Plus some books

LUCIFER: The Devil in the Middle Ages by Jeffrey Burton-Russell, is part of the author’s series dealing with perceptions of Satan throughout history. As recounted here, the dominant concern of the Middle Ages was the problem of evil: Does God cause it? Does he allow it? Does either choice make him to blame for bad things? Other questions included whether Satan could be redeemed (no!), whether he had power over the saved, and why the world hadn’t become more moral since Jesus redeemed us. Also dipping into poetry, miracle plays and fiction, this is a good overview.
OUTLIERS: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell worked better for me than his Blink did, as Gladwell argues that what appears to be triumph of raw personal talent often reflects chance and coincidence (one famous programmer admits if he hadn’t wound up at a school where you didn’t have to do everything by punch-card, he’d have lost interest) and even the time of your birth (as in the reasons Jewish law firms became some of the world’s largest and most powerful in the late 20th century. Like Blink, this recycles a lot of clichés (you need thousands of hours of practice to master something! Some foreign cultures have a problem with challenging authority!) but he manages to put them together more interestingly (though some hypotheses, such as how the Asian work ethic is determined by growing rice, sound too pat for my taste).
PROJECT SUPERPOWERS: Chapter Two, Vol. 2 continues the battle of the returned super-heroes against Zeus (first part got a review here), who’s determined to reclaim the Promethean fire from humanity, despite the fact it doesn’t want to go back. This makes several revelations (time in Pandora’s urn has made them unkillable) and shifts the power structure enough to make for some interesting developments next time.
BALTIMORE: The Plague Ships is a disappointing vampire story from Mike Mignola in which vampire-hunter Lord Baltimore attempts to track down the arch-vampire responsible for a “plague” spreading across Europe at the end of the First World War. Despite a fairly grotesque battle near the end, this is far too stock a vampire tale for my taste, with none of the off-kilter strangeness Mignola gives Hellboy and his spinoffs (or even the unrelated Jenny Finn graphic novel).
SHOWCASE PRESENTS GREEN LANTERN, Vol. 4 wraps up the Silver Age Green Lantern pretty well as Hal Jordan reunites with Carol Ferris (his follow-up girlfriend Eve disappears without a trace) and renews battles with Sinestro, Star Sapphire and the anti-matter invaders of Qwaard. This confirms my view Gil Kane was responsible for Hal’s growing tendency to slug people rather than use his ring (when Kane’s on the story, there’s much more hitting); enjoyable, but sales were plummeting by the last issue herein, so we got the legendary (even if I’m not that fond of it) Green Lantern/Green Arrow run in its wake.
SCARLET TRACES: The Great Game, by Ian Edgerton and D’Israeli is the follow up to Scarlet Traces in which a photojournalist decides to investigate why almost nobody’s returned home from the war on Mars in four decades and discovers that just as Britain re-engineered Martian technology, they’ve been re-engineering us (so that anyone returning home could be a Pod Person). Like the first volume, this starts well and ends weakly (way too sunny and pat a finish for my taste).

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One response to “Plus some books

  1. Pingback: A rather drab collection of graphic novels (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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