Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rashmi bookmarks “The Serpent of Venice”

They're back! Pocket of Dog Snogging along with his sidekick Drool and pet monkey Jeff ... and of course a ghost (hey, "there's always a bloody ghost"). The works of William Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice and Othello) and Edgar Allan Poe (The Cask of Amontillado) get the Christopher Moore treatment in this continuation of Pocket's adventures from when we last met him in "Fool".

Out on a political mission at the behest of his wife, Queen Cordelia, Pocket walks right into a trap set by Antonio, Montressor Brabantio and Iago. From that torturous captivity unravels a story of great scheming and greater plotting amongst kings and princesses, soldiers and merchants.

There weren't too many laugh-out-loud moments - something I think I have come to associate Moore with. I do have to mention the Chorus: like Shakespearean plays, we see the chorus comment on scenes and characters ... unlike anything I have read ever before, the characters then comment back on what the Chorus says to them, sometimes even threatening them to change what was just said. That was really funny!

Overall however, I did not enjoy this book as much as all the other Moore stories I have read (even "Fool" was much funnier). I can't help feeling though, that Moore wasn't going for just funny this time. The Serpent of Venice is crafted out of tales that are polar opposites in genre, and brings together a vast repertoire of characters you could not imagine in the same world, much less the same room - and that is commendable.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Rashmi bookmarks “Wolf in White Van”

You may now make your first move.

Hospitalized for a lengthy period of time after an incident that left behind a permanent physical and emotional scar, Sean Phillips creates 'Trace Italian', the game of strategy and survival (interestingly, played solely via snail mail) wherein players send in their preferred move as they navigate their way around a world set in a ravaged, future America.

The beauty of this story by John Darnielle lies, not in that amazing twist where the imaginary and the real worlds merge, but rather in the narration of this story. As players Lance and Carrie take their turns into the real world with tragic results, and Sean is called in to testify, the story which had been moving forward starts to regress into Sean's history right back to where it all started. His letter to Carrie's parents which was read out during the trial, held so much sorrow and hope all at once, it gave a very poignant foundation to all the events that came after it.

From an imaginary to the real world, from excited replies to hate mail, this was the undulating, shifting story of a disfigured boy trying to create a 'safe place' in a horribly cruel world.

If there is one complaint I have about this book, it is that it did not go in as deeply as a subject this important warrants. It ended far too soon, and the tortured theme deserved a longer, harder look.