Posts Tagged ‘mythic’

Vlad: A Novel

October 31, 2012

AuthVlad: A Novel by Carlos Fuentesor: Carlos Fuentes

Title: Vlad: A Novel

Genre: Horror; Mexican Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 122

Geographical Setting: Mexico City

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Not part of a series, but a reimagining of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Plot Summary: Yves Navarro, an attorney, is ordered by his boss, the enigmatic Don Eloy Zurinaga, to find and secure a house for an old school friend of his from Europe, a certain Count Vladimir Radu, who tiring of constant unrest in the Balkans has recently decided to move to Mexico City. At first, Navarro is merely puzzled by some of Radu’s eccentric requests: the home must admit no light and a large tunnel is to be excavated beneath the premises. But after an unsettling dinner with the count, a repulsive, pale-skinned and bulbous-headed figure clumsily disguised with a wig, false mustache, and dark glasses, Navarro becomes anxious for his own safety. A sense of foreboding and menace come sharply into focus as the attorney begins to suspect Radu may be a vampire. But when Navarro discovers a photograph of his own wife and daughter taped inside an armoire in the count’s chambers—a sense of panic grips him, as he realizes too late that he has become ensnared in a web, the contours of which he is only dimly aware. Fuentes’ reimagining of the Dracula story is filled with vivid and darkly disturbing scenes, and punctuated by moments of humor, mostly in the form of roman à clef references to the Bram Stoker’s original. Beneath the tragic horror is a philosophical meditation on the meaning of mortality and what it is to be human.

Subject Headings: Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, 1430 or 31-1476 or 7; Stoker, Bram, 1847-1912; Dracula — Sequels; Vampires; Lawyers; Real estate agents; Grief; Aging; Mortality

Appeal: compelling, fast paced, dramatic, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, quirky, vivid, character centered, layered, some elements of humor, literary references, historical references, mystical, mythic, open-ended, tragic, bleak, dark, foreboding, menacing, philosophical, sensual, suspenseful, classic, concise, elegant, sophisticated

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character centered, dark, philosophical

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead (2010) by J. Gordon Melton

Vlad: A Novel weaves familiar tropes of vampire fiction into its narrative and playfully references Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Readers who want to delve further into the lore and literature of the vampire will enjoy perusing this exhaustively detailed collection of some 500 essays on the subject.

The Philosophy of Horror (2012) by Thomas Fahy

Carlos Fuentes’ characters rhapsodize with philosophical musings about the nature of God, the fear of dying, and grief and loss. Fahy’s thought-provoking and persuasive guide to the philosophical subtexts of horror stories will resonate with readers who responded to the thematic underpinnings of Vlad: A Novel.

The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature (2012) edited by Suzanne Bost and Frances R. Aparicio

Carlos Fuentes is a much-admired author and critic in his native Mexico. Readers taken with Fuentes style and subject matter, and who want to learn more about the broader landscape of Latin American Literature, will find here a collection of forty scholarly but accessible essays that describe the most significant Latino and Latina authors and their work.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic (2012) edited by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo and Chris Brown

Three Messages and a Warning will appeal to readers who enjoyed Vlad: A Novel and want to read more tales of the supernatural and the macabre told from a uniquely Mexican perspective. Thematically serious, like Fuentes’ work, the short stories found in this anthology similarly offer a sense of the vibrant Mexican literary scene. The creepy but stylistically complex tales include: a pact with the devil, an apocalyptic ghost story, and an encounter with a doppelganger.

Anno Dracula (New Edition; 2011) by Kim Newman

Fans of Bram Stoker’s Dracula who enjoyed seeing the character revisited in Vlad: A Novel may appreciate Newman’s offbeat and compelling spin on the venerable vampire. In the alternate history of Anno Dracula, Count Dracula has not only not been vanquished, but is married to Queen Victoria and rules over England with an iron fist. Fuentes’ story is filled with references to characters and moments from the original Dracula; Newman goes one further and presents a supporting cast of familiar literary and historical characters, including Jack the Ripper, Dr. Jeckyll, and Sherlock Holmes.

