Opus by Satoshi Kon

opus-by-satoshi-kon Title: Opus
Author: Satoshi Kon
Translator: Zack Davisson
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 978-1616556068
Genre: Manga, Graphic Novels
Pages: 384
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Rating: 5 Stars

Satoshi Kon died very young. When he was only forty-nine years old. In the course of reading his manga, “Opus” I researched and got to know more about it. I didn’t even know till then that he was a renowned filmmaker. I’m only too glad that I read “Opus” – a little too late, but better late than never.

“Opus” is about worlds that writers create; characters they rule over, plots they devise and how all of them affect each other. The manga is about a manga creator Chikara Nagai and how he is at a deadline to finish his graphic novel Resonance. Lin, his main hero does not want to die. He protests as he tears the last sheet of the manga and runs into the world created by Nagai. Lin wants to protect Satoko who is battling the evil Masque. Masque will stop at nothing. These are characters created by Nagai and he doesn’t want them to have a happy ending, though his editor and everyone else around him wants them to.

Chikara by chance or magic if you please enters his world of Resonance. The characters want to write their own story. Satoko comes to the real world with Chikara and things change drastically – with a lot of thrill page by page for the reader. Let me not say any further now or I will be giving away most of the plot.

Kon’s imagination is magnificent – as is visible through this manga. I haven’t watched his movies, so I really can’t comment on them. Having said that, this manga is brilliant beyond words. The anime has so much character, grace, personality and plot twists and turns that you cannot help but love this one. I wish someone would make a series of it soon. It would be epic.

Wilson by Daniel Clowes

wilson-by-daniel-clowes Title: Wilson
Author: Daniel Clowes
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House
ISBN: 978-0224090612
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comic Strip
Pages: 80
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Wilson is a strange character. I have never encountered someone like Wilson in graphic novels. He is not a happy person and he doesn’t like people. He is a sociopath. He is a loser. He is also not a romantic. He loves his dog. He doesn’t care about his ex-wife (or maybe he does) or for his daughter (maybe he does). All said and done, Wilson isn’t the sort of man you’d hang out with.

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“Wilson” by Daniel Clowes is told in the form of cartoon strips. It is spread over 80 pages in this format and is a delight to read, with every turn of the page. He is an introvert and also an extrovert – basically confused which most of us really are, so it is okay. Daniel Clowes focuses on the ups and downs of one person’s life and surprisingly, there are portions you can very well relate to. My grumpiness for example – I could totally understand when Wilson was not being so nice (which is almost all the time in the book) and that kinda overwhelmed me.

Wilson might also be about the mundane and about loneliness and how each of us deals with it. The pages compliment Wilson’s mood – the colours, sometimes the fonts and the attitude as well. Wilson is a bastard and you can see that – but he has more shades to him than just black and white and that is what makes this graphic novel super interesting. His interactions with others are most unique and funny.

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I would highly recommend everyone to read “Wilson” only because it is so bizarre and so satisfying at the same time. It might also make you contemplate a lot about your life, so be cautious about that. Make it a holiday read. You will not be disappointed for sure.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

the-boy-in-the-striped-pyjamas-by-john-boyne Title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Author: John Boyne
Publisher: Vintage, Penguin Random House
ISBN: 978-0099572862
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

This was the second book I read as a part of ‘The Story Cure’ reading project. Also, it is holocaust literature, so it comes with the territory of tears, anger, and loneliness. There is nothing you can do about it when you start reading it. To top that, there is a movie based on this book, which I don’t think I will ever watch.

“The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” is a book that will not leave you – perhaps because you already know how it will end, but also because of the writing. Boyne is simple, direct and quite powerful at his craft. The book is by no means a difficult read – it is just the emotions that need to be dealt with after that is tough.

Bruno, a nine-year old boy lives with his parents and older sister Gretel in Berlin. The year is 1942. One fine day as he comes back from school, he is told that they are moving to a place called Out-With (Auschwitz or so he pronounces or understands it throughout the book). His father has received a promotion. He doesn’t have any friends in the new place. But it is the Fury’s order who father works under (the Führer – of course we all know it is Hitler. Again Bruno cannot pronounce it so he calls him Fury throughout the book) and they have to go to Out-With.

