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Review: “Watchmen” by Alan Moore – Dave Gibbons (5 Stars)

Unbounded artistic genius, bubbling with the bottomless, murky depths of complex allusions.

The plot of this graphic novel is not overly complicated: it’s a simple whodunit mystery. The central storyline focuses around a band of retired costumed heroes who are being picked off one by one for unknown reasons. However, the fleshed out characters, sticky subplots, rich backdrop and alternate history world-building combined with interwoven bits of paralleling metafiction all contribute toward the plunging depths of story.

A big strength this work has going for it, is the fact that it is a self-contained story. There is a beginning middle and end. This is not some sort of ongoing soap-opera type plot that looks to introduce a new supervillain for next week’s adventure.

The tale told is both big and small. Individual characters must come to grip with past life choices and personal philosophies all within the context of a world that is changing, has changed and will change more. The author (and artist) does an excellent job in pitting different worldviews against one another without having the characters come across as flat. A multitude of individual character arcs compliment the various subplots and bring things to a thoughtful and satisfactory conclusion. The main characters are fully fleshed out, while secondary characters are developed just enough to compliment the main storyline as they fade into the background leaving behind a lingering glimpse of the world in which they inhabit.

The setting of this story is in a gritty 1980’s urban landscape. In present time, we meet retired costumed heroes who are akin to stereotypical comic book figures, yet different. For the most part they lack special powers that give them any kind of advantage over wrong-doers. Instead, these would-be heroes are more like vigilantes with high-level athletic prowess and varying levels of egotism balanced against altruism. Per the author and artist’s intent, the characters are very much real-life superheroes. Their paths take realistic journeys as their effectiveness and popularities wax and wane.

Everything changes when a new hero emerges who has actual superhuman powers. His arrival is particularly explored. Not only does the story address his god-like abilities, but also his impact on the other heroes and the world at large. Echoes and downright references to cold-war history are examined and alluded to.

It’s very difficult to sum up the sheer awesomeness of this book (or collected series of comic books). However, let me note that this book came to me pre-hyped. Very often, when you are told that something will be fantastic it will fail to achieve the level of amazing that you hope and expect. This is not the case with “Watchmen.” This book delivers, and it does so on many levels. The artwork (this too is masterfully woven into the work and has many layers), the characters, the storyline, the micro and macro philosophies that are delved into…it’s infinitely complex and yet also simple and easy to understand at a basic level. That is the mark of a truly great work. This is one of those pieces of art that can be revisited multiple times and each time something new can be uncovered—without detracting from any of the joy of those first few times it touched us.

Lastly, I’ll add that this can be enjoyed by anyone whether or not they are a fan of the comic book medium. It just has so many layers. A great way for someone unfamiliar with the related genres and works to dive in and try something new (but also great for the longtime fan).

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2016 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Watchmen” – Alan Moore – Dave Gibbons

Review: “Watchmen” – Alan Moore – Dave Gibbons

New podcast episode!

No Deodorant In Outer Spaces

PODCAST:

S3E3B – Watchmen(book)*

SHOW NOTES:

One of the best shows we have recorded in my humble opinion so don’t miss this one and tell your friends and family to check it out—especially if they are not really into comic books. This time we were compelled to go longer than our usual time allotted for our new format, but it seemed necessary given the epic we covered. There was a lot to cover in this hour and we got big contributions from my old friend, Quinn Bayola. Quinn earned the respected rank of captain of the famous (and fearless) Bravo Company at Culver Military Academy when him and I were seniors there and currently has his own show called “The ThisQ Podcast.” Check it out on iTunes, Spreaker or other podcast venues. His podcast has a chill vibe and provides unique perspective on pop culture and……

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Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Podcast

 

Review: “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes (3 1/2 Stars)

A journey of self that is both compelling and crushing in its introspection.

Charly Gordon is a middle-aged, mentally-challenged man who has been selected as a test subject for the first human to undergo a procedure that will significantly increase intelligence. Algernon is the mouse whom the scientists have previously had success with.

The author tells this story in epistolary fashion through journal entries written by the protagonist. The actual words themselves become a literary device as the reader van visually see the protagonist change and grow through the spelling, grammar, word choice and sentence structure written on the pages. Keyes does a good job of using this technique for effect without coming across as overwrought.

The journey of self-realization takes the protagonist from a place of vulnerability to one of power, where he rediscovers his own vulnerability in new and different ways. Charly starts out as a positive and endearing character who is eager to please and to learn. When he is tapped by the scientists to take his learning growth to unprecedented levels there are emotional consequences and costs for such rapid changes. Charly is forced to examine his past and everything he thought he knew about the world. He finds darkness behind the light and does not like what he sees.

He also struggles with the subtleties of life when negotiating relationships with others. Charly’s intelligence ends up driving a wedge between him and others. He ends up feeling more alone the more he progresses. Despite his new found wisdom, he lacks the experiences of a lifetime of living at this new level within which to put context to all he is learning. He is a fish out of water.

Charly has both loving and strained relationships with women that bring confusion and challenges. He also questions all his old friendships and loyalties. Keyes’ storytelling is superior in this respect because he negotiates the gray areas very well. With his new minds’ eye Charly looks to focus things into simple black and white issues, but this is not so easy. Certainly the characters in this story have various selfish or at times, down right mean, motives. However, the author strays away from painting the picture of some great evil overlord that must be slain. The nuances of the character’s motives are much more complex.

