Book Review: Watchmen by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore

At first glance, the bright appearance and comic book format of Watchmen may seem to just be any other superhero comic book, with an ensemble cast of heroes trying to save the world. However, from the opening pages, the uniquely real art and the darker tone establishes that this is anything but a simple superhero story. As the plot advances, Moore further cements this by showing the reader that the heroes in the world of Watchmen are just regular people who happen to be gifted with superpowers. This approach is what I believe inspired shows like the Boys, who take the same cynical approach to writing a superhero story.

The writing and story are very dense, but I think it never gets to be too much for the reader. One of the things I thought Moore does best is his use of flashbacks, both to give you a broader and more in-depth context of events happening in the book while also showing you that the heroes you see in the story have gone almost out of fashion. Another element that elevated Watchmen is the art done by Dave Gibbons and colored by John Higgins, which perfectly matches the tone of the story and sets a thick and developed atmosphere.

The story itself covers an alternate timeline where the US won the Vietnam War, and depicts the political and social atmosphere approaching WWII. The heroes of Watchmen are all very realistic and morally grey, and the plot covers them coming out of retirement to investigate the murder of an old hero and later uncover a plan with global consequences.

I personally really enjoyed Watchmen, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in comic books or superhero stories. However, I encourage people who usually don’t read comic books or are interested in things like superheroes to try Watchmen, as it’s unique approach and mature story appeal to many more people than just comic book fans.

-Orod S.

Watchman by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

This book was gifted to me by my uncle, and to be honest is not the type of thing I would ever take off the shelf myself. From the outside, A book that promises a history of all of western philosophy can sound very intimidating, but I think Gaarder does a great job and breaking all of this information down into bite sizes pieces for the reader.

Also, I think Gaarder does a good job of giving just enough information about each philosopher or method of thinking to give the reader a good overall understanding of each subject, while still encouraging the reader to seek out more info about everything covered in the book. Personally, I used my notes app to write down certain ideas or philosophers I found interesting so that I could come back to them later If I ever had time.

While this book does work as a beginner’s guide to philosophy, it also has what I would say is a relatively strong story with interesting characters. Most of the philosophy in the book is taught through a character named Alberto Knox, a philosopher who slowly teaches the protagonist, Sophie, the history of philosophy piece by piece. I think this is an effective way to keep the reader engaged while they learn about these concepts, as the reader can put themselves in Sophie’s shoes for most of the book. The plot does develop later, which adds a lot more substance to the characters and the story. One thing I like about how Gaarder handles this story is that later on in the book is how we see Sophie use the same philosophical concepts both her and the reader have just learned, serving as an example of how to approach thinking like a philosopher.

This book can be a bit boring if you are not at all interested in Philosophy or have no desire to try learning about Philosophy, but I would encourage anyone else to try this book because I think It can serve a starting point for anyone to become more involved or educated about philosophy.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: Poison for Breakfast by Lemony Snicket

When I first picked up Poison for Breakfast and saw it was written by Lemony Snicket, I felt inclined to read it just out of how much I enjoyed his books when I was younger, especially the Series of Unfortunate Events and All the Wrong Questions series of books.

However now that I am older, I was unsure if what I had come to expect from Snicket would be as enjoyable or memorable now that I have more experience reading and different tastes. To my pleasant surprise, this is the most mature and unique Lemony Snicket book I’ve read, even if it’s title and premise seems just as bizarre and out of place as something you would see in any other one of his works.

The entire book revolves a man and his reaction when he is eating his regular breakfast and finds a note saying, “you had poison for breakfast”. This sends the man into a sort of introspective spiral, as he spends the day trying to figure out who did it, while also reflecting on his philosophy towards life and the creative process. The book is a whole is very short at around 150 pages, and all of those pages are dedicated to the man and his reaction to what he believes will be his final day alive. While the book has a style very characteristic of Snicket, I think that most of the things he writes about in this are more observational instead of focused on a singular plot line or a classic story structure. Snicket even says on the description on the back of the book that some may call this a “book of philosophy”, which I think is a pretty appropriate term for the work.