The New Annotated Dracula (2008) by Bram Stoker; edited by Leslie S. Klinger

After reading Fuentes’ interpretation of Dracula, those who wish to revisit Bram Stoker’s atmospheric and menacing gothic tale will find a treasure trove of history and lore along with the original story in Klinger’s lushly illustrated and comprehensively annotated edition. Along with Stoker’s original manuscript, this edition also includes an alternate ending penned by the author sure to surprise readers who think they already know the story well.

Name: John Rimer


April 18, 2012

Author: Various (22 authors and illustrators collaborate for 9 vignettes)


Genre: Graphic novel

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 112p

Geographical Setting: New York City (the Bowery)

Time Period: 1970’s, present day, the future

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary:  Through nine separate vignettes, the history and lore of the legendary, mythical, pivotal, incredibly dirty, and defunct Lower East Side punk rock club is examined and explained.  CBGB’s was ground zero for the mid-70’s NYC punk rock scene.  Artists that would emerge from CBGB’s include Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, and Talking Heads, as well as lesser-known, yet highly influential acts, such as Television, the Heartbreakers, the Dead Boys, and the Dictators. Varying in time period, some of the stories use the club as a main character, while others use it merely as a backdrop or meeting place.  The common theme running throughout the book is that of CBGB’s as a fertile haven for inspiration, community, discovery, expression, freedom, individuality, and lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Subject Headings: Punk rock music, New York City—nightclubs, 1970’s, Artists, Drugs and alcohol, Rebellion, Nostalgia, Nonconformity, Antisocial behavior, Self discovery, Youth, Fandom.

Appeal:  Breakneck, fast-paced, relentless, atmospheric, edgy, flamboyant, gritty, hard-edged, humorous, impassioned, magical, idealized, romanticized, nostalgic, sarcastic, sensual, artsy, bohemian, punk, vivid, inspirational, mythic, sexually explicit, strong language, urban, colorful, informal, passionate, witty, hedonistic, rebellious, reflective, street-smart, rowdy, energetic, fun, aggressive, joyous, enigmatic, self-aggrandizing, loud.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Energetic, passionate, enigmatic

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Please Kill Me: the Uncensored History of Punk edited by Legs McNeill and Gillian McCain

This is an oral history of the New York punk scene from its infancy in the early 1970’s to its slow death in the early 1980’s strung together by interviews with the people who were there and making things happen.  The people who are still alive, anyway.  Interviewees (many of whom are portrayed in CBGB) include Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, and members of the Ramones, the Stooges, New York Dolls, Television, Blondie and many more artists and other scenesters.  This is a great read for fans of ribald accounts of debauchery and degeneracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle For the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

In the 1970’s, large Northern cities found themselves broke, decaying, crime-ridden, and desperate.  None had it worse than New York.  The tumultuous year of 1977 is examined here; a year that included Son of Sam, the Blackout, punk rock, Studio 54 and disco, and ruthless political battles.  What is the conduit Mahler uses to examine and piece these events together?  — the World Series winning Yankees, of course.

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever by Will Hermes

Sure, New York had the punk thing happening in the mid-1970’s, but during those years the city also witnessed the birth of hip-hop, disco, and salsa as well as playing host to fertile jazz and avant-garde/minimalist music scenes.  Here is an examination of those years, where the music seemed to get better as the urban blight grew worse.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

My Brain Hurts: Vol. One by Liz Baille

This graphic novel series chronicles a group of gay,teenage New York punks making out, drinking beer, getting arrested, and flexing their gay activism muscles.  I include this as there was no mention in CBGB as to how entangled the NYC punk scene was with the seedier side of gay culture on Manhattan at the time (many a near destitute musician made rent by moonlighting as “chickens”, as in a homosexual prostitute who may not necessarily be gay but will do x for money.  Dee Dee Ramone has talked extensively about this topic [see: ‘53rd and 3rd by the Ramones], as well as others).

What We Do Is Secret by Kief Hillbery

Hollywood 13-year-old punk and gay hustler Rockets Redglare must come to terms with the suicide of his idol/guru Darby Crash, lead singer of the Germs (circa 1980).  This book is the closest equivalent to the seediness and nihilism that personified the L.A. punk scene in the late 70’s and early 80’s (as far as fiction goes.)

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

While this book is the farthest thing from the seediness that CBGB and the Lower Eastside personified, it is an excellent portrait of the feeling of freedom, possibility, and wonder that a night out in the big city can give a person as they find themselves on the cusp of adulthood and independence.  Even for rich kids from New Jersey.

