Friday, September 23, 2011

Reviews: A Trio of Graphic Novels ~ Electric Ant; The Dream Hunters; and The Hobbit


gn2 button

Reviews by Shellie: Three Graphic Novels ~  Electric Ant; The Dream Hunters; and The Hobbit.

To complete a challenge of three books for the Graphic Novels 2011 challenge (badge links to host’s site), while in England I borrowed three from their small local library. With baggage fees exploding I had allowed myself only two novels and my nook to take with us in my carry on, so the trio were a great find - we do not have them at our local library and the last two will be difficult to find for US readers.

The books included: Top two are for mature readers and one is for any and all ages. 

electric ant

Electric Ant ~ by Philip K. Dick (adapted by David Mack; illustrated by Pascal Aline)  US|UK|Canada. 128 pages; Marvel (June 1, 2011)

With gorgeous graphics, this is a sci fi novella for adults or mature and older teens. It is a metaphor for an existential trip that most of us unexpectedly take at one time or another - like the main character.

About:   It’s a graphic take on Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novella The Electric Ant, which was first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine in October 1969. It’s based around an android questioning his reason for existing after he discovers that he is not actually a human as he has believed. His shocking discovery leads to questions about who he is, his purpose, who created him, and if his behaviors are his own or programed by someone else. By opening himself up and examining his “pre-programed tapes” heelectricant_02 takes a trip into the past via some type of a time-warp. As he digs around inside his inner workings, it can be seen as a metaphor for an examination of his “psychological self”. Psycho-babble for sure but never the less a key concept.

Thoughts:   Definitely an adult novel as there are some very adult themes and images, sexual scenes and nudity (although the rude bits are glossed over). Three artists contributed to the novel but the main images displayed are by Pascal Aline.

The one thing that bothered me about the book was that the main character’s diggings and his apparent time travel felt unclear to me. I found myself wanting more and think I would like to read the actual version of Dick’s novella to compare. Hopefully Dick’s writing of the android’s existential experiences will be clearer in the original story. With that said, the graphics are completely wonderful, most of the story is darn good, the ending was one that I really liked and is completely appropriate as it reflects the time in which is was written - the late sixties. So on balance it’s a 3.5 stars.

Extra Info:   Marvel Comics adapted "The Electric Ant" as a limited series, in 2010. Produced by writer David Mack; French artist Pascal Alixe; and with covers provided by artist Paul Pope.  Also for an interesting indie short film based around the story which is about 6 minutes long link below. Cool but I was not crazy about the ending. Its called All Gates Open -

dream hunters 2

The Sandman - The Dream Hunters ~ by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Yoshitak Amano US ~ UK|Canada.  128 pages; Titan Books Ltd; New edition edition (22 Sep 2000)

An awarding winning novella, that has a dark and lovely rendition of a number of combined ancient fables. It’s gorgeously illustrated and celebrates Japanese mythology.

About:  A young Buddhist monk who is at peace with his life is in charge of a small temple set in some beautiful mountains in Japan. While attending to his his daily rituals and household maintenance he is emotionally accosted by two animals/spirits who want to live in his place. In their attempt to finagle the little church from the Zen priest, the fox falls in love with him. Later when his life is in danger from another selfish faction who would like to live his life, the fox spirit has no choice but to attempt to save him.the dream hunter

Thoughts:  This is a stand alone story from the Sandman series which I am only just learning about, it was apparently written after the series had been “retired”. Technically not a graphic novel, this is really a story with a lot of illustrations. Happily they are gorgeous – I love Japanese art. The text is incredible too – complex and yet very easy to read, which is a big favorite style for me.

the dream hunter 2It won several awards in 2000 including a Bram Stoker and a Hugo. In my research I also became aware that several other versions of the book have been printed and are using other artists in a more traditional comic book format, including a very recent version.  A warning for parents is that it is adult in nature with some very dark themes, so I would not give this book to children or immature teens. The story contains “dream hunters” which are particularly menacing – very cool but scary. I am thinking nightmares here.

