Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Books Received; Rome; Extras; Nebula Awards 3; Alan Moore et al – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1; Frank Miller – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Posted by Mike on January 18, 2007

  • M. Rickert – Map of Dreams
  • Bruce Holland Rogers – The Keyhole Opera
  • Elizabeth Hand – Saffron & Brimstone
  • Avram Davidson – Adventures in Unhistory
  • Alan Moore – The Leage of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2

I’ve been working on my music databases for about a month or so, which has reduced my reading time quite a bit – in fact I’m pretty thrilled to be almost finished with this. Over the weekend I intertwined this work with catching up with the HBO series’ Rome and Extras. Rome is, at least, entertaining. Even though just about all the actors are British, at times the accents throw me out of the story, I’d like to think ancient Rome wasn’t positively Wodehousian like it can be in the show. The aim was to make people forget the Rome of the epic movies of the 60s. While the sex and violence contribute to doing so, I was still reminded of movies like Ben-Hur and Spartacus nonetheless. The show does succeed in playing with your empathy with various characters. Just when you think Titus could have been played by Mel Gibson or Stephen Seagal, he does something almost inexcusably brutal. The show does strike me as being flawed in some way. Part of it is that I don’t seem to make the temporal jumps with the story and have to sort it out later. Part of it is the questions raised. What happens to criminals that are crucified, but immediately set free? Were the orgies really this tame? Did the slaves do the bikini waxes or the priesthood?

Extras is perhaps more disappointing. I really dug Ricky Gervais’ The Office (even like the US version a little), but Extras strikes me as being something like a weak Curb Your Enthusiasm. Gervais’ character in The Office is hilariously oblivious of his actions (like Alan Partridge), his character in Extras much more knowing, and the trouble they get in rather minor. In fact what I liked about the show is some of the sweetness in the character moments, it does show that Extras has a heart. But, really, even though it’s already Season 2, with only 7 episodes aired, it hardly seems fair to judge it without letting it gather some steam.

I finished the third Nebula Award collection which was easy, as I’d already read about half of it: one of Ballard’s Vermilion Sands stories, Leiber’s Gonna Roll the Bones, Michael Moorcock’s Behold the Man and Anne McCaffrey’s Weyr Search (this latter novella making up her first Dragon book iirc). That left Harlan Ellison’s Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes (a fun story about a haunted slot machine), Gary Wright – Mirror of Ice, and Samuel R. Delany – Aye, and Gomorrah…  Been so long since I finished it that I don’t remember too many specifics of these last two shorts. I find myself continually underwhelmed by Delany for some reason.

And then a couple graphic novels. Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was apparently made into an atrocious hollywood movie with some startling plot and character changes. After reading this rather neat bit of Victorian fantasy I felt that to watch the movie might just ruin the impact for me. It’s almost what I’d call steampunk, Victorian England through the eyes of Jules Verne, H. G, Wells and the like. I definitely liked it enough to order the second volume.

I’m not much of a Batman fan, wasn’t really even when I was young, but Miller’s revamp of the character comes highly recommended in comic circles, so I figured I’d give it a try and I wasn’t disappointed. While it’s definitely a child of the 80s with the concerns of that decade, there’s at least one subplot that presaged 9/11 and the themes of terrorism run rampant throughout. Batman/Bruce Wayne is not the figure of the old TV series, old comics or new movies, he’s older, embittered and about to be pushed past his limits. The climax of the series, in which a showdown between Batman and another major superhero goes down, is suitably over the top in comic fashion. Batman’s Robin, a young 13 year old girl this time, is pretty delightful, even if you wonder over the plausibility of such a relationship happening.

Also read the essay in Avram Davidson’s Adventures in Unhistory on Aleister Crowley and although he misses a few things (like taking the myth of Crowley’s final words, “I am perplexed” as fact), it’s quite well done. He does make the important point that for someone who was supposed to be able to create gold, Crowley died penniless, but I think he forgets that the alchemists were often being metaphorical where this is concerned (well either metaphorial or full of shit anyway). I’d say such as statement is more akin to Davidson’s alchemic effect on the English language.

Anyway that’s about all for now. Haven’t been writing as much around here as Outer Music Diary is taking off again, feel free to stop on by, link on the right…

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