Name: Bill

The Summer Tree

July 23, 2011

Author: Kay, Guy Gavriel

Title: The Summer Tree

Genre: High Fantasy

Publication Date: 1984

Number of Pages: 323

Geographical Setting: Mythical World of Fionavar

Time Period: Indeterminate

Series: The Fionavar Tapestry

Plot Summary: Five earthbound university students (Kimberly, Dave, Jennifer, Kevin, and Paul) are approached by the mysterious Loren Silvercloak, a mage from the realm of Fionavar, to accompany him on a short visit to his realm for an anniversary celebration for the High King of Brennin (two weeks in Fionavar equals a few hours on Earth).  However, this “short visit” turns out to be an epic quest for them all; they have gotten much more than they bargained for in a world full of dwarfs, ancient Gods, seers, exiled princes, and talking animals.  The relaxed pace of the story gradually builds in intensity, as a great evil, stirring in the depths of Mount Rangat, breaks its chains of imprisonment, seeking revenge on its enemies—the forces of good in Fionavar.  This intricately plotted, character-driven tale of self-discovery takes readers on a journey to another world, and is sure to please anyone looking to escape into the magical unknown.

Subject Headings: Fantasy stories, College students—Fiction, Time travel—Fiction, Wizards—Fiction, Fionavar (Imaginary Place)—Fiction, Arthurian legend, Coming of age stories, Stories of self-discovery, Quest stories

Appeal: Relaxed pace, atmospheric, magical, reflective, detailed characters, engaging, flawed characters, character-driven, intricately plotted, imaginative, mythic, detailed setting, timeless, descriptive language, lyrical

3 terms that best describe this book: character-driven, imaginative, intricately plotted

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Finding Merlin: The Truth Behind the Legend of the Great Arthurian Mage—Adam Ardrey (quest aspects, magicians, mystical beliefs)

Adventures in Unhistory: Conjectures on the Factual Foundations of Several Ancient Legends—Avram Davidson (fits well into the fantasy genre, covers the origins of mythical characters, imaginative subject matter)

The Dictionary of Imaginary Places: The Newly Updated and Expanded Classic—Alberto Manguel & Gianni Guadalupi ( a tool to discover other books of interest, contains a descriptive entry about Fionavar and its story, good way to immerse the reader in the landscape aspect of the genre)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Lord of the Rings (series)—J.R.R. Tolkien (elements of good versus evil, coming of age story, high fantasy)

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time series)—Robert Jordan (ordinary characters face extraordinary challenges, magical/mythical characters, quest adventures)

Lord of the Changing Winds (Griffin Mage Trilogy)—Rachel Neumeier (strong female character reminiscent of Kim Ford, relaxed pace, world-building, lyrical)

-Jessica Bartz



Midnight Robber, by Nalo Hopkinson

April 20, 2011

0446675601.01._SX220_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg (220×344)Author: Nalo Hopkinson

Title: Midnight Robber

Genre: multicultural science fiction

Publication Date: 2000

Number of Pages: 329

Geographical Setting: The fictional planets of Toussaint and New Half-Way Tree

Time Period: distant future

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: On the utopian, Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint, violent criminals are exiled to the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree.  Innocent young Tan-Tan is unjustly thrust into exile there when her convicted father, Antonio, drags her along.  Antonio’s selfish actions continue to add additional layers of misery onto a life already made difficult for Tan-Tan by the harsh realities of New Half-Way Tree.  As a child, Tan-Tan loved to play the role of the legendary Robber Queen; after a horrendous trauma inflicted by her father, the role of the Robber Queen becomes reality for Tan-Tan, whose struggle for survival in New Half-Way Tree is also a struggle to reconcile the various parts of her identity.  Along the way, Tan-Tan meets aliens, dangerous beasts, and a vengeful stepmother.  Hopkinson’s rendering of the future mixes the idea of nanotechnology with Caribbean legends, to create an unconventional and fascinating science fiction experience.