I loved this book at 4 stars and I am now a fan of Neil Gaiman. Believe it or not this is the first of his books that I’ve read. So what’s next? Perhaps American Gods before the movie comes out? I better get cracking here!

Please note that the version I read is not available at Amazon in the US so links for purchase are for the most recent which is pictured above left. 144 pages; Vertigo; Reprint edition (October 5, 2010). It is however available in the UK and Canada. For more information link to Wikipedia's page for - The Dream Hunters

the hobbit GN1

The Hobbit ~ by J.R.R. Tolkien; adapted by David Wenzel US ~ UK|Canada. 133 pages;  Imprint unknown

An epic story, with cute and colorful drawings about the famous Tolkien hobbit, who finds one of the fabled rings which become an important part of the continuing saga of The Lord of the Rings.

About:  Bilbo Baggins is happy with his quiet life in his little cottage when the wizard Gandalf and a group of dwarves invite themselves for tea and drag him along on an incredible adventure. Unbeknown to him, he is to play an important role in its success and become the story's reluctant hero.

Thoughts:   Recommended for all ages, this is a wonderful introduction to Tolkien for anyone who is daunted by his books. I know I had difficulties accessing them as a youngster (and as an adult too) and thought this would be a perfect substitute. I loved the cute and colorful pictures golemand the text was so pleasant and easy to digest. It would be wonderful for children of almost any age. Including kids of the ancient variety!

The particular version, which I read in the UK, was apparently written for the local population; some of the wording and references may be difficult for a US reader. So be aware of your version and don’t let anyone tell you that books don’t need to be translated from UK English to US English. It was a fun and lovely read at  3.5 stars. I can now say I have finally read – The Hobbit.

The version shown above is out of print for the US and its cover art is not the same: 144 pages; Harper Collins (1991). For the UK this version is also out of print but is available used. In Canada there are new copies and it looks like one is available in French.

I recommend that everyone pick up a graphic novel as soon as possible - they are so much fun and such a different experience. Use them as an excuse to read a book that you wouldn’t normally read or get through – like myself with The Hobbit. I am now thinking perhaps I will get through Pride and Prejudice this way …. or not. *grin*

These three books will also be included in a bundle of other challenges: The 42 - Sci Fi; The Basics; and Fill in the Gaps. 

Have a great day since it’s Friday. Its fish and chips night for us here in the desert, so we can dream we are in England!


logankstewart said...

A Gaiman (and Sandman, in particular)) fan, I've not read this book. I've read the entire Sandman run, and absolutely love it, so one day I hope to hit this one. Great review!

As for the Hobbit graphic novel. I read this very version and deplored it. Too many words per page for a graphic novel, you ask me. The artwork was gorgeous, and the text was nice, just everything seemed so disproportionate. I'd just as soon read the book. Still, for someone unfamiliar with Tolkien's novel, this is a great tool, albeit poorly designed.

Unknown said...

Logan -
Thanks *grin*
Yes I remember you loving the Sandman books. I was happy to find this because of that and that it is a stand alone. It is wonderful - this version is anyway.

I get what your saying about it being difficult to read with too many word in the little bubbles. It did not bother me and did enjoy it.

I hope you entered the Bledsoe contest and you did not say anything about Electric Ant?


logankstewart said...

Oddly enough, I've never read any Philip K. Dick, even though I am ~somewhat~ familiar with him. That said, the book sounds slightly interesting, if a tad uninspired. (Uninspired, even though the man gave us Do Androids Dream...)

And yes, I entered the Bledsoe contest. I'd love to win that book!

Unknown said...

Logan -
This is not written by him so I think it missed some important cues... but the pictures in this one are gorgeous and worth the read. It will only take you a couple of hours. With that being said I would not buy the book only if you love it.

Good - I hope you win.. I always want to cheat a little for friends but how ethical would that be. Good luck!!!!

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