||[May. 21st, 2010|05:28 pm]
#19-21: Monster (vol. 1-3) by Naoki Urasawa
The first three volumes of an 18-volume manga series, the first eight of which I borrowed from seorin and iris_of_ether after watching a few episodes of the anime made from the manga. The basic story: A Japanese doctor working in Germany, Tenzo Kenma, saves a young boy's life by choosing to operate on him instead of on a politician that was brought into the ER shortly afterwards, risking his career in the intensely political hospital environment. Eight years later, Dr. Tenma discovers that the boy - now around twenty years old - has been committing a series of gruesome murders. Tenma feels responsible for the life he saved, that turned into the titular "Monster", and sets out to stop him.
The cover proclaims the author as "Japan's Master of Suspense", and suspense is certainly one thing done very well here. There is a sense that anyone could die at any time, other than a couple of people who it seems the killer would never harm. But there are bright points - Tenma has a gift for making random people's lives better, and the feeling that he's given life to a monster just increases the need he feels to help others. So the story ends up being a fascinating mix of horrible evil and shining good, feeding into and wound around each other like a fractal yin-yang.
#22: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Sora basically handed this to me saying "You're going to love the magic system," and oh, hey, I do. I'll let you find out the details for yourself, but it's fun and innovative, and the author does an excellent job of examining some of the consequences of the system he's set up (and answering some of the questions about details and edge cases that I had come up with while reading). Apart from that? It's laid out as a pretty standard "peasant finds out she has amazing powers; uses them to fight the oppressors" plot - but very, very well executed. The main characters are solidly three-dimensional, full of ideals and flaws and motivations that feel natural. The world is vividly described and fleshed out in the right places, but even when there are blocks of exposition it doesn't detract from the flow of the narrative. To sum up - I'm impressed, and I'll be reading more of his work soon.
#23: The King's Gambit (SPQR I) by John Maddox Roberts
A murder mystery with some political intrigue mixed in, set in what I'm pretty sure is the most accurate fictional rendering of the Republic of Rome I've ever read. The consistent usage of Roman terminology is a little jarring at first, but context makes most things reasonably clear, and a student of classical studies should enjoy the extra realism. The mystery itself is fun - the magistrate unraveling the conspiracy has a lively inner dialogue (though he purports to be recording the story as a memoir, many years later, so "inner" might not be the best choice). And the intrigue is masterfully done; Rome is an excellent setting for this sort of story, what with the convoluted system of Senate, Consuls, and a legion of minor public officials.
I've ordered the next couple books in the series (I think there are twelve now?) and we'll see whether I get sick of the style and setting eventually. I could see it happening - but for now, I had fun reading this.