Derik Badman's Journal

2019-09-08 21:26

Sat out on the deck at the beach and read the first of the books I brought along for a short beach vacation, Alone by Chaboute. I read a good review of it somewhere recently, and it was up for a prize at Angouleme, and... sometimes I could weep for the state of comics. While Chaboute can draw well, with a sharp high contrast ink line, nice spot blacking, and a sense of layout and pacing, this almost 400 page comic is a travesty of narrative cliche. Somehow there's this guy who lives on a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere. He was born there and his parents died and he just stayed there. The father paid some ship captain to keep dropping off supplies every week. The captain is the gruff but kind-hearted sort, his new ship mate is curious about the mysterious lighthouse and the guy that lives there and no one sees. Everyone says he's deformed or something and never goes anywhere. And then, yes, the guy is weird looking in the face, in a classic monster movie hunchback of notredame like way with prominent brow and big buck teeth, and that guy has a pet fish in a bowl and somehow there is electric in a lighthouse on an island barely larger than the lighthouse. And this dude's only entertainment seems to be tossing his dictionary up the in air and then pointing at a work where the book falls open and then he imagines stuff about the word he sees. His imaginings are kind of stupid and not terribly believable considering he's spend his whole life in this lighthouse. He reads the oboe description about a woodwind with keys and pictures a violin with hole and the player turning keys like locks on it, yet... he doesn't know an oboe but he knows what a violin looks like and how someone holds it to their chin... and then later he's imagining a whole orchestra and there is someone playing a bassoon. How in the hell does he know a bassoon but not an oboe. And of course, of course, of course, in scenes his dictionary opens to "loneliness" and "monster" and then of course he looks at himself in the mirror and looks sad. And of course it turns out the new ship's mate was in prison and of course the monster guy let's his fish go because he realizes the fish is imprisoned in his bowl (and surely the fish is almost immediately eaten by a predator). And then of course there is a scene where it looks like the monster guy is going to commit suicide, but... it's not that kind of comic so instead he waits for the ship to show up and they take him on board. End of comic. 400 pages of this tripe. At least it was a quick read, but damn... how did anyone think this was good? How was this up for a prize?

Also just finished Tim Maughan's Infinite Detail which I quite enjoyed, though the central apocalyptic event, a virus that hits the infrastructure of the internet so hard that basically the whole internet is destroyed, is a little too real for comfort. It feels like the kind of thing where security probably isn't ever as good as it should be, and yes, if communications broke down, what, in this global economy, would people actually be able to live on. What can actually be manufactured without parts from all over the place? The novel doesn't actually delve too deeply into that, leaving that rather as a hole in the center of the plot that is alluded to and occasionally made evident by the "After" chapters. In a way it was a little scary reading this book, not in a horror novel way but in a "this feels too close to reality" way. It was a pretty quick read, and throughout, for me, maintained that cyberpunk genre feel, at least, unexpectedly, the ending was not a totally downbeat.