Monthly Archives: December 2012

An Unsung Hero by Michael Smith

an unsung hero

Title: An Unsung Hero

Author: Michael Smith

Reviewer: Brendan

Rating: 8/10

An Unsung Hero, by Michael Smith is a non-fiction account of Antarctic exploration.  Set in the early 1900’s, the book catalogues the history behind man’s pursuit of the South Pole, a mysterious and daunting place that was referred to at the time as the ‘last undiscovered frontier’.  Primarily, the book focuses on the wily and glory-seeking men who try to conquer the Pole by becoming the first to reach it, but its real substance lies in its descriptions of the destructive and disastrous nature of trying to go places, where quite frankly, man has no business going.  The sub-zero Antarctic temperatures and its moving glaciers often prove too much for even the strongest of men.

This book provided keen insight into the limits of the human body. As I sat in my warm bedroom, with the book in one hand and a hot cup of tea in the other, I read about these men sledging through the Arctic snow for months at a time, while enduring temperatures that often dropped to 100 degrees below zero.  I often found myself in a state of awe.  “How is this possible?” I thought.  “These men are crazy!”  I couldn’t help but consider myself ‘soft’ in comparison to them.  On the same token, I deemed myself considerably more ‘intelligent’ than they were, for whom in their right mind would ever sign up to endure something like this?  It was both captivating and entertaining to contemplate these things.  Less exciting, however, was the books lack of description in regards to internal conflict.  The book was written from a third person viewpoint, by a narrator who had no specific ties to any of the experiences.  He was simply a researcher with an affinity for the subject.  This, I believe, limited his ability to get inside the minds of the men who went on the expeditions.  We rarely knew what they were thinking as they endured hardship.  Were some of them on the verge of losing their minds? Did they cry themselves to sleep at night?  Did they pray that they would survive?  These are all things that I would have liked to know.

Overall, the book provided a compelling read.  It had enough substance and excitement to generate interesting discussion with friends and family who wanted to know ‘what I was reading’.  It also provided many opportunities for me to put my book down and surf the Internet for more information on Antarctic travel.  I found myself wanting to know more about the subject.  I would highly recommend this book to anybody seeking a non-fiction book that is manly, adventurous, and informational.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

the maze runnerTitle: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Reviewer: Nate

Rating: 9/10

 

V for Vendetta

180px-V_for_vendettax

Title: V for Vendetta

Author: Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Reviewer: Isa

Rating: 9.75

V for Vendetta is a classic graphic novel that takes place in a future version of the United Kingdom, which is now ruled by a totalitarian party known as Norsefire, and led by a charismatic yet reclusive man known as the Leader, Adam Susan. However, the leader follows the advice of Fate, a powerful computer that not only creates plans of action for Norsefire, but also serves as a beacon of stability and relative safety for the citizens. Norsefire rules with five departments that represent human physical characteristics; The Eye, which kept surveillance on the populace; The Finger, which acted as both a covert and secret police force but is fraught with corruption; The Voice of Fate; A man who pretends to be the computer itself speaking to the populace, ensuring their obedience; and the Ear, which also works to keep tabs on the public.

Among all the controlling machinations of the party, there exists a man who dares to defy this system. He calls himself ’V’ and is only known as such.  With a Guy Fawkes mask, black 1700’s period clothing and a set of throwing knives, he aims to liberate the people of London and to have revenge against those who have wronged him. However, which cause he is more dedicated to is in question.

All the while, V is being hunted by a detective from the finger, Mr. Finch, who seems almost obsessed with discovering V’s true motivations.

In V for Vendetta, Alan Moore paints a vivid depiction of a harsh totalitarian society, gripped in the clutches of communism. V for vendetta was rare for its time, taking the form of a mini-series of comic books which were eventually compiled into a graphic novel. As such, it holds certain advantages over a more traditional book, being that it can display scenery in images instead of words. The art in this book is remarkably crisp, with an ever present gloom that manifests itself in each panel, setting the mood of this very controlled society.

Hidden in these images lie objects or scenes that expose the audience to some of the books deep symbolism which helps the observant and critical reader to understand the heart of the story and its message. The symbolism in the piece is something which I respect greatly, though it may be a bit over my head.  I personally enjoy books novels that are deep enough to require close study and research, as they can last for years before you truly uncover the writers’ true intentions, if ever.

While the art is beautiful and well done, this does not mean that the book is lacking in dialogue and text, quite the opposite is true. As much as the book allows the reader to make inferences through its art, but its clever wording and beautiful construction of sentences and conversation also leave many different ways to interpret what has happened, or what the character truly means. The writer deserves much credit for the depth of this story. Certain passages leave you convinced that Alan Moore spent hours constructing a comment made by one of the characters. While this is indeed romanticizing the writing, the fact that it lends itself so easily to such thoughts is a definite advantage.

Along with the words from the mind of the writer, so too were quotes from literature and history, and in fact the protagonist, V is heavily inspired by the historical character, Guy Fawkes, the most well recognized member progenitor of the gunpowder plot,  with a mask designed after the man’s face.

This all isn’t merely to showcase the writer’s intelligence, as the use of these words are strategic and are meant to contrast the heavily cultured V, with the ethnically dismissive and  sterile members of the enemy that he challenges..

As this was originally a ten-issue series of comic books, the story is told in short bursts, vignettes from which a coherent and gripping story form and is easily digested in small portions. Some sections and images can seem randomly placed, but they are merely foreshadowing future events, all which end up being impactful and intrinsic to the story.

The tale is full of twists and turns, rarely letting you latch onto anything being totally accurate, and constantly causing the reader to re-evaluate their opinions.

Throughout the book, the reader is teased with the change to peak under V’s mask, and find out who he truly is, and why he is what he is. That sense of mystery helps carry the reader through some psychologically rending encounters and conversations that may seem too verbose for some. However, these occurrences are the exceptions, and most of the book strikes that balance between streamlined and intricate.

Of the many messages that this book does, and could possibly be trying to communicate, the theme of ideas “Being bulletproof” resonates with me, as it is directly applicable to life. Not letting anyone shoot you down and crush your creativity and values is a necessary quality in order to succeed in the world, as it endows you with a sense of resilience and perseverance.

This book is an example of thought and creativity of the highest order and is a pleasure to read, regardless of the reader. It is so expansive in its depth that no matter how critically you think, no matter your age or beliefs, so long as you can read the words, any reader could leave with a strong and profound message. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves freedom, beautiful works of literature, adventure, and is not afraid to be confused or forced to pick up a dictionary.

Rating:

Art: The art is perfect and does what it attempts to do with finesse and tact. 10/10

Dialogue: Fantastically well placed and always meaningful, the conversations and internal monologues of each character are literary gems to be coveted. 10/10

Pacing: The pace of the book is good overall, though it can feel a bit slow in some spots.  9/10

Plot: The plot is supernaturally strong, and manages to keep the reader interested enough to plow through some of the slower points, in search of answers and of course, action. 10/10