Overall, I enjoyed the read, and thought it was definitely worth my time. One thing I would say to anyone wanting to read this is that it can be a bit hard to follow Snicket’s train of thought throughout the book, as his writing is full of phrases or references that have deeper meanings when looked into. Because of this I think this could a book that could be better if I decide to read it again, because I feel like I would pick up on a lot more of the messages Snicket conveys throughout the text. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in books with more philosophical elements, as well as anyone who is familiar with Snicket from his older work as well.

Poison for Breakfast by Lemony Snicket is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope by C.W Grafton

The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope by C.W Grafton has many elements that make it a classic hard-boiled detective story, but Grafton’s story and characters give a unique perspective to a long standing genre. For one the main character, detective Gil Henry, is described as “short, chubby, and awkward”, as opposed to the generic idea of a tall and handsome detective you’d find in most other stories. The novel follows Gil as he embarks on a dangerous case that results in scandal and murder, and whether or not he finds his way out.

The novel opens in a very generic fashion, with Gil in his office when an attractive woman walks in with a case for him to solve. The woman is Ruth McClure, whose father’s death and the suspected stock fraud that followed from it leads Ruth to think something is astray. Early on it’s made very clear that Gil will find himself in danger if he continues to follow the case, but in crime story fashion he chooses to follow it anyway, regardless of risk. However, I think Gil’s character being set up as more of an average guy makes him much easier to root for, and gets you more invested into the story. I thought the mystery and plot itself were both solid, but there was nothing really amazing or mind blowing about the story or how Grafton constructs the mystery. If I had to give one main criticism towards the book, I would say that the ending and Grafton’s way of revealing who was the culprit and everyone’s motivations could have been executed better.

In my opinion, I think one of the best parts of the book is the fast-paced writing. The chapters are usually one to three pages long, making it easily digestible but also faster paced and more tense. Furthermore, I think the setting of 1940s America and Grafton’s use of the vernacular at the time makes it a pretty interesting read. It never really lost my attention, and I think it does a good job of giving the reader a complete resolution that ties up most loose ends. I would recommend this as a read for anyone interested in the mystery genre, or anyone who is willing to try something new.

Book Review: Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

From the moment you first begin reading Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut makes his distinctive voice and writing style very apparent.  When I first picked up the book in the science fiction section, I expected to find a run of the mill sci-fi epic, but instead I found a book that I think is one of the most unique I have ever read.

It begins in Newport, Rhode Island at the renowned Rumfoord estate, where a crowd has gathered, as usual, to watch the materialization of a man and his dog. The crowd is denied access as always, but they continue to show up, as they hope for even the smallest of chances to witness this miracle. This miracle is the appearance of a man by the name of Winston Niles Rumfoord and his dog Kazak, which has happened once every 59 days, due to a mysterious concept Vonnegut has concisely named “Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum”. This phenomenon stretches Winston and his dog Kazak out across all of space past present and future, making him extremely sought after as a sort of fortune teller who has almost absolute knowledge about the human race and their future as a civilization.

By giving Winston the ability to basically know everything at all times I think Vonnegut makes him a very interesting character, as his actions are the driving force in the story but the purpose behind them isn’t revealed at all until the very end. I would definitely say this makes him the most intriguing character in the book, because from different perspectives he can be seen as the protagonist, antagonist, or even an omnipotent third person at times.

The story begins when a man named Malachi Constant gets a rare invite to this materialization, and ends up on a grand tour of the solar system that Vonnegut uses to question the concepts of free will, friendship, and loneliness. Winston tells Malachi that him and Winston’s current wife Beatrice will fall in love, and end up living out their final days on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Malachi and Beatrice’s absolute refusal of their fate and the futility of their actions in the end makes a powerful point about free will, and the progression of these two characters also give the reader insights into Vonnegut’s opinion on loneliness and friendship.

Personally, I really liked this book, because the plot is very unconventional, and Vonnegut’s vision of space and the story he writes are both extremely imaginative. The book also frequently employs the use of satirical and dark humor, which I thought was pretty fitting with the tone of the book as a whole. However, because of the unconventional plot structure of the book the writing can come across as a bit hard to follow, as the story is not made entirely clear until the very end and at many times the setting and focus of the book completely shifts out of nowhere.

Overall, I think this book is worth reading for anyone who is interested in sci-fi used as a medium for a greater message, such as the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey or the Dune Series by Frank Herbert, but also for anyone who wants to try something new or wants a unique and interesting read.