The Sandman

Sandman and the Endless

Sandman and the Endless by Jim Lee & Jeremy Roberts

I have to admit that The Sandman was an interesting journey to say the least. I haven’t read many comics (despite knowing many comic characters and stories [no, not just Marvel ones]), but it is a unique medium that is worth looking into if you have been hesitant to do so. Of course, there are tons of stories within the medium and you simply need to find one you are interested in. I decided to begin Sandman for various reasons: I’ve heard friends talk about it, I’ve seen it show up several times in circles of interest, and one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, wrote it. Granted, a comic is a product of much collaboration and creation and each contributor deserves their due. Some contributors changed throughout the series, but here are those who created the first issue titled “Sleep of the Just”: Neil Gaiman (writer), Sam Kieth & Mike Dringenberg (artists), Todd Klein (letters), Daniel Vozzo (colors), Art Young (assistant editor), and Karen Berger (editor).

I acquired the Omnibus Editions Continue reading

Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood coverIt has been over a month since my last recommendation. This is partly due to my reading slump and other demands on my time, but today I am recommending a story that is one I consider top-tier. This is the manga series Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. I first discovered this story via the anime adaptation which has two versions (which I will discuss shortly), but first let’s begin with a quick blurb to see if this is the type of story you are interested in.

“In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Their journey to restore their bodies through the power of the Philosopher’s Stone begins here.”

That was taken from the back of volume one of the deluxe edition. There are 18 volumes included in the deluxe edition and 27 in the original version (the deluxe editions combine the 27 into 18 hardcover volumes).

I hope this caught your interest, because as I stated above, this story is incredible. The Elric brothers are alchemists. Alchemy, for a simple explanation, could be equated to magic. The entire system centers on the Law of Equivalent Exchange. For example, by using the right alchemical formula, an alchemist could change water into hydrogen by removing the oxygen. The correct materials are present. They can change the chemical and/or physical makeup of things with alchemy but only if the materials are present. Alchemy cannot therefore create something from nothing. Except perhaps with the Philosopher’s Stone.

Though I recently read the manga series for the first time, I did watch the 2003 adaptation Fullmetal Alchemist and the 2009 adaptation titled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The reason two versions exist isn’t simply that the latter is a remake. The first was adapted while the manga was still being written and the show went on past the published material and thus took creative liberties to conclude the series resulting is quite a few differences from the source material. The 2009 adaptation is more accurate as the series had been completed and it therefore stayed true to the source material. This is perhaps why I believe it to be the better version.

What I like about this series is the blend of comedy, drama, ethics, morality, and the questions of what it means to be human and what is the value of a human life. It covers topics such as genocide, so this series does delve into some heavy areas and there are some impactful moments, one of which stands out as a forever “too soon” reference within the fandom. If you’ve read or watched this series, then you likely know what I am referring to.

The series is rich with interesting characters both good and bad. I would even dare to call it timeless due to the nature of the worldbuilding and the fact it centers on those questions that humanity will always be considering despite the fact no concrete answer will ever be possible.

If you’ve never heard of this series, then I hope you look into it either by reading or watching. I of course recommend print format but also the 2009 adaptation if you want to watch it. Both versions are currently available on Netflix. In the spirit of Equivalent Exchange. I thank you for reading my post and I hope you got something from it that you find as valuable as the time spent reading it.

Happy Reading.

A Note on Recent Adaptations

I previously posted about a few film and television adaptations I was excited to see that were all based on books I had read. I wanted to follow up about those adaptations and have a little discussion about adaptations in general from a the viewpoint of a fan of the original work.

DuneFirst, I absolutely enjoyed the film adaptation of Dune. I thought the film followed the book pretty well even though it has been a few years since I had read it. I am excited for the second movie that should wrap up the content of the first book. I hear rumors that there may even be a chance for a third movie that I assume would delve into a few of the sequels. I am okay with that of course. The story, and the adaptation, is great and having to wait an additional year to see it was worth it in my opinion.

Next, The Wheel of Time as adapted into a television series by Amazon. I read this series a few years ago. It is a huge series at 15 books (including the prequel) with an average book length of approximately 800 pages. It is one of the longest series I have read and I enjoyed it immensely.

Wheel of Time' Recap Season 1 Episode 3 — Questing Party Splits Up | TVLineThe fans are split on this one and reasonably so. The television series finished the first season in December and it consisted of 8 episodes. Those 8 episodes covered a lot of ground but changed nearly all aspects of the story aside from the characters themselves and the core story meaning the general events are in the show but the details are altered or omitted entirely which I think is what many hardcore fans dislike. I understand the issues they take with the adaptation, but I stand more in agreement with the same hardcore fans who are simply thrilled to see their favorite series on screen. Am I bothered by the many changes and implicit disregard for detail? Of course, but not to the extent that I would review-bomb the show or hope that they cancel it altogether. I think that is ridiculous. You don’t have to continue watching a show if you don’t like it, but why would you go out of your way to complain or bash a show that others do enjoy. Especially at the very beginning of the series.

I’ll admit, the changes and progression of the story did seem lacking to me, but I still want to watch it. I may be less excited to watch it, but the production is top-notch and seeing some of the cities and monsters and magic that are within this story is simply awesome.

Netflix's live-action Cowboy Bebop is canceled - The VergeFans getting upset and throwing tantrums like spoiled children is always a bad look. Which brings me to the next adaptation I want to discuss: Cowboy BebopThis series, produced by Netflix, is a live-action adaptation of an anime that first released in the 1990s. I am a fan of the original series and must admit that I loved the adaptation. Yes, the adaptation is almost entirely different from the original series, but I think it works for a variety of reasons. The first being that the original series is almost more of an anthology than a story-driven series, meaning each episode was it’s own mini-story that involved our main characters. I think the live-action kept (almost) all the characters true to their original personas. It includes a lot of similar mini-plots while alluding to others from the original series. We get more backstory on a few major characters which I liked too. The graphics were top-notch and some of the fight scenes were incredible.

