Monday, November 20, 2017

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

(hb; 2007, 2010: seventh novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series.Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.)

From the inside flap

"Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone. Out his window, in the cold moonlight, he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day. Around its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.

"Hole suspects a link between a menacing letter he’s received and the disappearance of Jonas’s mother—and of perhaps a dozen other women, all of whom went missing on the day of a first snowfall. As his investigation deepens, something else emerges: he is becoming a pawn in an increasingly terrifying game whose rules are devised—and constantly revised—by the killer."


Review

Snowman is an excellent, suspenseful read, with its corkscrew/character-centered plot twists, masterful pacing and engaging [or chilling] characters. Not only that, it sets up a possible future foe for Hole to tangle with! Followed by The Leopard.

#

Tomas Alfredson directed the resulting film, which was released stateside on October 20, 2017. Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini, and Søren Sveistrup wrote the screenplay.

Michael Fassbender played Harry Hole. Rebecca Ferguson played Katrine Bratt.  Charlotte Gainsbourg played Rakel. Michael Yates played Oleg. Jonas Karlsson played Mathias.

Ronan Vibert played Gunnar Hagen. J.K. Simmons played Arve Støp. Val Kilmer played Gert "Iron" Rafto. Toby Jones played DC Svensson. Jakob Oftebro played DC Magnus Skarre

David Dencik played Vetlesen. Genevieve O'Reilly played Birte Becker. James D'Arcy played Filip Becker. Jeté Laurence played Josephine Becker. Chloë Sevigny played Sylvia Ottersen / Ane Pederson.


Post Office by Charles Bukowski

(pb; 1971)

From the back cover

"It began as a mistake." By middle age, Henry Chinaski has lost more than twelve years of his life to the U.S. Postal Service. In a world where his three true, bitter pleasures are women, booze, and racetrack betting, he somehow drags his hangover out of bed every dawn to lug waterlogged mailbags up mud-soaked mountains, outsmart vicious guard dogs, and pray to survive the day-to-day trials of sadistic bosses and certifiable coworkers.

This classic 1971 novel--the one that catapulted its author to national fame--is the perfect introduction to the grimly hysterical world of legendary writer, poet, and Dirty Old Man Charles Bukowski and his fictional alter ego, Chinaski.



Review

Bukowski’s first, semi-autographical novel is a lusty, drunken and don’t-give-a-frak politically incorrect work that often made me laugh out loud. In it, Henry Chinaski drinks too much, loves and fraks numerous women, and sometimes works at the US Post Office. Post is a book that – had it come out today – would have been protested for its raw, honest and sometimes ugly depictions of a ne’er-do-well whose heart is evident even as he acts like a don’t-give-a-damn bastard. Excellent, focused and landmark with its humor and outlook, this is one of my all-time favorite reads. It is not recommended for the politically correct, the otherwise easily offended, those certain of their purity, and those who are oh-so-certain that there are no gray areas in life.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Marvel Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 4 by "Stan Lee, John Romita, Sam Rosen & Friends"

(pb; 1969, 1989 and 2005: Collects The Amazing Spider-Man #66-89, & Annual issue #5. Note that issues #66-68 are also republished in the previous graphic novel, Volume 3.)

From the back cover

"After being bitten by an irradiated spider, young Peter Parker learned he had gained the proportional strength and agility of a spider. Combined with a keen "spider-sense" that warned him of danger, Peter became the hero we all know and love...Spider-Man! In this great volume, Peter will face some of his greatest challenges and overcome some of his most harrowing foes. Adventure at its best, true believer!"


Overall review

Volume 4 is a fun, action-oriented and youth-angsty read. There is less melodrama than usual in these issues – “frail” Aunt May still dotes too much on Peter, and he still does dumb things (even for someone his age) that make little sense. Also, there is the issue of the oh-so-sexist issue #86 with Black Widow, and the occasional, silly filler issue (e.g., Annual #5). This is a worthwhile graphic novel, if you can overlook the above elements, as the artwork – as always – is top-notch.

Story arcs

"The Madness of Mysterio” and “To Squash a Spider” (#67-68): Spider-Man gets shrunk and tries to elude death in a trap-rigged mini-amusement park.

Crisis on the Campus” (#68) – “The Speedster and the Spider” (#71): Spider-Man is publicly accused of being in cahoots with the Kingpin, who tries to steal an ancient and priceless tablet. This leads to skirmishes with the cops and Quicksilver (who is trying to acquit himself and his wife, the Scarlet Witch, of unrelated false charges).

