Weekend Shorts: The Unwritten #43-44

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, largely because I’ve been spending all of my free time reading some pretty awesome full-size books. But then I looked at my towering pile of unread comics and thought it might perhaps be a good idea to read some of those before I became buried under them! But then after reading two of them I had more long books to read, so… that’s what you get this week! Perhaps more later?

Unwritten #43: “Wheels Within Wheels, Fires Within Fires”
Issue 43So at the end of the last issue, this giant bear showed up with some raccoon/mole/rodent-type friends, and I was like, um. But right at the beginning of this issue said giant bear calls Tom Taylor “a big, featherless chicken,” and as such this bear is my new best friend. This bear gets into a couple of cleaver fights with his friends and with Tom before being dispatched by our old friend Baron von Munchausen, who helps Tom figure out what’s going on and then attaches himself to Tom’s quest to save Lizzie. It definitely feels like a bit of a filler issue, mostly exposition, but the supporting characters offer enough humor (and anti-humor) to keep things interesting.

Unwritten #44: “Halfway Through the Journey”
Issue 44Which is good, because the humor falls right out of the story in this issue. Tom has made his way to the land of the dead in search of Lizzie, but first he loses his memory and meets up with some kids we’ve known for quite a while now and who I am glad are more or less okay. We get a nice little tour of the underworld of Greek myth, meet a few people from Tom’s past, and then get a surprise appearance from one of my favorite characters in this series (yay!). I am excited to get back to these comics, whenever that happens…

The Unwritten Vol. 7, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten Vol. 7I was really excited to see this volume come into my library so close on the heels of finally reading the previous collection, so much so that I coerced (read: said please to) the cataloger in charge of it to put a hold on it for me as soon as she could, you know, just in case there was a run on it. Relatedly, why isn’t there a run on this series? It is so many kinds of awesome!

If you will recall, last time around I was a little boggled by the sheer number of stories in the collection, so I was very glad to see that there were just a few straightforward issues in this one. And it starts with my favorite horrible person, Mr. Bun, whose presence was sorely lacking last time, so all is forgiven! Oh, Mr. Bun, you are such an awful human bunny.

So, yes. In the first story, we see Mr. Bun hanging out with The Tinker, whose story I don’t quite remember but whose costume is amusing. They get caught up in a bit of a mass exodus from… fiction, I guess, and it seems like things in the land of stories are about to be going very terribly.

Then we head back to the land of the mostly non-fictional and meet up with a badass Australian aboriginal detective who is basically my new favorite character. She’s investigating a weird cult devoted to Tommy Taylor as lord and savior, and she meets up with our good friend what’s-his-face from the Grid, who has come from England to join up with the cult for some reason or other. Things get very culty, and then they get awesome with a unicorn and the return of Pullman’s hand and a very odd one-man show.

The last story is… I’m not sure where it fits, chronologically, so it’s a bit confusing. I may need to go back to the last couple of volumes and see if I can figure that one out. Or maybe Scott will remember when he finishes it — a benefit of reading things with other people!

I definitely liked what this set of stories did, especially with the whole badass detective thing, because I’m a sucker for detectives who don’t quite follow the rules. I also think the [spoiler] that happens to said detective could be very interesting for future stories. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, so much so that I may have already stocked up on those single issues I keep threatening to buy. Oh, money, I will miss you so. But on the plus side, I don’t have to wait eight million years to read the next issues!

Recommendation: As always, I say go find this series and start reading it!

Rating: 9/10

The Unwritten Vol. 6, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten, Vol. 6Finally, almost a year after the last one, this volume of The Unwritten made it into my library and then into my excited hands. Yay! Unfortunately, I had largely forgotten what was going on in the last volume, and this one is not terribly helpful in that regard. Boo.

