Friday, October 31, 2014

Booknote: Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies

Scott Adams, Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies: Dogbert's Big Book of Business. Kansas City: Andrews & McMeel, 1991. 

This book is a riff on many business books out there. I always enjoy Dilbert books, even though they often hit close to home. A lot of Dilbert experiences speak to the librarian profession as well, and it's not complimentary. I often laugh and smile as I nod knowingly when I read a book like this. This book is no exception. It is not a perfect book, but it does have some good moments of humor.

A little of what the book offers. For example, in this volume, Dogbert deals with topics such as:

  • demagoguery (to stay on top, invent scapegoats and then lead the charge against them). 
  • suffering fools (learn to pity and tolerate them. By the way, we do have our share of fools in librarianship, but we don't really talk about that very much in this establishment). 
  • the rule of three (nothing productive ever happens with more than three people in a room. This one is very true). 
At any rate, this was a light, quick, and amusing read.

If you ask me, I'd give it three out of five stars.

Booknote: City: the Mind in the Machine, Vol. 1

Eric Garcia,, City: the Mind in the Machine, Vol. 1. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2014. ISBN: 9781631400421 

In a very near future, surveillance is everywhere, yet it is not enough. Ben Fischer has helped design Golden Shield, which can be everywhere. Golden Shield has one problem: it still needs a human mind because you still need human intuition to do surveillance well (otherwise you end up sending a S.W.A.T. team to kill a bunch of kids playing cops and robbers instead of killing real robbers). Then an accident happens, and Ben Fischer is fused with the machine, whether he likes it or not. Naturally, as Ben's brain is more connected to the machine, his power grows, power that can corrupt him. More importantly, the bosses who were all too happy are now getting worried that Ben will use his new power on them.

The story is very Orwellian, and it is very relevant to today's paranoid security state environment. This comic shows a near future that may as well be almost here. This comic is very reminiscent of other stories you may have read or films you may have seen before. There are elements that may remind you of the film Repo Men, which was based on the novel The Repossession Mambo. There is also a bit of the film Robocop (you can pick your version here given what I thought of was the corporate bad behavior, an element both Robocop film franchises share). And then you may also think of works like Philip K. Dick's "The Minority Report." In the end, if you read enough in this genre, you will see the formulas, which makes City a pretty predictable story. The comic does have a good blend of action and suspense, which should appeal to fans of this genre. I liked it, but was nothing that would "wow me" as a lot of it is stuff I have seen before, and in some cases, have seen elsewhere done better. That is why I just can't rate it higher. I liked it, but it was just another entry in the genre for me.

The volume is a compilation of the comics. I may look for the next volume just to see how the story develops. For now, I am just rating it 3 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note: Once again, this is where I tell you that I read this via NetGalley; it was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. And thus we appease The Man once more.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Booknote: The Illegitimates

Taran Killam,,  The Illegitimates. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2014. ISBN: 9781631400360.

When I heard of this title, I was expecting something like The Expendables or some other similar story of a rag tag band of heroes. We do get a band of heroes here, just with a twist. Jack Steele is the top agent of Olympus, a super secret spy organization fighting the forces of evil. He is smooth, skilled, debonair, and like a certain other British agent, he loves the ladies, and the ladies love him. The only (apparent) difference is that Steele does not use protection. Then he gets killed on a mission, and Olympus is on a pickle without its top secret agent. So, what does the agency do? They round up the illegitimate children of Steele, who are around the world living their own lives with no idea who their real dad is. They are quite the disparate bunch from an American rancher to the son of a Yakuza princess. Can these five new agents come together to save the world?

This was very entertaining and fun to read. I really was amused by the idea of the super secret agent spreading his progeny around the world. It is an amusing premise (not new, but still amusing). The story itself, once the team comes together is an action/adventure where the new agents have to save the world from the bad guy seeking world domination. In this sense, this is like any other secret agent tale. What stood out is that the premise was so amusing, that the tale is fast paced and entertaining, and it has a couple of unexpected twists that keep the reader wondering. This was a very entertaining volume that I enjoyed very much, and I am definitely recommending it. It also has some very good art that is colorful, well drawn, and brings it all to life.

If you like things like the adventures of James Bond or stories about reluctant heroes coming together to save the world, you will probably like this one.  It looks like the start of a good series.

I give a good 5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Booknote: The Heart of the Beast

Dean Motter,, The Heart of the Beast: A Love Story. Mount Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2014. ISBN:  9781606904916.

I found this graphic novel very disappointing. It dragged on and on as I wondered just what was wrong with Victor, the protagonist: was he a drug addict? an AIDS victim? what? It turns out that he is Frankenstein's monster, and he's had more than a few surgeries over time to make him handsome, well, sort of handsome. This comes at a price: he is forced to work for the evil Dr. Wright. That is not a bad premise, but the execution was simply bad here. In addition, the whole pretentious art scene, with the fake art racket, was completely boring. I did like the art of the graphic novel, but it is good art wasted on a lousy, boring story that, by the time a reader gets to the end, the reader could not care less. This was written 20 years ago (this is a re-issue), and it should have stayed forgotten. This is one I do not recommend.

I am giving it 1 out of 5 stars, barely.

Disclosure note: Read via NetGalley, provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Booknote: Nightwing: Ties That Bind

Dennis O'Neil, Nightwing: Ties That Bind. New York: DC Comics, 1997. ISBN:  978-1563893285. 

This collection includes "Nightwing: Alfred's Return" and issues 1-4 of Nightwing. In Nightwing, Dick Grayson has grown up and left Batman to have his own life, which includes becoming the hero Nightwing. After a while, he decides to quit being a superhero, hoping for a more normal life. However, when new evidence about his parents' death surfaces, he dons the mask again to investigate. In "Alfred's Return," Alfred Pennyworth has left Bruce Wayne's employ. After traveling the world, he is back in London where he meets an old flame who appears to need help. Naturally, being the gentleman he is, he agrees to help, but then things really get complicated. Fortunately, Nightwing shows up to assist.

Overall, this is an adequate comics collection from Dennis O'Neill. There is not much depth here, but it was an entertaining read. The art style reflects its time; it is very colorful with a bit of a nice pulp feel. Good but not spectacular.

I liked it, so I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Booknote:I Remember Beirut

Zeina Abirached, I Remember Beirut. Minneapolis, MN: Graphic Universe, 2014. ISBN: 9781467738224. 

This was a nice graphic novel that was very easy to read. It is also a powerful and moving tale of a young girl growing in a time of war. The author grew up in Beirut during 1980s when war was raging between Christians and Muslims. The book is a recollection of memories of that time period. We see the cars riddled with bullet holes, travel in taxis that go where buses refuse to go, and we get a glimpse of her life with her family during this time period. The art is done in a simple black and white style that is similar to works like Persepolis. In fact, if you have read Persepolis, you will probably enjoy this graphic novel as well. Though it is rated for teens and young adults, I think adults will enjoy it as well. I really liked this one.

I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note is where I tell you that I read this book via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This helps keep The Man happy.