Posts in category 'books'

  • Review: Preludes and Nocturnes

    Review of Preludes and Nocturnes (The Sandman #1.0) by Neil Gaiman (9781563892271)★★★★ #books (https://b-ark.ca/MESkM8)

    In 1916, Dream is captured and encased in a glass globe in a failed attempt by a fictional Edwardian magician (very much in the vein of Aleister Crowley) named Roderick Burgess to bind Death and attain immortality. Dream bides his time for decades until Burgess dies. Afterwards, his son Alexander becomes Dream's new captor. Finally, in 1988, Alex's guards grow careless and the guards watching him fall asleep in his presence, allowing Dream to use the sand from their dream to his benefit. When the guards awake and break the seal Dream was in, he is then able to escape. Dream punishes Alex by cursing him to experience an unending series of nightmares. The rest of the story concerns Dream's quest to recover his totems of power, which were dispersed following his capture: a pouch of sand, a helm and a ruby. The pouch is being kept by a former girlfriend of John Constantine's. Once that is recovered, Dream travels to hell to regain the helm from a demon, where he incurs the wrath of Lucifer (an enmity that will have major repercussions later in the series). The ruby is in the possession of John Dee, a.k.a. Doctor Destiny, a supervillain from the Justice League of America series. He has warped and corrupted the ruby, rendering Dream unable to use it, and with it he nearly tears apart the Dreaming. However, thinking that it will kill Dream, Dee shatters the ruby, inadvertently releasing the power that Dream had stored in the ruby and restoring Dream to his full power. The collection ends with "The Sound of Her Wings", an epilogue to the first story-arc. This issue introduces a character who has become one of the series' most popular and prominent personalities: Dream's older sister Death. She is depicted as an attractive, down-to-earth young goth girl, very unlike the traditional personification of death, and spends the issue talking Dream out of his brief post-quest depression.

    While the first story arc of the Sandman series is fairly straightforward quest fare, you can see why the series gained the success it did. Gaiman is, of course, a fanastic writer, and the mythos he creates, here, is truly intriguing. But it is the final issue in the collection, The Sound of Her Wings, where the series truly takes off. The entire plotline is sweet and subdued, infused with a depth of emotion lacking in the previous tales. And Gaiman’s vision of the anthropomorphic personification of Death is brilliant, quirky and original,kand serves as a pitch-perfect contrast to the reserved Morpheus.

  • Review: David Copperfield

    Review of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (9783730988817)★★★★★ #books (https://b-ark.ca/q_4cQC)

    The story traces the life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity. David is born in Blunderstone, Suffolk, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, in 1820, six months after the death of his father. David spends his early years with his mother and their housekeeper, Peggotty. When he is seven years old his mother marries Edward Murdstone. David is given good reason to dislike his stepfather and has similar feelings for Murdstone's sister Jane, who moves into the house soon afterwards. Murdstone attempts to thrash David for falling behind in his studies. David bites him and soon afterwards is sent away to a boarding school, Salem House, with a ruthless headmaster, Mr. Creakle. There he befriends James Steerforth and Tommy Traddles.

    Well, after at least of month of effort, I finally finished David Copperfield (just in time, too, given the start of cycling season, which has put a rather sizeable dent in my available reading time), and I must say, it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long long time. Of course, this probably shouldn’t be surprising, Dickens being considered one of the greatest English language authors… ever, really. But, given my general aversion to “classics” (despite my constant effort to read them), the language often being difficult to digest, and the comprehension of the subject matter often reliant on knowledge about the period the work was written in, I was skeptical. Victorian period pieces? How enjoyable a read could that possibly be?

    Turns out, very enjoyable! Dickens is considered a great master of characterization, and I never really understood what that meant until I read this book. Unlike most books, where my drive to read is fueled by a desire to find out “what happens next”, aided by little breadcrumbs the author sprinkles along the way, when reading David Copperfield, I found it was the characters I cared about. Would Mr. Micawber ever sort out his financial woes? Would Uriah Heep’s hold on Mr. Wickfield be loosed, and would he get his comeuppance? Would Traddles finally get married? Would Mr. Dick finally exorcise King Charles I from his mind? It really was a unique reading experience, sad and serious at times, uproariously funny at others (every time I read the closing on one of Mr. Micawber’s letters, I quite literally laughed out loud).

    So, if you can handle a slightly more challenging read (the language isn’t difficult, just different in style), I’d suggest checking out David Copperfield. Meanwhile, I can now dig into Nicholas Nickleby… expect another review in, say, three months time.