Subject Headings: Abuse; Aliens; Caribbean culture; Carnival; Exile;  Fathers and daughters; Legends; Nanotechnology

Appeal: character-centered, descriptive, detailed setting, dangerous, folksy, imaginative, hard-edged, homespun language, imaginative, mythic, moving, poetic dialect, vibrant, violent, vivid characters, well-crafted, world-building

3 terms that best describe this book: imaginative, poetic, vivid characters

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles, edited by Thomas Glave – Homosexuality is common and accepted by the Caribbeans in Midnight Robber. Readers who enjoyed that aspect of the novel may enjoy this collection, which like Midnight Robber also features some patois.

Carnival: Culture in Action – The Trinidad Experience, edited by Milla Cozart Riggio – Carnival plays a major role in Midnight Robber. Those who enjoyed the colorful descriptions of Carnival customs and pageantry may enjoy this book, which includes both text and photo essays.

The Kiss: A Memoir, by Kathryn Harrison – Like Midnight Robber, a book about an incestuous father-daughter relationship, and the daughter’s attempt to reclaim her life.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy –  like Midnight Robber, this is a work of moving, character-driven, feminist science fiction that features a utopian future and its dystopian alternative.

Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban – Readers who enjoyed the creativity of the language in Midnight Robber may appreciate this classic in the science fiction genre; like Midnight Robber, it was also written with an invented dialect.

The Girl with the Golden Shoes, by Colin Channer –  A young, Caribbean girl is exiled from her community; the book also features poetic patois.

-Noelle Nightingale

Poem Strip

April 13, 2011

Author: Dino Buzzati

Title: Poem Strip

Genre: Graphic Novel; Mythology

Publication Date: Italian-1969; English-2009

Number of Pages: 218

Geographical Setting: Milan, Italy

Time Period: 1969

Plot Summary: In Milan, on via Saterna, a strange street that doesn’t exist on any map, a young guitarist named Orfi performs at the Polypus Club.  After seeing his lover, Eura, disappear through a mysterious door.  Determined to find her, Orfi enters the world of the Afterlife with the permission of a Guardian Demon. Orfi must sing to the dead his songs of the beloved mysteries of the flesh: songs of death, lust, and love. He is given only a short period of time to find Eura and return her to the living world, but the temptations of the Afterlife may be too much to resist.  This is Buzzatti’s adaption of the Greek myth of Orpheus’ descent to the underworld to save his wife Eurydice.

Subject Headings: Afterlife; Orpheus; Eurydice; Italian Fiction; Graphic Novels-Italy; Psychedelic; Mythology-Greek

Appeal: Atmospheric, dark, haunting, psychological, romantic, sensual, introspective, cinematic, episodic, sexually explicit, mythic, literary references, tragic, urban, poetic, lyric, metaphoric

3 terms that best describe this Graphic Novel: Mythic, Sensual, Haunting

3 Relevant Fiction Works:

The Cage by Martin Vaughn-James: The similar surrealistic illustrations that cover entire pages are reminiscent of Buzzati’s work.

The Grand Inquisitor Trickster written by John Zmirak and illustrated by Carla Millar: A strange, gothic adaptation of Dostoevsky’s fable of the same name written in blank verse.

It Rhymes with Lust by Arnold Drake, Leslie Walker, and Matt Baker: This proto-graphical novel, or picture novel, is another gothic noir romance.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Orpheus and Eurydice: A Lyric Sequence by Gregory Orr: An in-depth look at myth of Orpheus and Eurydice that Buzzati’s work is based on.

The New Avant-Garde in Italy: Theoretical Debate and Poetic Principles by John Picchione: A look into the literary movement that inspired the work of Buzzati.

Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke: Rilke’s collection of poems are all on the theme of Orpheus and his descent to the underworld, a common literary device that was Buzzati’s inspiration.

-Mike Monahan

American Born Chinese

June 23, 2010

American Born Chinese - cover

Author: Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Fiction; Chinese-American

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: Ancient China; various typical American locations, such as high schools

Time Period: mythological China; current

Series: NA

Plot Summary: Three seemingly disparate storylines brilliantly converge in an impactful and meaningful truth in Gene Luen Yang’s, American Born Chinese. The story follows the lives of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American boy having difficulty fitting in at school, the Monkey-King, the king of all monkeys and a master of kung-fu who has his sights on the attainment of godhood at all costs, and Danny, a popular guy in high school who is beset by his stereotypical and embarassing cousin from China, Chin-Kee, who happens to ruin Danny’s life every time he visits. The art is precise, focused heavily on cartoon and the immaculate use of line, and it deftly collaborates with an emotionally vibrant and wise tale of the desire to be someone else.

