Posts Tagged ‘history’

EG’s Review: World War Z

October 23, 2009

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Alright, peoples, you’ve waited long enough to hear about this one! The Steve Austin Book Club is back, and more extreme than ever! Or, perhaps that is Xtreme! Mayhaps we should rename ourselves The Xteve AuXtin BooX Club, as an indicator of our new hip and happenin’ ways!

Or, not.

Anyway, this is the review of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. This review is apt to spoil the book, so if you haven’t read it and want to, you may want to skip this. There will be SPOILERS-A-PLENTY! If you have read the book, feel free to leave a comment!

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Now with the preliminaries out of the way, sit back and enjoy!

World War Z is a collection of the post-Zombie War rememberances of indidual survivors throughout the world. It is ten years after the official end of the war… a time to look back. The book is presented in a series of personal stories/interviews with individuals discussing their roles and reactions as the world was plunged into a panic and near extinction of the human race. Using these personal stories, the audience follows as the events of the Zombie War are revealed in pieces, from its start within the borders of China, to the various steps taken by governments throughout the world in attempts to protect their borders, through battlefields where traditional tactics are found lacking, to the eventual steps toward survival, which rely on plans for each nation to virtually abandon most of their citizens. The stories come from average individuals, politicians, military personnel, corporate leaders, slackers, etc., etc., etc.

And… that’s about the sum of it.

Let me start this by saying that the concept of this book is genius. I loved the premise and the style used. As an avid fan of the History Channel, I could really see this story being told through the account of eye witnesses just as much of their programming does. If there is any downside to that, it is that I think that this is one of those few occassions where the upcoming film based on this book may surpass the book in effectiveness. Why? Because the biggest complaint I have about the book seems to be a near universal complaint about it – while we are told that the stories come from various individuals, the vast majority of the stories are very much in the same voice, seemingly from the same individual. That is why I think the movie has the advantage. The various actors will lend their own spin to each vignette, allowing the audience to see a greater variance than what was afforded in the book.

I did appreciate the fact that the author knew his audience. Very little time was spent dwelling on what zombies are and trying to explain them away. Instead, he worked from a standpoint of “the people that pick this book up know what these creatures are.” It was nice to not have the lodestone of origin dragging the book down.

Now, the downside. Without an establishing of the specifics of the zombie of this book, we don’t have a firm enough idea of what these zombies are really like. And, it seems that the author forgets as well. There are times when we are told that zombies eventually decompose, and yet we are confronted with zombies in several instances that seem to have survived locked up in abandoned homes for years, no worse for wear. We are told that frozen weather will freeze zombies, yet they can walk unencumbered along the ocean floor, which rests at right about 32 degrees. (Fun science fact: the ocean, being salty, doesn’t freeze until the water hits about 28.5 degrees. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.)

There also seems to be a real lack of knowledge about military weaponry. The idea that modern weapons would be less than effective against the undead is really hard to believe. The shrapnel described in the book always somehow managed to avoid hitting the zombies in the head. There is a reason that the militaries of the world issue metal helmets to their soldiers.

I can go along, to some extent, with the laughable actions of government during a situation like this, but the overall political commentary in the book is hack-kneed and blunt to the point of near rhetoric. Everything is too surface, no depth.

I was also unimpressed with the two types of people that we were presented with in the book: the noble hero and the scummy opportunist. There didn’t seem to be any other degrees of personality. I understand that a tragedy can be a polarizing event, but there are more shades to people than this, and not having those shades made almost all the characters boring and relatively two-dimensional.

Which, now that I think about it and re-read my last complaint, is the problem I have with the book as a whole. For all the supposed individuals “interviewed” in the book, there just isn’t enough to any of them. The characters are flat, which is really what makes them all sound the same. Perhaps if the author had focused on fewer stories, we could have had a more in depth character study of each. People aren’t simply noble or evil… they are far more complicated than that.