"The Parents of Peter Parker” (Annual #5): Peter accidentally discovers what really killed his parents – and what they were. Red Skull, from the comic book Captain America, makes an appearance. This storyline and inclusion of Red Skull feels silly and shoe-horned, the admixture of two unlikely elements. Still, there is plenty of action.

Rocked By the Shocker” (#72) – “In the Blaze of Battle” (#77): More mayhem ensues, centered around that ancient tablet, issues #68–71. The Shocker, whose last appearance was in issue #46,  takes the tablet, with the intention of ransoming it. Before long, others are caught up in the conflict between Spider-Man and the Shocker: the Maggia (mobsters), including the hard-punching Man-Mountain Marko; Dr. Curt Connors, a.k.a. the Lizard; Johnny Storm, a.k.a. the Human Torch. . . This is Man-Mountain Marko’s first appearance in the Spider-Man comics. The Lizard last appeared in issue #45.

The Night of the Prowler” and “To Prowl No More!” (#78–79): A desperate, down-on-his-luck window washer (Hobie Brown) turns his hand to thieving via a costumed alter ego, the Prowler. When his path crosses Spider-Man’s, they fight for a brief time. Also, Peter Parker stews about Gwen Stacy, whom he mistakenly thinks has dumped him.

On the Trail of the Chameleon!” (#80): Spider-Man battles the Chameleon, who steals an expensive painting. The Chameleon was last seen in issue #2.

The Coming of the Kangaroo!”(#81) A misunderstood man with the ability to leap about like a kangaroo finds himself at odds with Spider-Man.

And Then Came Electro!” (#82): Electro, out of prison and working as an electrician, battles Spider-Man on live television. Electro is aided in his vengeful desire by Daily Bugler publisher J. Jonah Jameson, whose laser-focus hatred of the web-slinger once again comes into play. . . Electro was last seen in comic’s first annual Spider-Man issue.

The Coming of the Schemer!” (#83) – “The Secret of the Schemer!” (#85) Two events reawaken the violent impulses of Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin) – first, the news that his wife, Vanessa, has discovered that their son (Richard) is likely dead; and second, the clamorous appearance of the Schemer, a new mobster-esque villain whose main aim to take over the criminal empire that Fisk abandoned, after the debacle involving a priceless, ancient tablet (issues #68–71). 

Beware. . . the Black Widow!” (#86): Spider-Man crosses paths with the ex-Avenger and ex-agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Of course, a minor fight takes place before they finally talk and sort out their misunderstanding.

Even by the standards of the late Sixties, there is an underlying sexism that exists within the boy-centric tone of the Amazing Spider-Man universe. All of the female characters – “frail” Aunt May, Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy (with their catty rivalry) and the Black widow – are all, in one way or another, reliant on a man or his approval. Black Widow is an egregious example of this, as three characters (including Black Widow herself) refers to the ex-Avenger as a “copy” of Spider-Man, with her huge identity crisis. (Black Widow, with her powers, battle style and outlook, is not derivative of the web-slinger.) I have not noted this in earlier reviews of The Amazing Spider-Man because few, if any previous issues, were so in-your-face sexist (to my knowledge).

Unmasked At Last!” (#87): Peter, feverish with a mystery illness, reveals his alter ego to his friends at a party. He seeks  medical help. Hobie Brown, once the Prowler [#78–79], makes an appearance.

The Arms of Doctor Octopus!” and “Doc Ock Lives!” (#88–89): Doctor Octopus escapes from prison, hijacks a plane and creates general havoc – often while battling Spider-Man, of course. Be warned that this last issue-chapter of Vol. 4 ends on a cliffhanger situation.

Followed by Marvel Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 5.

Friday, November 03, 2017

The Redeemer by Jo Nesbø

(hb; 2005, 2009: sixth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series.Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.)

From the inside flap

"A 14-year old girl is raped at one of the Salvation Army summer camps. Twelve years later, at a Christmas concert in a square in Oslo, a Salvation Army soldier is executed by a man in the crowd. A press photographer has caught a suspect on one of the photos of the concert. Beate Lønn, the identification expert, is confused by how the face can change from one photo to the next. Inspector Harry Hole’s search for the faceless man takes place on the seamy side of the city, among those who seek eternal – or just momentary – redemption. And the gunman has not yet completed his mission."


Review

Redeemer is an excellent, hard-to-put-down police procedural/suspense book, one with lots of effective, character-centric twists and nuanced revelations (relating to the ongoing storyline about Tom Waaler, dealt with in The Devil'Star, and corruption within the police department). It is a novel worth owning. Followed by The Snowman.