“The Fade Out: Act One” by Ed Brubaker

The Fade Out: Act One (The Fade Out, #1)(Author: Ed Brubaker) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

For some reason, I had completely different expectations about this book and I thought I was going to be reading a supernatural noir, instead of just a regular one.

The Fade Out, much to my disappointment, was a rather ordinary crime novel set in the late 40’s in Hollywood. I say disappointing, because this volume had every single characteristic of every other noir novel: a troubled main guy, who is unwillingly dragged into a murder investigation and has alcohol problems; a dead starlet; a shady media mogul; a shiny boytoy with a nasty personality; a good guy who is getting destroyed by the sad events, etc etc. As a plus, this book also has Clark Gable. It’s very fortunate that I watched Gone with the Wind just a couple of weeks ago, so I was more excited to see him than I normally would have been.

Character-wise, everyone is basically one of the cliches I listed above. Story-wise, the book isn’t much more original.

If I was expecting a supernatural thriller, it didn’t work out to begin with. However, even the volume that I ended up reading didn’t possess many redeeming qualities. Except for the art. I rather liked the art style. It had ups and downs – the ups being that it very well fit into the 40’s Hollywood style and it was very pretty; and the downs, a lot of the characters kind of looked like each other to a point I wasn’t sure who was who.

I usually go optimistically about comic book volumes, persuading myself to continue with the next ones, but I think I will pass on act II of The Fade Out.

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“I Served the King of England” by Bohumil Hrabal

I Served the King of England(Author: Bohumil Hrabal) + (Year: 1971) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Czech Republic)


Review:

I bought this book during my trip to Prague as part of my project to get a book or two in each new country I visit. Now, this is not my first Czech book, but I wanted to try a new Czech author nevertheless.

In my opinion, one of the best things about the book was actually the foreword. Unfortunately, I don’t have the book right now, so I can’t mention the author of the foreword, but they wrote a very informative, interesting and engaging analysis of both “I Served the King of England“, and Hrabal’s literature in general. Not knowing the author, it really helped me see some tendencies in his writing and in the themes he uses.

The book itself was not exactly to my liking. The story was rather interesting, but the atmosphere was very tight and suffocating. The main character was such a narrow-minded little man that his world was equally as small and claustrophobic. His experiences, even the ones he was most proud of and most happy about, always had a pinch of wrongness and just this general feeling about something dirty and repulsive happening. For example, as you can see in the cover of the book, he liked to put flowers in the pubic hair of the women he slept with. But those women were either prostitutes, or his Nazi-to-the-bone wife, and there was something very unpleasant and private about reading about his joy from this action.

I feel like this is something that often happens in European literature, and especially that of the ex-Communist countries. While in American literature even murder and gore are kind of shiny in description, in European literature, there is this sense of the author wanting to create shock in the reader through showing the reality in the most vulgar way possible. It is a thing I have always noticed in in every piece of art in Bulgaria – be it literature, movies, paintings, there is always sex. But it is not appealing, erotic sex. It’s always the kind of description of sex which makes you feel uncomfortable and in need of a hot shower and a lot of scrubbing.

This is how I felt while reading this book. And spoiler alert for my next Czech book – The Joke, – same thing there.

One thing which was mentioned in the foreword of the book which I couldn’t help but notice later on, was the fact that the character is always in need of proving himself and he is in a desperate need of attention and achieving every physical element of happiness and obtaining every material proof of success. While in character he is a spineless worm, in aspiration, he wants, and even briefly manages, to be rich and famous.

Setting everything about the story aside, Hrabal, undeniably, has a very good writing style. The descriptions he uses are very poetical and thought through. He guides the reader into his world and helps him see everything through exactly the right prism.

“I knew for certain that this girl could never be happy, but that her life would be sadly beautiful, and that life with her would be both an agony and a fulfillment for a man.”

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“The Last Wish” by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish(Author: Andrzej Sapkowski) + (Year: 1993) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Poland)


Review:

I’ve been hearing about this series for years, but it somehow never seemed like the right time to start reading it. I might or might not have mentioned recently relocating to Poland, but I did, and it somehow seemed like it was about time I also read Poland’s most famous fantasy series. Also, I was craving playing a game like Witcher, so I wanted to get into the mood before doing so.