This is a really thick collection, with something like ten individual issues, or half-issues, or I don’t know what’s going on with the number here, inside it. And so the stories end up going all over the place, half with Tom & Co. and the other half delving hardcore into the history of this whole storytelling thing, with Pullman and the marionette lady and a giant fish thing and a bunch of tertiary storytellers and the cabal and the people who run the grid and why couldn’t we have gone back to that evil Mr. Bun while we were at it?

That’s not to say I didn’t like the stories, because they were all quite good in their own right, it’s just the first time the collection as a whole seemed to lack some cohesion. I know, I know, they’re comics, not novels, and after my success in reading The Human Division in tiny episode form maybe I can convince myself to shell out for the monthly versions? Maaaaybe.

Anyway, parts I liked include the vengeful but sort of moral Tommy, the bit with the editorial cartoonist (because seriously, it’s probably pretty true!), the attempt to read Tommy into oblivion, the marionette girl, and the last story with the Grid employee — surprisingly not a lot of the straight Tom & Co. stories! I’m always a fan of getting some good backstory, and the new stories (like the last one) promise a lot of intrigue to come. I think the next big volume is set to come out soon, so I’ll probably wait for that at my library and then think about getting into the issues.

Recommendation: I certainly wouldn’t start here; go enjoy Volume 1 first!

Rating: 7.5/10

The Unwritten Vol. 5, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten Vol. 5Every time I get a new trade of The Unwritten, I try to leave it sitting on my table for a couple days so that I can at least seem like a patient person. But a certain husband of mine saw it waiting for me, snatched it up, and read it first like a MEANIE. So I had to read it right afterward so he couldn’t spoil it. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

It’s wonderful, as though you’d expect me to say anything else at this point. It starts with a heist, which is one of my many story-related weaknesses, and then it reminds us about Tom’s effed-up childhood, and then it lays out some very intriguing backstory for Tom’s dad, and the cabal people are killin’ lots of other people and there is a child made out of comic-book superhero (yes, you read that right) and it is cah-razy up in here.

I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a bumper issue or whatever you might call it at the end of this volume, something like the Mr. Bun tales or the creepy Choose Your Own Adventure that would give me a diversion from the fact that I have to wait months for the next set to arrive in my library! But, on the other hand, extra story and extra questions just waiting to be answered those many months from now. 🙂

Recommendation: Seriously, why haven’t you already started reading this series?

Rating: 9/10

The Unwritten Vol. 4, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Dear The Unwritten,

I love you so much. Let’s run off together.

Love, Alison
p.s. It’s cool if my husband comes too, right?

LeviathanI will grant that on its own, this volume was not quite as good as any of the first three, especially that last one with the parodies and the choose-your-own-adventure-ness. Dang, that was a good one. But it’s not really like those other ones anyway… we’re done with the “Is Tom Taylor actually Tommy Taylor? With, like, magic and stuff?” plotline and we are moving fully into “Is the world just entirely made of imagination?” existentialism. And vampires, because why not?

In this collection, aptly titled Leviathan, Carey and Gross treat us to a whale of a party, ha ha! Ahem. There are whales, is what I’m saying. A few of them. Including the ever-popular Moby Dick, whose story Tom ventures into and then breaks and then escapes only to find himself hanging out with Sinbad, Pinocchio, and various others inside an apparently very hungry whale. And then things explode.

Oh, and meanwhile our friends Richie and Lizzie only wish they were hanging out in the belly of a whale, on account of they’ve met up with a mean and slightly magical puppeteer who needs some information out of them. Things go as you might expect, there. And then at the end we meet up again with that foul-mouthed rabbit dude from the second volume, who has not gotten any pleasanter but has gotten some worshippers. Goody.

And there are so many other little things that have me intrigued to see where this story goes. It is clearly epic and intricate and fantastic. But I could also go for some more stories that are just full of awesome brain candy. Either way is good.

Rating: 8/10

The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

I have been meaning to re-read this series since, oh, the first time I read The Eyre Affair almost exactly three years ago. But I really got it into my head to do it over the summer, and by that time I had lent the first book to a good friend who is apparently bad at returning books, and I was all, fret fret fret. But then I realized — audiobooks! So I grabbed this book on audio from the library, and I can now say that it is a rather different experience.

