Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Books

Finished a couple books recently. I finally broke down and read Space Usagi. I've caught flak from people for reading Usagi comics at all. People mock the fact that it's mostly anthropomorphic animals. (I say mostly, but I can only recall one human and that was in the first couple issues before the series really got grounded and developed the world and its rules.) Okay, we all know, there are plenty of fruit-bats out there (especially on the internet, which allows fruit-bats to gather in crowds yet retain their anonymity) who draw anthropomorphic animals as objects to be lusted after. Right-thinking people can agree, they are loons. This is not what Usagi is. (I feel compelled to explain this because it's been a while since I last mentioned Usagi Yojimbo in any detail and some people who have begun visiting more recently may not be up to speed.) For a helpful comparison, see Maus, which is a telling of a person's experiences during the Holocaust using anthropomorphic characters. (One could also make a comparison to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though only as a way to differentiate from the nutter brigades on the internet. The TMNT stories, as presented on television at least, were not nearly so serious as those in UY.)

Right. Now that I've got that out of the way, let me say that I'd long avoided reading Space Usagi because, well, we're already talking about a rabbit-samurai adventuring in mythic (gods and monsters are part of everyday life) 16th century Japan. Now I'm supposed to suspend my disbelief even further and have these stories set in outer space? C'mon. And, after reading it, I was right. Oh, the stories themselves are fine, but the settings are just too much for me. Most of the tale features characters and situations that loosely correspond to the 18 books of regular Usagi comics. However, I did like how Sakai wasn't afraid to kill off characters with reckless abandon and to twist seemingly familiar characters in odd ways. It was quirky like that odd one-off episode of your favourite television show where the characters meet their alternate-universe doubles. I'm not going to buy it, and on the whole I don't think it was really very good.

I also finished Tehanu. I've felt rather ambivalent about the series up to this book. It's not bad, but I haven't been engaged like I was with other fantasy series. I liked Tehanu least so far. There isn't much that happens, honestly, and LeGuin spends an inordinate amount of time meditating (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say having her main character meditate) on power and the relationships between men and women. Which could well be an interesting topic, but the musings of her heroine seemed juvenile. The climax seemed rushed and was inadequately explained (though I'll withdraw that last if the next books flesh it out). I don't think the Earth-sea books are going to be ones that I buy.