This book had many pros and many cons for me. Most importantly:

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  1. The folklore. I loved the fact that the book included more original and unusual characters. The folklore in Europe and especially the Slavic countries is quite interesting and colorful, and for the most part, unpopular in Western media. I enjoyed the strange and obscure monsters Sapkowski used in the book.
  2. The setting. I really liked how the book basically showed this older version of the Slavic world/old Poland. The villages, the Slavic mentality, the originality of it all. I’ve been reading Western literature for the majority of my grown up life and it was very refreshing to see a more or less authentic look into my world as it once used to be. Instead of shiny kings and queens and knights, the world of the Witcher was all small villages and grimy old castles. Fun!

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  1. The first book was an anthology. Me no likey. It would have been much better if it had a continuous story instead of these short stories about different monsters the Witcher fought. Because that leads to…
  2. Repetitiveness. In a story like this, having similar events inevitably leads to having the same short story again and again with slight modifications in the personality of the victim and the monster.

From what I managed to find out, there will be a continuous story somewhere in the future of the series, so I guess I will be looking forward to that, at least, because I don’t want to give up on the Witcher yet.

 

“My Name is Sir Lanka” by November Gyllensvard

My Name Is Sir Lanka(Author: November Gyllensvard) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

If you are willing to go for a wild and totally mad book, this is a good choice!

I purchased this book from the author recently (have it autographed and all), and I knew a little about the story before I started reading it. However, in reality, it exceeded my expectations about how exactly crazy it could get.

As this book is November Gyllensvard‘s first one, and has yet to be introduced to more readers, I would assume you don’t know what it is about. Once you have read it… you still might not know.

The short version of the plot is: There’s a woman who is absolutely and totally unprepared to take on the world. The greatest joy in her life is drinking. In fact, nothing else gives her joy in life. So, logically, when she gets pregnant by accident, she is not much more ready for that next big adventure. She decides to abort the baby. But instead strikes up a friendship, or rather, a “frenemy”-ship with it. As a result of that, the baby, or later the grown man, Sir Lanka, decides that he is also not ready for the world and would prefer living in his mother’s womb for a very, very long time. 32 years, to be exact.

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I know this sounds insane. It is. The entire world of My Name is Sir Lanka is upside-down, absurd, and full of social satire. Don’t expect logic in this, there is none. Every cliche is trampled and spit upon. None of it makes sense, but in a way, in this cartoonish (often in a nasty and brutal way) world things do add up and compliment each other, if not our own world.

The problems that I had with My Name is Sir Lanka were as follows:

  1. The ending: the cliffhanger left us with very little closure for any of the stories. I would have preferred just a little bit more, so that at least a part of it ties up in a way, no matter how twisted or insane. This bothered me because it left me wondering where the entire story is headed to and whether it will actually arrive to a conclusion at any point (spoiler alert, not really: My Name is Sir Lanka is the first book of a series).
  2. The proofreading, or lack thereof: this is not such a big issue and had the opportunity to discuss it with the author. It’s understandable, as it is his first book, that there was no big publisher to take care of that, but it was there and it wasn’t easy to avoid. However, this is as much a fault of the author, as it is of the person who proofread it, and hopefully it will be fixed in the future editions.
  3. This one is not a big one, the methodical execution: for a book that relies so much on paradoxes and absurdity, all of that was put together all too neatly. It was visible how much care has been put into make it as crazy as possible. And a little bit more randomness might have gone along with the tone of the book, even if to make it more absurd. My reason to say this is that there is a thin line between doing something, and trying too hard. But! For a first book, I think it is another sin that doesn’t need to be scrutinized deeply.

Overall, I would say that My Name is Sir Lanka is the beginning of a wildly imaginative journey, and I do hope that it reaches more people.

“Deadpool, Vol. 2: Soul Hunter” by Brian Posehn

Deadpool, Volume 2: Soul Hunter(Author: Brian Posehn) + (Year: 2013) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Ya’know, Deadpool just keep getting more and more sad the more volumes I read. And also more insane.

By that, I mean that the humor and the jokes are still there, but the bitterness is entirely too tangible. Especially those moments when no one wants to team up with Deadpool, despite his best efforts to be helpful and despite the fact that he takes quite a few killing blows for it.

One thing worth mentioning is the first issue of this volume. It was drawn in a very old school comic book style and it looked so convincing, that I wondered whether they hadn’t actually taken old issues. Until I found out that Deadpool didn’t even exist at the time, that is.

The story with hell was also pretty interesting, as it was sort of convoluted and unexpected, but it worked out pretty cleverly.

I can’t say whether I really like Deadpool as a character, though. And that is not because everyone else also hates him, but because there is such a focus on that hatred, that his personality is half sad doofus, half other people’s view of stinky old Wade. So I kind of want to continue reading, and I kind of feel like it’s getting nowhere, because we only see the tip of his personality and it doesn’t really move beyond that.