Graphic Novel Review: The Last Unicorn

I got this for my birthday. I knew it existed, but it was one of those things that would be too expensive to buy for myself.

The art is beautiful. They couldn’t have picked a better artist for this.

It was interesting to read, having seen the movie, and read the book, and now seeing yet another re-imagining. The artwork is not the same as the movie, and yet, it’s clearly inspired by it – based on it, even. The costumes of the characters – they’re the same, but with more detail. The faces are less cartoony than the movie, and more realistic, but you can do that in a graphic novel, where you only have to draw the face once per shot. But  Schmendrick’s hat has the same two toned fabric, and stitches holding it together, like the movie – all, or most of the details like that, are still there from the movie. But there is license taken – Mommy Fortuna looks quite different, and if you thought she was creepy in the movie, she looks awesome in the graphic novel.

In contrast, the story doesn’t follow the movie exactly. If you’ve read the book and seen the movie, you know the movie skipped both the town the characters were visiting when Jack Jingly found Schmendrick, and Jack giving the password, and Hagsgate town, where Lir’s biological father explains the curse on the town and Haggard’s castle.

Those are brought back into the story in the graphic novel. They didn’t skip anything important, like they did in the movie. They fixed it.

At the end, there’s also a feature of a bunch of art from other artists. It’s quite neat to see renditions of the characters in so many different styles of art. After that is an editor’s note, on the struggles of producing the graphic novel, and how he wanted very much to be as true to the original work as possible. And then there’s a story of Olfert Dapper, the dutch physician to whom the original work was dedicated.

They didn’t screw anything up. Any die hard fan of Peter S. Beagle would love this.

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Wanted: Dieselpunk Recommendations

In followup to last weeks’s announcement of The Punkettes blog launch party, I’d like to make an open call for Things You’d Like To See Reviewed over at The Punkettes.

I’ll be focusing on Dieselpunk, myself, so that’s mainly what I’m looking for. Problem is, while Steampunk has hit it big lately, Dieselpunk is still fairly obscure, and often stuff that has Dieselpunk elements may not be labelled or advertised as such. Help tracking down stuff that other lovers of Dieselpunk would enjoy is muchly welcome.

I am open to authors suggesting their own books, but a couple of things to say on recommendations from authors for their own books:

– Dieselpunk stuff only. Please do not spam me with anything that isn’t at least tangentially related. If it looks like you didn’t even read this post, and ask me to buy a copy of your paranormal romance to review it, expect your comment or email to be deleted without a reply.

– Self published books may not get to the top of the to-be-read list very fast, for the reasons detailed in my previous post on self-published books. (As with traditionally published authors, please be prepared for an honest opinion if your book has not been through a relatively professional editing process. If it’s immediately obvious to me that it hasn’t, I may decide not to review it at all.)

– Offering review copies will definitely help put your book at the top of my to-be-read list.

That said, bring on the recommendations. Either reply to this post, or click the Contact Me link at the top of the page to send me an email.

The Punkettes, Grande Opening Announcement

Would have announced this a few days ago when they set a date for the blog launch, but I’ve been on a long string of shifts on the day job. I have now negotiated with the cat for approximately half the rocking chair, so that I can sit while I write a blog post. This picture captures said feline’s personality fairly well, so you know what I mean.

So there’s a new blog starting up, called The Punkettes. Steampunkette, Erin Latimer will be blogging there about Steampunk, Clockpunkette, Rebecca Sky will be blogging about Clockpunk, and yours truly will be appearing there as the Dieselpunkette.

I’m pretty excited to have been invited to join them in their adventures in blogging. We’ll be reviewing books in the genre, and I hope to be also reviewing other media as well – music, movies and TV shows, as well as blogging on other genre topics, such as costuming and gadgetry, and anything else related that we think other lovers of the genre might be interested in.

Anyway, we’ve got tons of stuff lined up for giveaways for new followers and anyone spreading the word, so stop by on sept 1st and find out all the ways you can enter, and wish us luck!

Review: Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear

I’m getting behind on reviewing the books I’ve been reading. Back on my reading female authors thing, the next one up was Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear.

I wanted to read one of her novels after reading her short story on Tor.com, “The Horrid Glory of it’s Wings” which is a beautiful story. I decided to pick up with this, her newest one, and I have not been disappointed.

The most interesting part was the worldbuilding, from the astrological quirks of the world, to the societal. They sky of this world reflects whoever is ruling the land. Under the psuedo Mongol horde, the sky has countless moons, one for each of the Great Khagan’s heirs, but in Samarkar’s land, there is only one moon. And when the characters come to a land where the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, they go “Oh crap….”