The book wasn’t terrible, but I expected and wanted so much more from it. As I mentioned, I’m really hoping that the actors in the planned film are able to bring that little extra to this project that is sorely missing in the book. For the potential of this book and the concept, I’m giving it two and a half Running Steves.

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And, here’s to hoping that the film gets moving from development limbo and into actual production!

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Review: All-New Iron Manual #1

May 15, 2008

They got me.

I hate when that happens.

See, I don’t tend buy comic book one-shots.  Most of the time, they are overpriced and all too often, the “extra pages” included are nothing more than reprints of stories I’ve probably already read.

I’m also wary of projects that come out just to tie-in with movies.

And yet…

*Sigh*

I order my comics through an online service.  It is a great convenience, having discounted comics delivered right to my door (the nearest comic book shop to my house is a 20 minute drive away).  The one disadvantage is pre-ordering and not having the chance to really look at what I’m buying ahead of time.  I am forced to depend on the blurbs put out by the various companies about their projects.

Overall, it isn’t that big a deal.  I know what artists and writers I like, and my track record is pretty good for avoiding pitfalls.

Not so today.  Today, I recieved my shipment of comics, and, sitting atop the pile, is the physical representation of my own stupidity:  All-New Iron Manual #1.

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Yep.  A one-shot designed just to take advantage of the Iron Man film recently released.

So, why didn’t the red flags go up on this project for me?  Actually, they did, but I chose to ignore them.  And, why did I buy a book so glaringly not for me? 

Here is the description of the book that I ordered:

These are the chronicles of Tony Stark: the playboy, the genius inventor, the philanthropist, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., the futurist, the hero. This Handbook is the definitive resource to the world of Iron Man, featuring Tony’s closest allies (Happy and Pepper Hogan, War Machine, the Order) and deadliest foes (Justin Hammer, Mandarin, Obadiah Stane)! Includes a complete gallery of the Iron Man armors, plus all-new schematics of key armors and the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier!

I read through that description and was unimpressed… until that last sentence.  That last, horribly deceptive sentence.

One of my favorite things about Iron Man is the fact that his armor changes.  Unlike other comic book heroes, who seem to stay with relatively unchanging costumes for most of their existence, Iron Man’s look has updated every few years since inception.

Imagine my thrill about the chance to have a complete gallery of those armors!

So, despite my reservations, despite all the warning signs, and despite the $4.99 cover price, I bought the All-New Iron Manual #1.

I will never learn.

With undisguised excitement, I picked up the comic from my recent shipment, determined to take a look at it immediately.  The cover?  Fantastic.  It brought hope to me for what would be contained within.

I began to flip through the pages.  It was, essentially, what was promised – basically, a lot of entries about characters, pulled from the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.  I continued flipping, knowing I would eventually be greeted by an amazing gallery of the various armors used over the years.

Then, I got to the actual Iron Man entry, and beheld the gallery.

And regret set in.

In my dreams, I hoped for a sequence of splash pages, each type of armor brilliantly displayed in detail, one per page.  In more realistic fashion, I thought that maybe I’d get two sets of armor per page, maybe not as detailed or dynamic, but still a nice display.  Bare minimum, I was expecting the gallery pages to be quartered, displaying four armors per page.

Any of those would have been preferable to what I got.

Bordering the Iron Man entry, like guards for the gutter, were a series of armor images, measuring about 1 inch wide by 2 1/2 inches tall.  There are eight per page (one row of four on the top, one row of four on the bottom), with an equal amount of space devoted the text of the detailed history of Iron Man throughout the “gallery.”

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Thirty-nine types of armor, displayed across the top and bottom of five pages.

Yep, Marvel, you got me.  I was expecting an incredible display of the various armors, and you give me thumbnails.

Ha ha.

Jokes on me.

Listen folks, if you are wanting a detailed look at Iron Man and his supporting cast/enemies, this book does deliver that.  If you, like me, were hoping for more in the way of art, save your five bucks and go visit The Iron Man Armory, which has better images of most of the armors anyway.