There is a tall fence there that separates him from some strange place – all wearing the same clothes – all dressed in striped Pyjamas. This is where Bruno meets Shmuel – a skinny, gray looking boy and their worlds will never be the same.

Boyne’s characterization skills are superb. The characters – including the parents, Lieutenant Kotler and the servants are gripping. Their sub-plots convey so much throughout the book and yet it doesn’t stop being a young adult book. It continues to maintain its innocence and has so much to say. The writing is funny also at times, mostly it is heartbreaking though. I don’t think I can bear to watch this movie. The reason it was a part of “The Story Cure” is as it answers the question “What it’s all about?” – it will cure you of it – all the angst (some of it) and perfect for teenagers to know what happened and how did the Holocaust play out for most. I almost didn’t want to read the book – but I am glad I did. Read it, but do keep the box of tissues handy.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

all-the-birds-in-the-sky-by-charlie-jane-anders Title: All the Birds in the Sky
Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Publisher: Tor Books
ISBN: 978-0765379948
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

“All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders has been the ultimate sci-fi read for me this year. It is also a fantasy read, and it is also literary. It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel by this author. She has written novellas and short stories before this one, but surprisingly before this one I hadn’t heard of her. Thank God I did now and will look forward to reading more from her.

This book is about two people – who meet as children and then again at various points throughout the book. This is a love story as well, but not the conventional kind, let me add. It is a story that is character-driven mostly. The plot is essential but somehow it felt that it was going nowhere. Now let me tell you something about the book.

“All the Birds in the Sky” is a book about magic and science and whether or not the two go hand in hand. There is destruction, magic and a lot of fantastical elements in the book. Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead are the protagonists who are trying very hard to understand their gifts, responsibilities and how they feel for each other as the book progresses.

They are oddballs to the core. Their parents do not get them at all. Patricia’s parents think of her as lazy and prefer her older sister. Patricia turns to nature and there she discovers herself and the magic she holds within. Laurence on the other hand is a tech geek who builds a two second time machine, when Patricia meets him. They both take to each other. They just want to be themselves in this chaotic world and don’t know how to. Till a mysterious teacher Theodolphus Rose enters their lives and things change. He has seen the future and wants the two to stay apart. What happens next – how they are away, meet as adults and how life changes at every step is what the rest of the book is all about.

The writing soars. There are parts where you feel you have been short-changed and want more, but Anders makes up for it more than you’d like later. It is a fast-paced book – the one you just can’t stop reading. Pages turn and fly and so does your imagination. The battle between science and nature is a real one and this book talks about it in so many metaphors – it is beautiful. Thumbs up for this book! Do read!

You are Stardust by Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim

you-are-stardust-by-elin-kelsey-and-soyeon-kim Title: You Are Stardust
Author: Elin Kelsey
Artwork by: Soyeon Kim
Publisher: Owlkids Books
ISBN: 978-1926973357
Genre: Children’s Books, Picture Books
Pages: 32
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I read “You are Stardust” because it was the first book mentioned in “The Story Cure” by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin. This book, The Story Cure that is, is like their earlier book “The Novel Cure” but for children, their parents and everyone who has ever wondered what should I gift a child or a teenager. It is also for adults, if you ask me, to relive their childhood by reading or re-reading these gems mentioned in the book.

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So now back to the first book “You are Stardust” – authored by Elin Kelsey and beautifully illustrated by Soyeon Kim. I am of the firm belief that children’s books are not only for kids or teens. They are most importantly for adults – who have lost their child-like innocence, their ability to question, to wonder or to know how the world works.

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This is what the book is about – life, universe and maybe everything (or not). This is the book to cure children of what’s the world all about (that’s what the book says). The book is lovely – when I say this, I don’t mean it loosely. It really is lovely. The illustrations by Soyeon Kim are gorgeous – with every turn of the page, I was only too happy or perhaps more than the last page. This book is perfect to teach kids about the universe, the Earth and in turn about humans.