Also interesting and refreshing is the dominance of what North Americans would consider non-normative marriage customs. Among Temur’s tribes, women are very sexually free, even when married, though men may have many wives. And in Samarkar’s land, when a woman marries, she marries all of a man’s brothers.

The world is immersive, and it’s nice to see epic fantasy that’s not set in the done to death western european medieval fantasy world. Have I said that before, that I’m sick and tired of medieval western Europe? I have? Oh, well, there it is again. I really, really am. I’ll put up with it for George R. R. Martin, but I can only handle one of his books a year, and my quota for medieval western european fantasy is shot right there.

But that’s getting me side tracked. I think it’s because I was so impressed that someone somehow made the exiled-prince-destined-to-overthrow-his-evil-usurper-uncle fresh. Because that really is a huge part of the plot. I kept looking at it and thinking “am I really reading this and not rolling my eyes at it?” Funny how a change of setting and some really great worldbuilding to take you away from the familiar can do so much for such a cliche. The societal dynamics put an interesting light on things, especially when characters are not expected to restrict themselves to a single lover, and taking another is not a betrayal of the first. I’m curious to find out if jealousy plays into things later, and how much.

The characters are likable, and I always like strong, active female characters. Samarkar is definitely that, and pushes the story along by the force of her will. Temur, too, treats Samarkar as an equal, and it makes me like him more.

Anyway, it’s a book that was nice to settle down into. It doesn’t move at a breakneck pace, but it’s a comfortable an enjoyable read for those who love epic fantasy, and Bear has an expertise with the English language that drew me into the story all on it’s own.

Thoughts on Receiving Critiques

With critiques coming in, and one beta reader nearly finished reading the novel, I’ve been thinking about how I receive critiques. Partly because I’ve also been watching others receive critiques, in various face to face groups or partnerships. Some people handle negative feedback better than others.

The way I look at it, is the whole point of this is finding out what’s still broken that I can fix and make the story better. In which case, the negative feedback is useful and much appreciated, and I try to let my critiquers know how much I appreciate it. Because getting the feedback is a means to an end – the point is making the story better.

It’s different from a review – a review is when you get the book published and people say what they think sucked and what was good and whether or not other people should bother spending money on it. It’s a reflection of what someone thinks of your writing skill. A critique, on the other hand, is not supposed to be a reflection of your skill, but a tool to improve. A stepping stone to better writing, so that when those reviews come in, they won’t be as disappointing as they could be.

One big factor in how I see people receiving critiques is the writer’s perception of how good they are. Most people in critique groups think they’re a lot better than they are. I won’t say most writers, because the writers who think they’re worse than they are, generally are too embarrassed of their work to join a critique group. But, especially with a newly formed critique group, with members who don’t know one another well enough to want to spare one another’s feelings, there is often that first time critique that’s received with a disappointed frown.

Sometimes the person has had much more positive feedback from a more supportive, but possibly less honest environment (my mom says she liked it/my fanfic is well received by my following).  It can be hard for those people to hear a more honest opinion from a less invested stranger.

I find it’s never a good idea to have close friends or family critique your work. I did give my novel to my mother in law to read, but I didn’t expect her to offer a lot of negative feedback with the honesty of an actual critiquer – she just wanted to read it. The reason family and close friends are a bad idea is because the relationship will get in the way of the feedback – the person giving feedback will be afraid to hurt the writer’s feelings, and if they value the friendship, they are very likely to hold back. On the other side, if the writer values the friendship, their feelings are likely to be hurt even more than if the feedback were to come from a stranger.

I do have one very close friend with whom I trade critiques, and we are brutally honest with one another. When we started trading critiques though, we weren’t friends yet – just fellow writers who met at the day job and who made a mutually agreeable arrangement. The friendship grew out of that, but the brutal honesty in critiques remained, because we both know the other has a very thick skin and can handle anything we say.

We also know that critiques are only opinions. She’s a great copyeditor, but every once in a while, she makes a suggestion of a style change that would change my style to hers. I just ignore those. I appreciate the suggestion, and sometimes her more formal style would suit the character I’m writing, and I’ll make the change anyway, so I’d just as soon she point it out as not, so that I can make a choice. But we have very different styles, and not everything I suggest is going to be something that works for her either, and we both respect one another enough to not get hot under the collar if we disagree on a point.

But in closing, if you’re one of those people who’s heartbroken at receiving a critique that points out weaknesses in your work that you didn’t realise were there, don’t be. It’s not a review – the work isn’t published yet, and it doesn’t have to be perfect yet. No one expects brilliance in a critique group. Take that feedback as it’s intended – as a tool to help you become a stronger writer.