults tend to forget while worrying about the many responsibilities we have.

Though the film is an animated feature that kids would enjoy. I think the story is really meant for adults. After all, there are no age restrictions when it comes to stories. Recommended maturity levels? Maybe. Some stories should be reserved until a child gets older, but you can never be too old to enjoy a story meant for younger generations. If you’ve never experienced this story, I highly recommend it in either medium.

I hope you find a few moments today (and every day) to stop and appreciate the world we live in. To forget the many demands on your time and breathe. Take in the world around you. There is so many places to find joy.

Book Recommendation – Good Omens

Today I am recommending Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. The story (subtitled The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch) follows approximately three main characters: the angel Aziraphale, the demon Crowley, and the Anti-Christ aptly named Adam. Crowley has been tasked with ensuring the Anti-Christ is raised to accomplish what he was born to do. However, Crowley has grown quite fond of Earth and humans and decidedly isn’t 100% behind Armageddon. Neither is Aziraphale, who has also grown quite fond of Earth and humans as well. Crowley and Aziraphale have both been on Earth since its beginning and long ago came to an agreement not to prevent the other from doing their jobs. An agreement that would make them something close to friends. The result is a delightfully humorous book about the end of the world.

This book is technically the first book of fiction I’ve read by Terry Pratchett (I’ve read many of Neil Gaiman’s books). I have yet to read any of his Discworld books and have only read one collection of non-fiction that came out shortly after he passed away, but I’ve always known Terry as a fantasy-comedy writer and he does not disappoint in this collaboration.

I was recently lucky enough to see Neil Gaiman in person where he read an excerpt of this book and talked about how it was written and the agreements he made with Terry regarding the adaptation of the book into film. You can tell that Neil misses him terribly as any good friend would miss another good friend. The book came out in 1990 and has been adapted into a television series scheduled to premiere later this year, so I’m sure you will be seeing more about it in the future.

The characters of Crowley and Aziraphale were incredibly fun and, though fundamentally at opposition, they make the business of influencing humans toward good and evil extremely entertaining. They have fun and you can’t help but have fun too. Yes, there is some absurd moments, but you must have a little absurdity to have a comical Armageddon. After all, they are discussing the ineffable.

Though I am not a religious man, I am curious about the “powers that be” in the bible and the supernatural elements of the stories it contains. If you like to laugh and aren’t put off by two English guys telling a witty, rapturous story that borders on blasphemy, then you will absolutely enjoy this book. I know I did.

Happy Reading.

 

Last Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I thought it fitting to make this the last recommendation of the year (and last of the weekly recommendations). The book is in itself a time machine as most books are. It was originally published in 1895, but holds up well in 2018. Of course, the language is a little dated but not so much to cause difficulty in reading. It may even increase your vocabulary as several words in it aren’t commonly used anymore.

It is still an entertaining book. Enough so that it has been made into movies as recently as 2002. I’m sure in 1895 this book would have been considered outlandish, entertaining, and even frightening, but today I’m afraid it would seem just another story. There is an enormous amount of science fiction today that includes time travel. However, this story is the first mention of the concept (I would be more than happy if someone proved me wrong here). It is always interesting to go back and read books like this that seem to be an integral building block to one of today’s most popular fictional subjects. As a writer, it is also interesting to read what had inspired other writers throughout the years. You begin to notice similarities the more you read whether they may be intentional or not.

Time travel has always been of interest to me because it is very hard to pull off in terms of making it believable or at least practical. There is always a chance missing a small incongruity that ends up debunking the whole concept. These are often in the form of paradoxes but sometimes can just be continuity errors. Either way, they bring in doubt which greatly weakens the story.

H.G. Wells was very clever when he wrote this story because he made it simple with no complicated processes that could easily have initiated such an error. He introduces the machine itself without diving into the technical aspects about how it works (a technique often used by Christopher Nolan in many of his films). He does so in a way that makes it simply believable. We don’t need to get to the nitty-gritty. We just want to see what happens next. Wells then has the traveler go so far into the future that no one could ever refute what happens in the story. Too many time-travel stories make the mistake of setting the future to within one or two generations which quickly dates them, such as Back to the Future. In this book, the character travels hundreds of thousands of years. The world we see through the time traveler (since that is all we know him by) is one that is, for all we know, plausible.

Through clever writing and an engaging narrative despite several dated terms and a standard Victorian structure, The Time Machine holds up for modern audiences. It is shorter at around 120 pages and broken up into 12 chapters, which allows you to break up the reading if you don’t want to read it all in one go.

Happy Reading.