Subject Headings: Graphic Novels; Chinese-Americans; Stereotypes; Racism; Social Accpetance; Mythology – Chinese;

Appeal: Compelling, bittersweet, earnest, magical, thoughtful, introspective, vivid, complex, mythic, timeless, natural, poetic.

Three terms that best describe this book: Timeless, Thoughtful, Magical.

Similar Authors and Works:

Non-Fiction –

Iris Chang – The Chinese in America: A Narrative History: A thorough narrative recounting of the history of Chinese immigration to America since 1850, from the author of The Rape of Nanking.

Ann Marie Flemming – The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam: A biography, in graphic novel format, of the great Chinese magician, entrepreneur, impresario, and world-traveler, Long Tack Sam.

Claude Helft – Chinese Mythology: Stories of Creation and Invention: Heavily illustrated by color paintings, Helft interprets 8 creation myths of China.

Fiction –

Jeanette Ingold – Paper Daughter: Maggie Chen, a Chinese-American high-school student, investigates the mysterious hit-and-run accident that killed her father while coming to grips with her ethnicity.

Jordan Sonnenblick – Zen and the Art of Faking It: Zen Buddhism provides Sun Lee with an opportunity to no only make himself known in his new school, but also to re-invent his identity.

Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki – Skim: All the trials and tribulations of high-school life seen through the eyes of Skim; an Asian-American into Goth and Wicca at an all-girls school in Toronto, Ontario.

Name: Garrett Gottschalk


February 17, 2010

Author: Neil Gaiman

Title: Stardust

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 1999

Number of Pages: 235

Geographical Setting: Wall (a town in England’s countryside)/world of Faerie

Time Period: The beginning of the Victorian Era, approximately the early 1800s

Plot Summary: Within the safe confines of the world of Wall, Tristran Thorn lives an ordinary life as a shopkeeper’s helper with his father, mother, and sister.  One night, upon witnessing a falling star, Tristran ventures from his home and into the magical world of Faerie to bring the star back to his childhood crush.  Unfortunately for Tristran, he is not the only person who is after the fallen star, who has taken the form of a young woman named Yvaine.  Tristran and Yvaine journey through the world of Faerie while she is pursued by those who wish her harm, and Tristran grows to find that what he thought he wanted may not be what he actually wants.  Gaiman weaves dark humor and intrigue into this coming-of-age tale through quirky secondary characters and a fast-paced plot.  From witches to unicorns to talking trees, Gaiman constructs a vivid fantasy world where fairy tales come to life and mythical creatures live alongside humans.  However, the emotional undercurrents of growing up, finding love, understanding good vs. evil, and finding your place in the world are relatable to young and old, star or human.

Subject Headings: Fairy Tales, English; Quest; Magic; Fantasy fiction, English; Adventure fiction

Appeal: fast-paced, compelling, engaging, well-developed characters, quirky, intriguing, mystical, mythic, multiple plot lines, cinematic, suspenseful, lush landscapes, detailed setting, rural, exotic, foreboding, romantic, playful, menacing, vivid, descriptive, unusual, well-crafted

Three terms that best describe this book: Darkly humorous, Adventure tale, Coming-of-age


  • Magic and Superstition in Europe: A Concise History from Antiquity to Present by Michael D. Bailey: Describes the history of many of the magical elements used in Stardust, such as mythical creatures and magic spells.
  • Finding Atlantis: A True Story of Genius, Madness, and an Extraordinary Quest for a Lost World by David King: The true life tale of a man who seeks to find a mythical land (on a hero’s quest, in a way) despite all odds against him.
  • The Interpretation of Fairy Tales by Marie-Louise von Franz and Kendra Crossen: An exploration of what we can learn about our own psychological experiences through fairy tales, and how the different stories can represent aspects of the human psyche.


  • Beauty by Robin McKinley: A new spin on the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, with a focus on character development, notably strong female characters.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: A unique fairy tale series for adults and children that shows the battle between good and evil and the creation of a magical world.
  • The Prydain Chronicles: The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander: A boy on a quest finds himself while seeking his goal, with intricate character development, dark themes and overtones.

