Kiyohiko Azuma, Yotsuba&! (2003-today)

Author: Kiyohiko Azuma

Title: Yotsuba&!

Series: manga slice-of-life/shoujo

Yotsuba&! is a slice of life manga depicting the life of a little eccentric girl in a small Japanese town. Piotrek waxed lyrical about this manga before, many times, and for a long time I just nodded amiably and continued not to read it ;). I guess tastes change, though, and about a year or two ago I gave Yotsuba&! a try – and never regretted it. While it starts slowly and somewhat clumsily, it quickly finds a way to one’s heart. Admittedly, the first few tankobon volumes were just okay for me, and filled me with suspicious questions, such as “how a single male in early thirties can become an adoptive father of a four-year-old girl?” or “why are we seeing a spread of a teenage girl showing off her curves to a bunch of single guys twice her age?” Yup, I had my doubts. For a “realistic” manga, a slice-of-life comedy, this was going in strange directions.

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Keith Roberts, Pavane (1966)

Author: Keith Roberts

Title: Pavane

Format: paperback

Pages: 242

Series: –

Pavane has been hailed as a masterpiece by writers as different as Neil Gaiman and G.R.R. Martin. It certainly has all the markings of a writers’ book, for those inspired by Roberts’s work are various and many (and even Pratchett might be among them). While it’s usually classified as alternate history, I rather agree with my library’s categorization – it’s a science fiction book, though the telltale signs are very subtle and few in number, limited mostly to the epilogue, called Coda. In a way, Roberts’s work reminded me strongly of Wolfe, although obviously it’s the other way round: Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun actually seems to have been guided to some extent by Pavane.

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M. John Harrison, Light (2002)

Author: M. John Harrison

Title: Light

Format: paperback

Pages: 320

Series: Empty Space (Kefahuchi Tract) #1

Another review that I find hard to write; but it must be said that it is an unusual book. If I were to characterize it in just a few words, I’d say it’s a prologue 300 pages long. Seriously. It’s built like a card trick: a lengthy setup with a short, delightful payoff. One thing I can attest to, though, is that it has a great ending.

Apart from this, however, Harrison’s Light is an uneven concoction of seemingly disparate elements: effusive technobabble and slick, brutal cyberpunk cant go hand in hand with mysticism worthy of the best – or at least most murky – of the New Age prophets. While ostensibly there is a story, even one in two timelines, it’s more of an allegory, burdened down with heavy symbolism and filled with characters who were created with an ulterior motive. Truth be told, this last sentence is something I could put in my every other review, so there’s that ;). If I sound overly critical, however, I am not. I actually, quite surprisingly, enjoyed this book.  But Harrison doesn’t make it easy for readers to like his novel. Introducing as our guide a genius physicist cum pathetic serial killer on the run from a menacing entity, the author makes it somewhat difficult to get his readers (or at least this reader) invested in the story. And that’s only the beginning of a wild Tarot-inspired journey through the labyrinth of the author’s own psyche. 

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Philip Caputo, A Rumour of War (1977)

Author: Philip Caputo

Title: A Rumour of War

Format: Paperback

Pages: 354

Series: –

This book deserves all the laudatory reviews and paeans it can get. I could actually leave my review at that, but, you know, I was never known for short reviews, let alone one-sentence ones. 😉 I’ll keep my review short this time, though. But before I delve into it I need to write a little about my recent absences from the blog, as it looks as if the situation will continue.

So, life has this habit of getting in the way of the best laid plans, and while I had planned to keep my engagement with this blog on the same levels as last year, it clearly isn’t happening. I might go deeper into various reasons that conspired to result in this particular effect, but in truth, it’s all rather boring, usual stuff 😉 In short: more things to do, on many fronts, and some decisions to make for the future. I will be on the blog as often as I can, but just so you know, in the next few months it won’t be as often as it had been before. I will still continue to haunt your blogs and comment, hopefully more often than not, and whether you want it or not, but I won’t be “here” that much 😉

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