Category Archives: Books

Book Review: ‘To Marry Medusa’ by Theodore Sturgeon

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“To Marry Medusa” takes us further into the ideas explored in Theodore Sturgeon’s landmark novel from 1953, “More Than Human.” I reviewed that recently and you can read that here. Five years later, in 1958, “To Marry Medusa” finds us with one unconventional character, Dan Gurlick, instead of an ensemble of damaged misfits. The main idea is that we all have worth. Even Gurlick who, as his very name suggests, is quite an unsavory figure. This is a completely different and separate story from “More Than Human” but carries on that same humanist spirit.

Gurlick is as far down the heap as you can go: a illiterate homeless alcoholic with the thinnest grasp on reality. But, as Sturgeon would be happy to point out, he is still a member of the human race. Yes, …but. He’s human but he behaves more like an animal and pushes to the limits anyone’s tolerance for him.

And when an extraterrestrial being emerges, in pursuit of a human host, it is Gurlick who it stumbles upon and places the fate of humanity in his hands. As far as this entity, “the Medusa,” is concerned, Gurlick is as good as any other human to achieve its goals. Without a second thought, Medusa simply needs to plug into Gurlick and use him to plug into the rest of the humans and take over Earth. It really should be as simple as that, once a few details are carried out.

Medusa is a hive mind and has always been able to conquer other beings, once converted into hive minds. Why would humans be any different? The first mistake Medusa makes is attaching itself to Gurlick. In turn, Medusa finds humans to be a most unpredictable species. They are smarter than given credit for. They are more resilient than first believed to be. And they are more capable of fighting back than ever expected.

In a beautiful fable-like story, Sturgeon evokes human activity across the globe with vignettes of various characters. We see them at a bit of distance, never get too close to them other than to get a sense of their dreams and struggles. For a good part of the novel, we alternate between a profile from somewhere on Earth, whether it’s within an African tribe, or an Italian village, to the latest phase in the odd pairing between Medusa and Gurlick.

Sturgeon has such a seemingly effortless style. Every description and dialogue follows what appears a seamless path. Highly readable, Sturgeon’s work grapples with incredibly complex notions. He clearly loves his characters and it’s Gurlick who he loves the most. The guy can barely form a thought. He’s so limited and primitive as to be more suitable to another place and time other than a contemporary American city. When he’s out attempting to do Medusa’s bidding, he sounds insane, more so than usual. Medusa and Gurlick, no doubt, make for a delicious coupling of high an low.

We are given every indication that humanity will survive. However, it may not be as planned. For one thing, the hive mind perspective proves to be enlightening beyond measure. In fact, humans find that they can accomplish far more as a group than they ever could as individuals. Does that sound familiar? Well, sure, it’s us today on the Web, isn’t it? As Gurlick demonstrates, maybe we’ll always only be as strong as our weakest link. And Sturgeon never even once mentions a computer.

You can find “To Marry Medusa” over at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Hive Mind, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Theodore Sturgeon

Seattle Focus: Emerald City Comicon (March 27-29, 2015) Embarks on First Year with ReedPOP

Emerald-City-Comicon-Seattle

There has been a lot of buzz lately over Emerald City Comicon’s acquisition by pop culture events organization ReedPOP, a subsidiary of Reed Exhibitions. You can read Paul Constant’s report at The Stranger right here. Constant deems ECCC as “just the right size and not too super-intense. The comics professionals at the show always enjoy themselves, and so their interactions with the fans tend to be looser and more fun.” Now, there is no truly accurate basis for this but anyone can appreciate the enthusiasm behind such a remark. New York is New York. Seattle is Seattle. And so on. Each convention, large or small, offers its own unique dynamic. And, certainly, ECCC has its vibe.