Name: Jessica Coates

The Man in My Basement: A Novel

November 18, 2009

Author: Walter Mosley

Title: The Man in My Basement: A Novel

Genre: African-American/Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 256

Geographical Setting: The village of Sag Harbor, NY

Time Period: Present day (2004)

Series: No

Plot Summary: Charles Blakey’s life is falling apart at the age of thirty-three.  Unemployed, drinking far too much, and estranged from his only friends, he spends his days reading science fiction novels alone in his family’s three-story Sag Harbor home.  The Blakey family has a long history in Sag Harbor dating back to the 17th century when they arrived in New York as free blacks.  Now, however, Charles is in danger of losing the home his family has owned for seven generations.  Nearly penniless, Charles is far behind on his loans, and the bank is threatening to take his house.  Then one day Charles hears a knock at his door.  A mysterious, 57-year-old white man named Anniston Bennet has an unusual propostion.  If Charles is willing to rent him his basement for 65 days, Bennet will pay him nearly $50,000.  Though the money would solve his financial problems, Charles is wary.  Who is this mysterious white man, and why did he chose Charles for this strange request?  Why is Bennet insisting on complete secrecy, and what is contained in the large packages he wants delivered to Charles’ basement?  Though suspicious, Charles begins the monumental task of preparing his basement for Bennet’s arrival.  In the process, he discovers a family heirloom – a trio of ancient African masks – that rekindles in him a sense of belonging, family, and identity.  Charles begins to rethink his decision to rent to Bennet, and his anxiety is multiplied when he learns Bennet plans to construct a prison cell for himself inside Charles’ basement so that he can pay for “crimes against humanity.”  Ultimately, Charles’ need for money and cautious curiosity prevail, and he allows Bennet to lock himself in the basement.  As the 65 days pass, the voluntary “prisoner” and his “warden” engage in several heated conversations that explore themes of guilt, punishment, responsibility, and redemption which all lead to an unpredictable ending that will challenge and haunt readers.

Subject Headings: African-American men;  Unemployed workers;  European-American men;  Rich men;  African-American families — History;  African-Americans — Material culture;  Landlord and tenant;  Race relations;  Power (Social sciences);  Identity (Psychology);  Atonement;  Home ownership;  Debt;  Alcohol use;  Los Angles, California;  Psychological fiction.

Appeal: gripping, steady, realistic characters, vivid, strong secondary characters, mythic, character-centered, complex, literary references, inventive, thought-provoking, sexually explicit, small-town setting, contemporary, haunting, philosophical, psychological, suspenseful, frank, some strong language, realistic dialogue

Three terms that best describe the book: Haunting, Philosophical, Realistic

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Dirty Bird Blues: A Novel by Clarence Major – Manfred Banks is an aspiring blues musician in Chicago who’s life is falling apart thanks to his taste for Old Crow whiskey (aka the “Dirty Bird”).  His wife Cleo has taken their daughter and left him for a preacher, and he can’t find work.  Will he be able to quit the bottle and regain his family or will he spiral into drunken oblivian?  (realistic characters, psychological, realistic dialogue, alcohol abuse, unemployment, search for identity, race relations, inventive)

The Book of Illusions: A Novel by Paul Auster – Since losing his wife and young sons in a plane crash, Vermont English professor David Zimmer has been lost in an alcoholic haze.  When a chance T.V. viewing of old silent film star Hector Mann makes him laugh for the first time in months, Zimmer sets out to track down the actor.  This is a difficult task, however, because Mann had disappeared years before at the height of his fame.  Zimmer’s quest to find Mann leads him to confront death, chaos, and his own guilt and leads to haunting encounter with the old film star.  (gripping, steady pace, realistic characters, complex, haunting, psychological, frank language, alcohol abuse, inventive)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – This classic work traces a young African-American man’s life journey from the South to New York City during which he concludes he is an “invisible man.”  After growing up trusting, the narrator encounters shocking injustices at college, at a paint factory job, and as a member of Harlem’s Communist Party.  These experiences convince him that to whites he has no identity.  He’s an invisible man on to whom they project their own preconcieved ideas.  (gripping, haunting, realistic characters, psychological, thought-provoking, race relations, philosophical, vivid, search for identity)

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 by James Oliver Horton – Co-written by professors of sociology at George Washington and George Mason Universities, this book traces the lives of the first free blacks in America from the American Revolution through the Civil War.  It examines this black communities struggles with racial injustice while striving to maintain a unique identity.  This book is about Charles Blakey’s own ancestors.  The Blakey family decended back to these same free black families in Sag Harbor, and it is with this family past that Charles longs to reconnect.