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Elin Kelsey is an environmental writer (I got to know of it after I read the book) and now I can clearly see the connection that the book is trying to bring out between kids and the natural world. “You are Stardust” is grounded in science, philosophy (most parts really) and stunning dioramas by Kim.

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There is also an app about the book and its creation. I for one cannot wait to download it. Being a picture book, it doesn’t restrict itself to kids. It is most certainly for adults as well. Go pick it up. Read it to your child or nephew or niece and then read it yourself. Be enthralled by it.

I read this book as a part of the reading project (one of the reading projects) I have started: To read all books mentioned in ‘The Story Cure’. It is an ambitious project and I hope to see this through at least. The next book in line for this is: The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.

33 Revolutions by Canek Sánchez Guevara

33-revolutions-by-canek-sanchez-guevara Title: 33 Revolutions
Author: Canek Sánchez Guevara
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609453480
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 128
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

A short book that has so much to say. I am enamored by books that say so little and end up showing you an entire world of things, ideas and more importantly make you think and a lot more once you are done reading them. “33 Revolutions” by Canek Sánchez Guevara is one such book.

The book might seem vague to begin with but it is anything but that. It is the story of a nameless protagonist living in contemporary Cuba, whose parents were the supporters of the Castro revolution. At the same time, he is black. The reason I mention this is because it plays a role in the story and one which cannot be ignored. The hero’s father died on being accused of embezzlement. His mother flees after her husband’s death and settles in Madrid.

He is separated from his wife and all he does besides his rote work is read. Books open him to a different world and make him see the reality he is surrounded by: the mundane, the ineffectual and the broken records of life – which the book captures beautifully. I think that has also to do with the fact that the author was the grandson of Che Guevara. The ideas of revolution that spring later can be seen lucidly as being inspired by him.

Our hero also has Kafkaesque dreams – nightmares and tethers on the edge mostly. In fact, at most times you as a reader cannot distinguish between reality and fiction of the novel and question the plot. This to me is fantastic as it challenges you – the reader, which doesn’t happen too often in books. The sense of disillusionment is real and how you actually see the protagonist being an informer and then refusing to do what he is told are the hallmarks of this novella.

This novella has actually made me want to read more about Cuba and its revolution of Castro – of how it all began and how it disappointed its supporters. “33 Revolutions” though is a fantastic stand-alone novella. Guevara puts his heart and soul in the writing – while reading it you might also feel exhausted and tired and that is the cornerstone of a good book – to make you feel what you read. Might I also add that the translation by Howard Curtis who also translated Santiago Gamboa’s book “Night Prayers” (published earlier this year and which I loved) is superb. If politics, life, and the disappointment of it all interests you, then this book sure is for you. If not, then too pick it up for the beauty of language.

Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles by Ankit Chadha

the-man-in-riddles Title: Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles
Author: Ankit Chadha
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0143426486
Genre: Literary Fiction, Poetry
Pages: 96
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I had heard of Ankit Chadha and his Dastangoi acts from a lot of friends. I am yet to witness the magic he creates though. After reading this short book by him on Khusrau’s riddles and some about his life, I will for sure watch Chadha spin his brilliant talent. I did then watch some episodes on YouTube but let me also tell you, I am sure that they do not hold a candle to the real thing.

Amir Khusrau’s life is revealed in this book “The Man in Riddles” cleverly and masterfully by Ankit Chadha. This book is also part-verse and part-mystery – a puzzle for the readers – something for them to engage in and at the same time, get to know Khusrau better. Khusrau was a poet, a strategist, a musician, a scholar, and more. His spiritual master was Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and his tomb is next to his master’s in Delhi. It is fascinating just to trace his life on the Internet and know more about this man.

The illustrations are not mere pictures or fancy art – they go hand in hand with the story that Chadha has to tell. The book is exquisite, in the sense of what is communicated and how it is done – bilingually – with both Hindi//Urdu (though he mainly wrote a lot in Persian) on one side and English on the other side.

I think the only way to experience Khusrau now would be through Ankit’s Dastangoi. I hope that works out for me really soon. I cannot wait to live it in person. When that is done, a trip to Delhi must be made to know more, a lot more than I do now.