According to The Stranger’s article on the sale of ECCC, its owner and staff will be retained by ReedPOP to act as consultants for all its comics conventions around the world. ReedPOP already runs such prestigious conventions like New York Comic Con. ReedPOP is, without a doubt, huge but they say they want to listen to any feedback. In April of 2014, it had to deal with controversy leading up to the first annual BookCon in New York which ReedPOP was responsible for. There was a panel of writers entitled, “Blockbuster Reads: Meet the Kids Authors That Dazzle” which touted an “unprecedented, power-packed panel” of the “world’s biggest children’s authors.” The panel of writers: Daniel Handler, Jeff Kinney, James Patterson, and Rick Riordan. All middle-aged upscale white guys. Moments after the news hit, the backlash ensued with leaders in the book industry crying foul on social media over the lack of diversity. And ReedPOP did indeed listen and responded with a panel on diversity.

For ECCC, it should be calm and steady waters ahead. Seattle is such a great location as we love our high and low culture from movies and television, to books, to games, and, of course, comics. We have more comic shops than some larger cities. We have more comics creators than some larger cities. ECCC definitely has an ideal location.

Talent headlining ECCC for 2015: Amanda Tapping. John Wesley Shipp. Dante Basco. Karen Allen. Clark Gregg. Anthony Mackie. Kevin Eastman. Gina Torres. LeVar Burton. Grant Imahara. Stan Lee. Emerald City Comicon is being held at the Washington State Convention Center on March 27-29, 2015. For more information, visit ECCC right here.

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Filed under Bookcon, Books, Comics, Emerald City Comicon, New York City, New York Comic Con, Paul Constant, ReedPOP, Seattle, The Stranger

Review: ‘MAD’s Greatest Artists: Don Martin: Three Decades of His Greatest Works’

Don Martin, MAD Magazine, June 1974

Don Martin, MAD Magazine, June 1974

By 1974, MAD magazine had hit an all-time high in popularity, selling more than 2 million copies per issue. It was also the height of the Watergate scandal, Vietnam War protests, and the counterculture. MAD helped bring about the age of subversive satire that we see today everywhere from “The Simpsons” to “The Daily Show.” It was the underground before there was an underground. And, among the wackiest of cartoonists, in fact, “MAD’s Maddest Artist,” was Don Martin. Martin was from some other planet. “MAD’s Greatest Artists: Don Martin: Three Decades of His Greatest Works,” published by Running Press, lets you see this extraterrestrial cartoonist at his best.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Book Reviews, Books, Cartoons, Comics, Don Martin, MAD magazine

Interview: David Ury and ‘Everybody Dies: A Children’s Book For Grown-Ups’

David Ury and "Everybody Dies: A Children’s Book For Grown-Ups"

David Ury and “Everybody Dies: A Children’s Book For Grown-Ups”

Daivd Ury is really onto something. Who is David Ury? you may ask. Most likely, you’ve seen him around, getting throttled, axed, murdered, or most notably, having an ATM fall on him in AMC’s critically-acclaimed “Breaking Bad.” Yes, he’s one of those character actors that you like but might not know unless you’re looking in the right places. Ury has definitely been working hard. You can catch his hilarious collaboration with his alter-ego, Kevin Tanaka, right here:

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Filed under Books, Children's Books, Comic-Con, Comic-Con 2014, Death, Illustration, Interviews

Book Review: ‘How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe’ by Charles Yu

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“Most people I know live their lives moving in a constant forward direction, the whole time looking backward.”
― Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

There is a very strong contingent of sci-fi fans who take issue with Charles Yu’s time travel novel being true science fiction. Well, how about if we all just take a deep breath and relax and just call it fiction. Does that work for you? To get caught up in the sci-fi is not the right approach. Take, for instance, Stephen King’s “11/22/63.” The sci-fi in that book amounts to a very simple “portal,” you walk through a door and that’s it. For the hardcore crowd, well, one of the greatest, if not the greatest work on time travel, Jack Finney’s “Time and Again,” also employs a simple process to get on with the time travelin’. That’s not to say Yu is happy to settle for a magic door because, in fact, he goes all quantum physics on you in his own way. So, let’s revisit “How to Live,” which was recently reissued in print and is also now an e-book.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Charles Yu, Random House, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Time Travel

