Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul Monster Edition Volume 1 CoverTokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida is the first manga/graphic novel series I have read. I originally watched the show and have always heard the source material was better (as is often the case), so I recently read the entire series and it is a ride. I have a lot of thoughts about this series, but to keep things spoiler-free, I will refrain from going into details and will focus on the story and characters without giving anything away (except for the initial events that set up the entire story).

First, the premise. This series centers around the dichotomy of humans and ghouls. Ghouls look like humans, but can only survive by eating humans. Their consumption of humans increases a type of cell in their bodies that allows them to wield organic weapons that extend from their bodies (this is actually pretty cool for fight scenes). They blend into human society in order to survive and several ghouls try to live “normal” lives. Some even try to sustain themselves without killing while others throw caution to the wind and kill as they please. This is of course a problem, and the Commission of Counter Ghoul (CCG) is a specific agency aimed at eradicating ghouls from human society by tracking and eliminating ghouls.

The story follows the character of Ken Kaneki. He is a normal, shy, human college kid. After an accident, he receives an organ transplant but the organs were from a ghoul. Ken finds himself forced to navigate ghoul society once he realizes he can no longer eat human food. He is no longer human but he is not quite a full ghoul either.

Ken’s journey is a long and arduous one as he attempts to adapt to his new circumstances. I won’t go into details as this would defeat the purpose of this recommendation, so I hope the information so far has peaked your interest or maybe helped you realize this may not be a story for you.

I will add a few warnings though. This story is gruesome (if you couldn’t tell by the premise) and Ken Kaneki may have the worst luck of any character I have ever read. Sui Ishida took the “kill your darlings” idea and ran with it because this series delves into psychological aspects that are rare in any form of literature. This goes without even mentioning the physical aspects involved in this story. Another warning is that this story goes in unexpected directions and some storylines or characters may not get a clear cut resolution, meaning some things may seem unresolved. I know this can bother many readers, myself included, but I also felt the overarching story wraps up as well as it can. Sui Ishida provides a brief, personal story at the very end of the series about his time working on the story that I think contributes to providing a satisfied end.

My last warning is more a heads up about a major change that occurs halfway through. This series is split into two parts. The original Tokyo Ghoul is 14 volumes and covers much of Ken’s journey. The second part is titled Tokyo Ghoul:re which consists of 16 volumes and begins 2-3 years after the events of part one. The time gap and changes to characters/events proves to be a hard adjustment for many fans mainly because there is not much explanation as to how it happens. It does get briefly explained later on and hopefully by the time you get this far (if you choose to read it) you will be absorbed in the story and will need to know how it concludes.

The show follows the main storyline fairly well but there are significant changes to several events and some information or arcs are left out. These missing events are what cause some confusion in the show. Though I still really like the show, I will admit I enjoyed the graphic novels much more. Each volume can be read quickly and I think the artwork is fantastic.

I realize this is the first graphic novel series I’ve recommended, but I’m sure I will be exploring more storylines in this format so there will be more to come. I honestly believe great stories are available in any medium and I hope this one is not a barrier for you. If you are already familiar with this medium, I hope this story interests you. There is so much I’d love to discuss about this story and how it comments on our own society, but this is just a brief insight for you to see if you would like to read it yourself.

Happy Reading.

The Man Who Was Thursday

The Man Who Was ThursdayThe Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton was first published in 1908. I put G.K. Chesterton on my list of authors to read after several authors whose work I enjoy had mentioned him as an influence on their own work and desire to be an author. The book Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is actually dedicated to G.K. Chesterton.

This book is actually a short, quick read and is a strange but fun mystery that involves an undercover policeman infiltrating a group of anarchists. The story is surprisingly accessible despite being written so long ago and there were only a few instances of behaviors, word use, or societal impressions being somewhat dated.

The story keeps you turning the page to find out what happens next but the ending is surprisingly open to interpretation, which has me remaining uncertain how I feel about the whole venture. Regardless, I think it was a good read and it is always interesting to read stories written long ago even if it is to catch a glimpse of a past world.

I’m sure there are several other Chesterton stories that I may enjoy better than this one, and I am going to try a few more of his novels to better understand his influence of modern authors (and of course to enjoy more good books). If, like me, you were completely unaware of G.K. Chesterton prior to him being mentioned in a book (or perhaps even this blog), then you may now be interested in sampling his work or finding out more about him. This one is a good start I think because of its brevity.

Happy Reading.

The Queen’s Gambit

The Queen's Gambit Netflix Banner

The Queen’s Gambit follows the character of Beth Harmon who is orphaned at a young age. Shortly after, she learns the game of chess and is a prodigy. Her various experiences and battles both on and off the chessboard will captivate your attention and have you wanting to know what happens next.

I must admit I simply love the story of The Queen’s Gambit. There are just many different factors that capture your attention, and I’ve always had a fascination with chess. I first discovered this story by watching Netflix’s adaptation. I wasn’t aware it was a book at first, so of course I picked up the book and read it after finishing the miniseries. The miniseries consists of seven episodes and is a phenomenal adaptation that follows the exact events of the book with few, minor changes that have no real impact on the story. The show is one of the best adaptations of a book I have come across if I’m honest. That being said, even though I knew everything that was going to happen, the book was still a fun read with exciting moments.

This only goes to show how well Walter Tevis can write. Tevis wrote seven books during his lifetime. The Queen’s Gambit is the fourth of his novels to be adapted into film. The other three were made into the movies The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Color of Money, and The Hustler. Tevis died in 1984 at the age of 56, just a year after The Queen’s Gambit was published.

