The Maze Runner by James Dashner

the maze runnerTitle: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Reviewer: Nate

Rating: 9/10

 

V for Vendetta

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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

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Title: Rotters

Author: Daniel Kraus

Rating: 8/10

Reviewer: Joel Witter

I took the time over the Thanksgiving holiday to read a book given to me a while ago by a co-worker. Along with being a full-time high school English teacher, and all-around rock star, he also finds time to review books.  And he suggested this one.  Any reader who willingly slogs through the morass of mediocrity in published books knows what’s worth reading.

Rotters by Daniel Kraus did not disappoint.  After reading the beginning, I had to read it with my students.  While they all know I tend towards strange, they were completely bowled over by it. Rarely do I get both shock value, interest, and complete revulsion, as I did when we read the first chapter–the conflict that sets the story in motion.  Joey Crouch’s mother dies, and so he is sent to live with his father, who is a grave robber as the back of the book makes very clear.  Joey doesn’t discover this for a while, but what he does discover are the myriad antagonists that exist in small town middle-America, playing on stereotypes, and rising to them without doing much more.

What follows is a story that has all expected ingredients, and a dozen unexpected ones which made the book almost impossible for me to put down. As an English teacher it had an overabundance of exquisite language that engaged me while the story played out, a story that remained engaging even when I saw the plot twists coming, and central characters who feel full-bodied and warm-blooded–almost like friends of my own.  For high school students, it has a hero every student could be that no one hopes to be–instantly recognizable and yet completely alien.  For guys and girls alike, it has the macabre details of death and destruction and the history to go along with it.

It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  After visiting the book’s website (because everything has a website these days) I’ve come to find out it received generally positive reviews, and won several awards–none of which I’ve heard of.  But if that isn’t a strong enough recommendation, I only have to tell you I’ve had at least six different (and by different, I mean completely different) students request a copy of the book to read and one of their independent reading books after we read the first chapter in class.

If you’re not absorbed and compelled by the first chapter, you don’t deserve all the treasures this book holds.