African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection by Iris Hahner-Herzog – Written by a noted ethnologist, this book presents nearly 250 of the finest African masks from the renowned Barbier-Mueller collection.  With 100 color photographs and in-depth essays explaining the origins and uses of the masks, this book offers a fascinating look at fascinating African art form.  As Charles Blakey cleans family heirlooms from his basement, he discovers a trio of “passport” masks from his African ancestors.  These masks help him reconnect with his roots and start to reform his identity.

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan – Written by a law professor at the University of British Columbia, this book traces the rise of the corporation over the past 150 years and contends that today it is a pathological institution.  As a system “programmed to exploit others for profit,” the modern corporation is a dangerous possessor of great power over society.  When Anniston Bennet wishes to imprison himself in Charles’ basement, it is to atone for the great evils he has committed in service to corporate interests.  He’s exploited the African people and literally killed children to provide profit and power to the corporate elite.

Name: Russ

Midnight Robber

November 17, 2009

Author: Nalo Hopkinson

Title: Midnight Robber

Genre: Multicultural, LGBTQ Science Fiction

Publication Date: 2000

Number of Pages: 330

Geographical Setting: The Caribbean colonized mirror planets of Toussaint and Half-Way Tree

Time Period: Sometime in the far future

Plot Summary: On the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint, the artificial intelligence of the master computer, called Granny Nanny, watches out for the citizens by recording everything that happens and talking to everyone through nanotechnology in earpieces implanted in everyone at birth. When Mayor Antonio kills the rival for his wife Ione, he escapes prosecution by “climbing the Half-Way Tree” through another dimension to the mirror planet of Half-Way Tree and out of the jurisdiction of Granny Nanny. Antonio tricks his daughter Tan-Tan to come with him, but he soon begins forcing himself on Tan-Tan, saying she looks just like Ione. Tan-Tan finally kills Antonio and escapes to the home of the bird-like douen people, who live far out in the bush. Antonio’s second wife Janisette pursues Tan-Tan, who is also pregnant with Antonio’s child. Tan-Tan assuages her own guilt for killing her father by playing the part of the mythic Robber Queen (a character like Robin Hood based in the Caribbean Carnival tradition), and a whole mythology builds up around this character. For more on Carnival characters, visit this link.

Subject Headings: Caribbean Area, Caribbean Novel And Short Story In English, Multicultural, Jamaican, Canadian, LGBTQ, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Appeal: densely written, leisurely paced, vivid and detailed characterizations, intriguing secondary characters, character centered, layered plot, complex episodic storyline, explicit violence, literary references, mythic, open-ended, sexually explicit, incest, thought-provoking, tragic; detailed setting, exotic, gritty, hard edged; homespun conversational style with a lot of unusual jargon.

3 Terms that best describes this book: Exotic, complex and mythic

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Fiction Works

Prospero’s Daughter by Elizabeth Nunez (a scientist raises his daughter in isolation in the Caribbean until love develops between her and a boy of mixed race)

Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, edited by Sheree R. Thomas (a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories by African-Americans)

The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (Ejii witnesses her father’s murder, sets off to find her father’s killer and awakens her own mystical powers)

3 Non-fiction Works

Talking Taino: Essays on Caribbean Natural History from a Native Perspective by William F. Keegan (A look at the Taino people, natives of the Caribbean before Columbus, and their perspectives on the natural history of the islands)

Masking and Power: Carnival and Popular Culture in the Caribbean by Gerard Aching (A look at masks in the traditions of the Caribbean as a “socially significant practice.”)

Toussaint Louverture: A Biography by Madison Smartt Bell (Biography of a key figure in the Haitian revolution)

Name: Christine E.

The New Frontier, Volume 1 and 2

March 25, 2009

Author: Darwyn Cook

Title: The New Frontier, Volume 1 and 2

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2004, 2005

Number of Pages: 208 pg., 208 pg.