However, so many so-called fans were upset and disliked the show enough that season two was cancelled. There is a petition by fans to have the second season made, and I hope it does get made. I would like to see more. One last note on this one: nearly all live-action adaptations of anime shows have been treated harshly (many for good reason), and this show may be the best live-action adaptation out there.

There are a few more adaptations that I am looking forward to or need to catch up on. For example, I need to watch season two of The Witcher and I am looking forward to watching Amazon’s new show The Rings of Power which is a Lord of the Rings show that will take place presumably well before the original story. Some “fans” have already bashed the show simply because of the title. They know nothing else about it but are already mad simply because of the title. I mean….really?

I guess my main point of this post is that there are too many people complaining about an adaptation not following the source material verbatim or that it is taking too many liberties or isn’t what they wanted and therefore are complaining like they were entitled to get their version of it. Even if it is a quality show on its own. Fandoms can be toxic and can bleed into any medium. All I’m saying is let things be, especially if other fans do enjoy the adaptations. Re-read the book or simply watch the original show again.

Every reader envisions the story, or a character, a bit differently. They make it their own. That is what is great about books. They are a personal experience. If an adaptation doesn’t live up to your specific vision or experience, then let it go and move on. Let the people who do like it enjoy it.

Ryan’s Favorite Reads of 2021

2021 has been an interesting year for reading. I have been extremely busy which cut into my reading time, but you always have to make time for the things you enjoy and which help you recharge your batteries. I can still proudly say I met and passed my goal of 50 books per year. Here are my reading highlights for this past year.

Library at Mount Char book coverThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

This one may be my favorite of the year and I definitely consider it a hidden gem. I’m just glad I jot the name down when I first heard of it. It is a difficult story to explain simply but it is a mystery riddled with science fiction and fantasy elements that leave you wondering at the true nature of the universe. I absolutely loved it.

Tokyo Ghoul Monster Edition Volume 1 CoverTokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida

I was a fan of the show and I must admit the manga series is better (as is typically the case). I say this primarily because the show deviates from or does not include some critical information that would have made it that much better. Overall, this story is one that captures my interest so much I was tempted to write a few essays about the juxtaposition of ghouls and humans living in the same world. To put this one in an easier frame of reference, I would almost name it as a modern day classic of horror in the same vein as Dracula. I’m not even a horror fan but I love this series.

The Queen's Gambit Netflix BannerThe Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

I read this one earlier this year after watching the Netflix adaptation. The show does a really great job of following the story in the book, and I greatly enjoyed the show. You can likely skip the book (sounds blasphemous, I know) if you have seen the show because it follows the story that well.

The Parable of the Sower book coverThe Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

I read this one way back at the beginning of the year. I wanted to read something by Octavia Butler and this did not disappoint. I still want to read more of her work but it will be after I get through a few other books. This one takes place during the decline of civilization, which basically on the brink of entering a post-apocalyptic territory, so it does enter some darker territory. The writing and overall story is incredible though.

MythosMythos by Stephen Fry

Greek mythology is one of–if not–the most popular of world mythologies, and Stephen Fry does an excellent job with his retelling of these myths. He takes things from the very beginning and through to the more well-known stories. He reads the audiobook version which made it even more enjoyable.

Castle in the Air Book CoverCastle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

You an never go wrong with Diana Wynne Jones. This was the companion novel to her other book Howl’s Moving Castle which is a favorite of mine, and this one (though not a sequel and barely tied to the first book) was a magical journey well worth the read.

On Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne JonesI first discovered Diana Wynne Jones through the adaptation of her book Howl’s Moving Castle by the well-known film company Studio Ghibli. I love the film and the book, and the two other books she wrote that tie into that world. Since finding her work, I’ve become more interested in her as an artist. Perhaps this may be partly influenced by stories told about her by other authors I like, such as Neil Gaiman who wrote about her and how he first met her. I don’t know why, but I’ll never forget that little story (if you want to know about it, you can read it in his book A View From the Cheap Seats).

I read her book Reflections: On the Magic of Writing which is almost more a memoir than a book about the craft, which suited me just fine. I learned more about her, which made me want to learn even more about her. One thing that really stuck out to me was that she had both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as professors when she attended Oxford. Her thoughts on both of them were amusing to be honest. She had an interesting childhood though tough at times. Her wonder for the world never diminished despite living through darker moments of human history (primarily referencing World War II here). Her stories are skillfully written but are often marketed to children. I think she wrote them for children, but I think they have something for everyone, especially for adults who have forgotten the wonder they once held for the world.

I hope to introduce or read her stories to my children. They are magical and wholesome. I’m curious how my reading habits would have been different had I discovered her books earlier. I was probably mid-twenties when I first found them. Now that I have, I can return to them when needed so as to (hopefully) never lose my own sense of wonder in the whirlwind of adult responsibilities. I am grateful to have the opportunity. I am grateful she wrote her stories and let them out into the world. I’m sure she has impacted more lives than she could have dreamed possible. Diana Wynne Jones passed away in 2011 at the age of 77. Her works will likely live on for a long time. Much longer than my own lifetime at least, because once you discover a book that nestles its way into your heart, it will remain there forever to bring you comfort and joy. My hope is that you give her work a chance if you have not done so already. Of course, I suggest starting with Howl’s Moving Castle.