Again, I have always enjoyed the game of chess, but I have not had many opportunities to play it. I learned from my father when I was around seven or eight years old. I vividly remember approaching him at the kitchen table as he was drinking coffee and asked him to teach me how to play the game. I never studied the game enough to know the designations of the squares on the board or any strategies that are found within this book. I merely played because I enjoyed it and it stimulated thought. It makes you strategize and there are many possibilities that can happen within a single move. There was a period where I would find people to play and for a short time I had several of my friends playing with me. The last time I can remember playing was in my early years at college. I haven’t played for many years now, but perhaps I will get back into it.

One thing I noticed after the show was released was an increase of interest in the game. I work at a university and I came across several students who were learning to play or picking it back up themselves. They had all seen the show. Both the show and the book create an interest in the game or make you want to play. I think this is because it delves into stratagem but also makes each game interesting in its own way. It makes the board seem like an entire world where anything is possible. A field where individual triumph or defeat is possible. Tevis was a player himself and the Author’s Note at the start of the book expresses his appreciation to the players who helped him ensure the games within the book were strategically sound exchanges.

I have also talked with several others who have watched the series who have no interest in the game of chess whatsoever. They still enjoyed the show because the story isn’t only about chess. It is about the interesting character of Beth Harmon who faces many struggles outside of chess as well. Thus, I consider this a story that many people will enjoy because of these universal elements. Whether you decide to watch it or read it, I hope you enjoy this story as well.

Happy reading….or binge-watching.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian book coverThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was first published in 2007 and won the National Book Award for Young Peoples Literature the same year. This story is a semi-autobiographical account about a young, aspiring cartoonist who makes the difficult decision to attend high school outside of the Spokane Indian Reservation. This decision draws much criticism from those on the reservation, and turns his best friend into his worst enemy.

I hate to say that Native American communities gain very little recognition today, but I may just be saying this simply because there are no reservations near my geographical region and there are very few, if any, members of this population in my area. I must admit my own ignorance when I first thought this book was published a few decades earlier than it was, but technically the story is based on events from many years ago so perhaps that is why I had this impression. Regardless, I am surprised at how recent this book has been published (yes is was over a decade ago, but I am getting old now so what is time really?).

One reason I enjoyed this book as much as I did was because of my lack of exposure. I have had little opportunity to learn from this extremely underrepresented community. This book is a surprising insight into this community with all of the economical hardships and difficult cultural dynamics.

Though this book does take place during our protagonist’s initial high school years, I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of fifteen (or anyone whose maturity is around that age). I say this because there are some topics that, though part of life, can be difficult to read. The substance abuse, primarily alcohol, and how it impacts this community is alarming. I know this has become somewhat of a stereotype, but this book explores a few of the reasons why many turn to drinking. It is also alarming how common it is for young Native Americans to attend funerals. I hope this may be more fictionalized than it is in reality, but it feels as though it is just a hope.

This book is a great insight into a community many of us likely have little or no knowledge outside of a brief mention in history books. This story gives us a glimpse into their current livelihood, a group of people seemingly caught between holding onto their heritage and complete assimilation. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a quick, funny, heartbreaking, and hopeful read that I believe you should give a chance.

Happy Reading.

The Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower book coverI have been meaning to read Octavia Butler for some time. She is an author who I have heard about from several sources and I finally got around to reading one of her books. I started with The Parable of the Sower. I had no idea what it was really about, and I’m sure if I had known, I would probably not have read it at this time. Though I really did enjoy the book despite my reasons for saying I would have put it off a bit longer.

The Parable of the Sower is basically a pre-apocalyptic novel. The events of the story show a fairly realistic degradation of society into the fairly popular apocalyptic scenarios we see today with such shows as The Walking Dead or Mad Max (they did make a new one) or what have you. I honestly envisioned the events of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road taking place a decade or two after this story. But this book isn’t all doom and gloom. It definitely doesn’t shy away from darker material, but uses it only in a realistic way. It doesn’t contain anything simply for shock value and it is overall a compelling read that is excellently written. I kept picking it up despite the need to decompress at times.

This book is part one of a duology titled The Books of Earthseed. Though we see the world slide into chaos through young Lauren’s eyes, we see a resilient character build a community around her beliefs that may shape the future of humanity. The story begins in 2024 and spans about 4 years. This book was published in 1993 when 2024 seemed a long way off. Now, here at the start of 2021, we are close enough that the events of the book seem near impossible (but not entirely, unfortunately). Though the dates within the book began as a solemn foretelling of a potential future, it will soon become a (hopefully) alternate timeline story of what may have been. A future I hope we all avoid. Except, of course, for the part where we have settlements on the moon and Mars.

The second book is titled The Parable of the Talents. I will not be reading the sequel right away for two reasons. The first is that this first book wraps up well and can be read as a standalone novel. The second is that I hope to read something a bit more uplifting before returning to this story. Again, I really did enjoy this book despite the subject matter. I don’t often read end-of-the-world type books though I have read a few and enjoyed them. This one was no exception. If anything, it has encouraged me to read more by Octavia Butler. Her novel Kindred is more well-known and I may try it some time this year.

If you are a fan of these types of books, such as Wanderers by Chuck Wendig or Stephen King’s The Stand, then you will likely enjoy this book as well. If you have never read Octavia Butler, like I had not until now, I suggest trying her books even if you don’t choose to start with this one. I look forward to reading more by her myself.

Happy Reading.