Book Review: ‘Art & Sole: A Spectacular Selection of More Than 150 Fantasy Art Shoes from the Stuart Weitzman Collection’ by Jane Gershon Weitzman

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David, a new assistant at Comics Grinder marched right into the offices of CG. He had a rather sheepish grin on his face. I wasn’t sure what to make of his quick familiarity. Like past friends of CG, he had a treat for us to consider. But he wasn’t going to give it up until he gave me a little grief. “Alright then,” David said, “you have a thing for feet, don’t you?”

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Filed under Art, Art books, Book Reviews, Books, Design, Fashion, Feet

Review: ‘Zombies vs Robots: No Man’s Land’

Zombies-vs-Robots-No-Mans-Land-IDW

“Zombies vs Robots: No Man’s Land,” a new prose anthology, edited by Jeff Conner, with illustrations by Fabio Listrani, and published by IDW, is deserving of a thoughtful review. Let’s get one thing straight. Zombies are definitely not for everyone. However, as more and more casual readers have come to find, the genre offers up some fun possibilities, and this book is a fine example of just that.

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Filed under Anthologies, Book Reviews, Books, IDW Publishing, Zombies

Is There an Ontologist in the House? A Review of ‘The Book of Trees’ by Manuel Lima

"Tree of Consanguinity," 1471, by Loyset Liedet (1420-79)

“Tree of Consanguinity,” 1471, by Loyset Liedet (1420-79)

Roy came in late to the Comics Grinder offices and dropped off his latest offering. He smiled his wry little smile and said, “You and your ontology issues!”

What about my ontology issues? When did I tell him?

Issues about ontology don’t get discussed much outside of certain circles. Stray away from these rarefied circles that are invested in such discussion and you could go years, maybe a whole lifetime, without ever needing to concern yourself ever again with that tiresome chit chat often foisted upon someone who enjoys reading by someone who fancies themselves no mere book lover but someone superior, someone who regularly uses the word, ontology!

This type most likely wears a beret, or perhaps a cloak, maybe nurtures an odd facial expression, or sports a baffling attempt at an English accent. Where are the true believers, sans the affectation, that make me want to go back to thoughts of ontology? Well, how about Manuel Lima? Yeah, how about Manuel Lima!

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Filed under Art, Art books, Book Reviews, Books, Data, Design, Infographics, Information

Review: ‘Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine’ by Tim Hanley

Wonder-Woman-Unbound-Tim-Hanley

If Wonder Woman did not exist, surely she would have to be created, right? As comic book historian Tim Hanley makes clear in his new book, “Wonder Woman Unbound,” there never was just one Wonder Woman and, lucky for us, she has emerged as the symbol we are all familiar with. But just how familiar? Yeah, what is Wonder Woman all about? That my friend is worthy of a book and here is that book.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Comics, pop culture, Wonder Woman

Review: ‘Bohemians: A Graphic History,’ Edited by Paul Buhle and David Berger

"Where Bohemia Began," art by Summer McClinton, script by Paul Buhle

“Where Bohemia Began,” art by Summer McClinton, script by Paul Buhle

“Good morning, Bohemians!” So, the jubilant cry would have been heard in Paris, circa 1853. It can still be heard today from down the street where I live in Seattle and all across the globe. I am a bohemian. I’ve always identified as such as a writer, artist, and cartoonist. But what does it really mean and how did this concept come to be? In the new comics anthology, “Bohemians: A Graphic History,” edited by Paul Buhle and David Berger, we get a full history. These short works are created by some of today’s most accomplished cartoonists, who also happen to be some of the best examples you will find of contemporary bohemians.

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Filed under Anthologies, Bohemians, Book Reviews, Books, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, Journalism