A Slice of Fried Gold

You Shall Know Our Velocity! and My Reading Quest

Sunday, February 17, 2008
As some of my readers may know, one of my New Year's Resolutions last year was simple: Read 10 books. I'm not illiterate, I just never read books anymore. I accomplished that with relative ease, destroying the total by over 30% (meaning I read 13.2 books)! Full of vigor over succeeding, I increased my aspirations - 30 books in 2008! By my estimates, that was entirely possible, if not overly easy.

Now one type of book I hadn't added in to my totals (mostly because I thought it was cheating) were graphic novels/trade paperbacks. These are mostly quick reads (an hour to two per read) and are something I read as is, so it didn't seem as if that was any sort of addition on my already existing stack of reads. However, I thought about how I definitely wanted to start including these into my totals because they are in fact being read, so I decided to boost my total for my goal. My goal is now 52 total books read this year, one for each week of the year.

Today, I read #3 and #4, and to go with my new goal I've decided I will write a little blurb about each read for the year here in my blog. Also, to be fair, I kind of stole this idea from fellow blogger largehearted boy. Thanks for the idea man!

For a quick catchup, my first book this year was Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and my second book was Lyra's Oxford by Phillip Pullman.

#3 - You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers
I took off my pants and my shoes which still held currency from a cold and supicious land and I jumped in - it took so long to land and in the air I saw all the faces! - I jumped with my mouth so open, taking it all in, and the air was cold and the water was so cold but I jumped all the way in, all at once, and my heart froze. Man, I thought that was the end, right there. It stopped for a minute I swear, but then the sound and pictures came back on and for two more interminable months we lived.

This book, the first and only novel so far from Pulitzer Prize finalist author Dave Eggers (was up for the Pulitzer for his non-fiction work A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), is very hard to explain. If asked for a plotline, you can't really explain it to make it sound that remarkable, as you can tell from the tagline the publisher gave it: "$32,000 must be given away in a week, around the world. But why?"

This book is all about the journey of life, and to me expresses why people should spend more time soaking in the details instead of worrying about how quickly they go from point A to point B. This of course is given through a smaller story of two best friends who are travelling around the world (in one week) to essentially just hand out money to strangers and experience other cultures. Its very funny and every character and location feels very real.

Eggers, for a first time novelist, has an extremely unique and powerful voice, and it shines in every aspect of his writing - through flashbacks, internal conversations between main character Will and anyone who surrounds him, dialogue between characters, and even simple descriptions of locations. I read a lot of my own thoughts in this book, and I think that's why I found myself relating to the story quite a bit. I felt like the two main characters represented two sides of the same person - the more quiet, reserved, internalized person (Will) and the man of action who yells and hollers and never censors himself (Hand) - I related to their actions and their desire to explore who they are as people and the world they live in.

I really don't know what else to say about this book. Its very interesting, and I found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions (sorry Kaladi Brothers!). I find this to be a very hard book to write about, as it really feels like something that has to be experienced to even get the slightest bit of understanding about it. I recommend this book fully, especially for young folks who are looking to get a better understanding of their place in the world. As a person in that position, I think it spoke to me quite a bit.

#4 - Wanted by Mark Millar and JG Jones

F*** You.

Now using such a blunt statement as a quote from the book seems a bit odd I'm sure, but frankly, that is what stands to be arguably the defining quote of Millar and Jones' Wanted. It's not only the name of the second chapter, but a line dropped roughly infinity times in it as well. Not aimed at any one person really, but a mantra spoken by a person who has been put upon his entire life and finally develops the courage to no longer deal with it. And then some.

In some strange and perverse way, this is actually a good pairing with the far more literate and in depth Velocity!. Both scream out to all of those people who live their lives stuck in routines and floating by with accepting only what they are given as what they deserve. They both tell the reader that if something is wanted, you need to reach out and grab it. Of course Velocity! expresses this in far more metaphorical and subtle terms - Wanted gives it to you with large servings of violence and scandalous behavior. It's sort of a graphic novel version of Fight Club meets other Millar work the Authority.

For a quick plot synopsis, its about a man named Wesley Gibson who lives a life where he deals with a horrible boss, a best friend and girlfriend who cheat on him with each other, and a father who abandoned him when he was 18 weeks old. It follows the changes that he goes through after he finds out that his father was a man who happened to be essentially the world's greatest supervillain, and that he was just killed.

It's expertly drawn by 52 cover artist Jones, and Millar weaves a great sister story to his Authority run, subverting the metahuman comic genre while perfecting it simultaneously. Not for everyone as per usual, as it is a comic. However, it is very fun and very, very dark, and recommended for those interested in stories more graphical in nature.

The worst thing that can be said about it is that it is inspiring the upcoming Angelina Jolie action movie. I say inspiring because they clearly didn't read the series, with the plot pretty much created by taking one aspect out of the story (normal guy thrown into an extraordinary situation after his father dies) and then cutting everything else away. I have a pinch of faith because it does star James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman, but that only buys so much faith. I'll go see it, but I definitely see some problems heading into it.


largehearted boy said...

Good luck with the 52 books project.

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