The idea behind The Eyre Affair is actually a complex set of ideas. You have an alternate universe where Britain has been fighting the Crimean War for, you know, 130 years, no big deal, so you’ve got the pro-war/anti-war/pro-soldier/pro-let’s-have-a-nap-instead set of issues. This alternate universe also includes time travel that is constantly re-writing history. Also vampires and werewolves. Also people who really really know you’re talking about them. Also reconstituted dodos. Also many other things, and also, primarily for the book’s purposes, a Special Ops unit dedicated to solving crimes against books. Which is awesome.

It’s a whole big mess of everything, and so when I read it with my eyes, I necessarily imbued a Hitchhiker’s/Buffy/Monty Python snark-the-day-away sort of mentality into it. And in fact, the audio book box promises these things. But what struck me within the first chapter of reading with my ears is that the narrator, despite having a fantastic voice for Thursday, does not choose to play the book that way. She is very very earnest and plays very straight off the page, and I felt like I was missing out on a lot of Fforde’s wit and sarcasm.

On the plus side, I can now pronounce a lot of things from the book better than I could a week ago. Darn British people and their un-intuitive spellings.

The other thing I found interesting about re-reading this book is that I had forgotten how different the first book is from all the rest, because Fforde had really intended The Eyre Affair as a standalone. The pacing is slower (we don’t even get to the Eyre part until practically the end!), there is a LOT of exposition-y stuff, and Thursday is not quite the BAMF she becomes later. And oh my goodness had I forgotten about Daisy. Let me just go jump into this book and punch her in the face.

Right, yes. On the whole I recommend the eyes-reading experience better than the ears-reading, but either way is pretty fantastic.

Recommendation: Do you like books? Mysteries? Sci-fi? Love stories? Dodos? Characters called Braxton Hicks and Jack Schitt? Fun? Go read this series.

Rating: 7.5/10 (lower than last time for the audio sadness)

(A to Z Challenge)

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, by Jasper Fforde

Jasper! It has been so long! And even longer back to the last Thursday Next! I have missed you so much.

Okay, soooooooooooo. I tried explaining this book to my husband, but it is in fact quite difficult to explain without the help of five previous novels to get across the whole BookWorld concept. But, basically, there is a BookWorld and it is inhabited by all the characters of all the books you ever or never read, and whenever you read a book these characters are like, “Oh, time to pop on stage!” and act out your book. This is why books are slightly different every time you read them, see? It makes perfect sense.

Hanyway, we found out in the afore-linked last novel that the Thursday Next books have been published within the world of Thursday Next, but they’re not the same as the ones we here in our world have been reading, and the chick what plays Thursday is not… not really Thursday-ish. She’s kind of a hippie rather than a badass. Nonetheless, in this book the written Thursday gets a big taste of real Thursday life when not only does a strange book-crash (I cannot explain that) mystery leads her to, among other things, find out that Real Thursday is totes missing, which is a problem on many levels.

I thought this entry was brilliant, possibly because I’ve been severely lacking Fforde in my life recently and possibly because this book was much tighter, I think, than others in the series, and more subtle (especially compared to the last). I also loved that it’s from the point of view of a written Thursday, and therefore gives us more insight into the BookWorld, which is decidedly less complicated than the real Thursday’s world, and also more predictable but predictably amusing. Because the book has a different protagonist and all, I would say it’s difficult to read this without having read the others, but I don’t think impossible.

Worrisome is the fact that the book wraps a lot of things up quite nicely, which leads me to think that all of the Thursdays might be getting shelved soon, though if it’s in favor of new and exciting series I might be okay with this.

Recommendation: If you like literature and you like satire, this satire of literature is for you. But you should probably start back at the beginning for optimum effect.

Rating: 9/10
(A to Z Challenge)