Geographical Setting: The United States, Space, Paradise Island

Time Period: 1950’s

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Following World War II, the United States is caught up in the suspicions and fear of the Cold War. During this time, Congress conducts hearings to unmask the heroes of the “Golden Age” and, those who do not follow the government’s request are branded as un-American and traitors. Many heroes leave the planet; some go into hiding, while others, like Superman and Wonder Woman, adhere to the U.S. policies and help to fight the Communists in secret missions. However, for most of the world, the superhero is a thing of the past.

The story is a retelling of many DC superheroes origins, drawn with a retro feel. Individual superheroes stories are told, which ultimately lead the new heroes, of the Silver Age, together into one exciting climactic conclusion.

Martian Manhunter is accidentally brought through space by a scientist’s experiment that has gone wrong. Trying to remain hidden, the Martian takes on the form of a detective and stumbles upon an evil cult claiming they follow a mysterious entity called, The Centre. During an investigation into the evil cult’s activities, Batman comes out of hiding and offers to help Martian Manhunter solve the case. The two detectives begin to discover that, The Centre, is causing strange things to happen all over the world including the reemergence of dinosaurs, cult activity, and many cases of insanity.

At the same time, Hal Jordan, back from the Korean War, is hired to test jet planes for an aircraft company. He is the best pilot they have so he is asked to join a secret mission to go to Mars. But, on his way to Mars, Hal soon realizes that the mission isn’t to land on Mars, but to conquer it. The spaceship is filled with atomic bombs and the government’s purpose was to destroy all life of Mars. After a struggle with his copilot in space, the ship is destroyed and Hal and the Earth face certain death as he and the warheads spiral out of control. Coming to the rescue is Superman, who is called in by the government to save the ship and, to once again, save the world.

Hal is left among the wreckage, unconscious and alone in the desert. When he comes to, a ship crashes from outer space carrier the Green Lantern, one of the guardian’s of the universe. Close to dying, the guardian gives his powerful lantern to Hal and commands him to be the next Green Lantern. Hal accepts and only too quickly discovers that the world is being attacked by a monstrous beast called, The Centre. Now Hal, as the Green Lantern, must join the other heroes, including Wonder Woman, Superman, the Flash, Adam Strange, and many others, to save the world. These new superheroes must stand together and unite the country from the evil that is causing all of the strange activity.

Subject Headings: graphic novel, superheroes, space travel, detectives, Martians, fighter pilots, Cold War

Appeal: fast-paced, familiar, multiple points of view, recognizable, inspiring, action-oriented, character-centered, multiple plot lines, mythic, nostalgic, campy, playful, simple, dramatic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe – Interviews of test flight pilots who were viewed as America’s daring heroes as they ushered in the exciting space race of the 1960’s.

Yeager: An Autobiography, by Chuck Yeager – American hero Chuck Yeagar tells his incredible life story as a World War II fighter pilot and post-war test pilot. His amazing tales include being shot down during World War II and, as a test pilot, being the first man to break the sound barrier.

Calculated Risk: The Extraordinary Life of Jimmy Doolittle – Aviation Pioneer and World War II Hero, by Jonna Doolittle Hoppes – The captivating story of American war hero Jimmy Doolittle who led a remarkable life. This story of his life describes with vivid detail his death-defying raid over Imperial Japan, his pioneering flight from coast to coast across the United States, and his receiving of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The War That Time Forgot Vol. 1, by Bruce Jones ; Art by Al Barrionuevo and Jimmy Palmiotti. – During the World War II, a group of men from the U.S. military is stranded on an unknown island in the South Pacific. While searching for enemy soldiers, they encounter strange prehistoric monsters and must fight them to get off the island.

Crisis on Infinite Earths, by Marv Wolfman; Art by George Perez – An evil being known as the Anti-Monitor is destroying the Earth’s of several parallel universes. Now many heroes, across time and space, including the modern Superman and the Superman of the Golden Age, must join forces to save their universe and our own.

Millennium, by Steve Englehart; Art by Joe Staton and Ian Gibson – the Green Lantern Guardians of the Universe have left our dimension and now the world and its heroes are at the mercy of the Manhunters, an evil robotic army ready to destroy all in its path. The heroes will need to remain united to destroy this common enemy.

Name: Mike