The strength of the story is here. Looking through Charly’s eyes as his perspective shifts and he tries to understand the complexity of living in a society where he wants to belong, but also feels completely isolated within.

Overall, this is a great read in exploring interpersonal relationships in a heightened reality that does not feel very different from our own. A poignant tale.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Stepford Wives” (Ralph Nelson – Jeff Bleckner)

New Podcast Episode!

No Deodorant In Outer Spaces

PODCAST:

S3E1M – Stepford Wives (movie)*

SHOW NOTES:

Esteemed listener, this is our first show dedicated exclusively to a movie review so don’t freak out if you notice anything different, it will be a consistent thing from here on out, promise. The director’s bio was glossed over intentionally, he’s very prolific in England but virtually unknown stateside. My desensitized and ignorant American mind fails to grasp why an Englishman changes his name from John Clarke to Bryan Forbes. It’s like “upgrading” the paint job on your car from vanilla to light beige. Couldn’t find an explanation for that so I can only assume the surname “Forbes” implies nobility, which is forever dangled in front of the British proletariat.

To give you a tease on what you missed out on, Lord Forbes’ prolific work includes dull movie titles such as, “The Whisperers,” “The Wrong Box,” “Séance on a Wet Afternoon,”…

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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in News, Podcast

 

Review: “Stepford Wives” – Ira Levin

Review: “Stepford Wives” – Ira Levin

New Podcast Episode!

No Deodorant In Outer Spaces

PODCAST:

S3E1B – Stepford Wives (book)*

SHOW NOTES:

So, we read the Desperate House Wives rip-off “The Stepford Wives.” It was quite the book. Full of words, pages, more words, and some taco sauce. My sauce was mild. The book was anything but. I kept picturing Teri Hatcher as I read this book—that was so clearly inspired from her early 2000’s ABC hit television show. I’m surprised no one has sued the author for taking the characters from this TV show and basically writing fan fiction about them. However, as fan fiction goes, it is excellent.

The book was written by Ira Levin. Ira is a person, not a tax deferred account. That was the first of many twists in this book.

Two-Thirds of the hosts, including the one with the most, liked the book a lot. One of the hosts did not like it as much. No personal…

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Posted by on March 15, 2016 in News, Podcast

 

Review: “Stepford Wives” by Ira Levin (4 Stars)

A chilling tale of horror that descends into madness one step at time.

Ira Levin’s suspenseful tale of horror is both a commentary on society as well as a character study into the descent of sanity. His prose is sparse and vernacular with poignant ideas that are supported by masterful suspense.

The female protagonist’s main struggle is that she fears being swallowed up by the banality of suburban life after leaving the rich and rewarding culture of her former urban home. A trite cultural tale of a young couple passing from one phase of life into another. Yet, herein lies one of Levin’s major strengths. He takes a rather common place cultural experience and slowly twists it until by the end its purple, atrophied and rather gangrenous. And even though we know the infected limb will eventually fall off, we can’t help but hope all the while that there may just be a way to save things.

In a nutshell, the protagonist goes from general irritation toward the lack of progressive thinking in her new found suburban trappings to outright fear. He annoyance turns to distrust, outrage and terror. What is actually going on at the archaic men’s association in town, and how is it afflicting her friends and her very own husband?

There is just the right amount of tension going on throughout this work. The pace is inevitable, yet it is not relentless or swift. I felt I knew where things were going early on (through my own cultural awareness of the work), however I still felt compelled on. Levin wonderfully pulls back each new development with surgical skill. He gives just enough information to put the pieces together without providing the whole puzzle. Some may find this frustrating, but I feel that if he went the other way and really went into detail with some big reveal at the end—the horror of the story would have been cheapened.

The protagonist’s growth and emotional evolution is also very real. Her questioning and sleuthing out the mysteries connects her to the readers. Even her own self-doubts add to making the character more believable and support the more fantastical elements that exist in the shadows of the prose.

Levin touches on issues of suburban isolationism, paranoia, cultism, apathy and of course, feminism. Though the protagonist invokes causes of social injustice as she beats her war drum for long overdue change, her struggles are also very personal and individual. The way Levin is able to tie in the societal problems and show how deeply rooted evil can penetrate into the micro levels of personhood is very powerful.

This story is fiction, but the under currents feel believable. Levin takes seemingly normal people and shows how easily corruption and evil can leach darkness into those places of society that seem sunny and devoid of real problems. This, of course, is nothing new, but Levin’s take on things feels fresh and leaves a lasting impression. He drives home how inhumanity can lurk even in the everyday familiarity. What is really going on over there at that place where we can’t go?

This novella is tight and sharp. An excellent, swift read that will leave an unsavory taste in your mouth.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website: https://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/review-stepford-wives-ira-levin/.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2016 in Book Reviews

 

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S2 – Year End Episode (season overview)

New podcast episode !

No Deodorant In Outer Spaces

PODCAST:

S2 – Year End Episode (season overview)*

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

SHOW NOTES:

You will enjoy a mish mash of reminiscing thoughts on the 2nd season (year) of your favorite podcast, NDIOS. In this show, we ruminate and riff on the relevance of nebulous things such as ‘literary’ versus ‘genre’ type works, and whether ferrets are worthy pets.

-Rick
Wrap Up Weekend - set up

* DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that the views and opinions of the hosts and guests of NDIOS are completely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of the other hosts and guests or that of NDIOS.

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Posted by on February 15, 2016 in News, Podcast

 
 
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