Book Blog
Yowamushi Pedal (1-3) (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 14 January 2018 00:00

kay, seen the show. And now, for Christmas, my wife bought me the Manga (first three volumes) of Yowamushi Pedal.

So for those who are old, manga are Japanese comic books. They are read in Japanese fashion, right to left, which takes some getting used to. And for those who might scoff at me reviewing “kiddy comic books”, I’ll point out that Manga is big business in Japan. The top seller (One Piece) pushed over 12 million copies over the counters last year. And when you scroll down the list, you realize that we are talking about millions and millions and millions. Serious scratch.

But outside of that, the art is dynamic and the stories compelling (as opposed to some of the suburban rot I see at booksellers these days). The art is very stylized, very visual, filled with motion and excitement and action. You can see it below.

But we’re reviewing a series here, not selling the idea of Mango. So Yowamushi Pedal is about Sakamichi Onoda, a highschool kid who is a total nerd, who rides his bike to Akiba to get toys and crap at least once a week – it’s a 27 mile trip each way and he does it on a mommie bike (which is what it sounds like, a heavy gearless bike with a basket and fenders). What he thinks he’s doing to riding to get his comics. What he is actually doing is training.

Of course, his amazing riding abilities (specifically his high uphill cadence) has come to the notice of the new members of the high school bike (i.e. racing) club. And hence Okoda finds the friendships he thought anime and manga would bring him but actually in the form of cycling comradery. Each event (his first one-on-one race, the “Welcome day” race) extends over many issues – as a friend pointed out (truthfully) it can take three issues/episodes to cover the last 500 meters of a race (what with all the soul-searching and backstory that comes up). And that’s fine, just as it is fine that Onoda is always behind, always struggling to catch up, and always showing that he’s got more spunk in his nerdy body than anyone else. The fact that he smiles when he rides, he loves racing with his friends, and he’s willing to sacrifice for them endears him even more to us. He’s quite a guy, and he goes on quite a ride.

A great story for anyone who likes two wheels (or just action and conflict). Now that I’ve polished off the first three, I need to get more. Dang!

Anyway, look for it.


Last Updated on Sunday, 14 January 2018 20:08
Specters Anonymous (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 07 January 2018 00:00

ometimes authors and readers just don’t couple up. Not sure why. But it happened here for me. My sister gave me Specters Anonymous for a birthday present during a complicated period of my life (with carpel tunnel surgery and a damn sling and all that). But I got the book and read it and it didn’t click for me.

So Ralph starts the book dead. He’s a ghost. And ghosts, like humans, have weaknesses. For them, sunlight and bright illumination is like alcohol to them. Some of them can sip and be satisfied. Others need help. So in the basement of a little church, the ghosts with issues meet for a Twelve Step program to overcome their problems with haunting and sunny-substance abuse.

And it’s an interesting premise. I would have liked to understand it further, what gets said at the meetings, who the other ghosts are, but that all seems ancillary. We’re told that Cal is a hard-ass driver in the meeting, that he’s scary and powerful and not-to-be-crossed. But that’s told, not shown. All the other ghosts get mentions but are given no proper introductions. As this is the first book of a twelve part series, I’d have liked the situation and circumstances to be more “fleshed out” (pun intended). Like I said, it was a very interesting concept that I wanted to know more of.

It’s a story with investigations and detective work and gum-shoeing and all that. And Fergus, the heavy, throws rocks (a tosser) and is appropriately threatening. But things just never quite materialize in the book. I’d say that if you like detective novels or tales with a different slant on life, you might try it. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.


Artemis (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 31 December 2017 00:00

he new one by Andy Weir of The Martian fame, a story of a crazy wild-girl living on a mundane suburban moon base. Which, as I write this, I see the irony the author was going for. And I like it.

So Jasmine Bashara has been wild in the past. She’s gotten into trouble with the Dudley Doright station security chief. She’s slept around and even burned her welder-father’s shop down. So let’s just say that their relationship is distant and cold. Now working as a porter (moving cargos from ships to destinations), she’s got plans to go big. Her small-time smuggling gig is getting her the ears of the right (or wrong) people and she’s open to pulling a get-rich-quick captor to get all she wants in one go.

But you know it’s not simple or straightforward, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t have books, you’d have pamphlets.

Overall, I liked the characters and the setting. Weir does capture a lot of what a hanging-on-to-existence settlement might be like. He’s got the moon down pretty well (through the picture on the cover surprised me in that it’s not (geographically) the moon that floats in our sky (it looks ‘moonish’, but that’s it)). Jazz’s dialog is fun and like as she chatters her way through her endeavors. The other characters (her father, the cop Rudy, her Earth-side pen-pal Kelvin) are all interesting and dimensional. So yes, a fun read. Not as deep and compelling as his earlier book – I’m not sure what was missing here but yeah, close but not quite.

And I know how these things work – almost happened to me with Fire and Bronze. There is a bit where she’s pulling the classic “how did you know he was shot” bit, where someone is tricked to reveal more than they should know. However, I blinked and looked back a page. No, Jazz, you actually said it yourself. I can see it in the text. So, woops, minor point there. And the end was a little frenetic and rushed, as if the main character was in the boss level of a video game (or the book was being written with a movie in mind). Just sayin’.

But really, it’s still a good book. If you want to learn all about the moon (and how it might be used) check out Artemis. Good fun on a cold lifeless rock.


Last Updated on Saturday, 23 December 2017 11:04
In the City of Bikes (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 24 December 2017 00:00

isclosure – I’m a bike activist. I ride in the most dangerous city in America for this, three days a week. I’ve even spoken on the subject in this podcast. There is a gigantic photo of me on the wall at my work, with me pictured on my bike. Everyone knows I’m a man who rides a bike.

We’ve also been to Amsterdam and saw the bikes – even went on a tour (with helmets – how geeky we must have looked). That trip was cut short by my wife breaking her arm – another story there, this is a review, right?

So Pete Jordan is also a fan of bikes, more than me in that he immigrated to Amsterdam to become a citizen and learn about the bikes. In that, the book is a fascinating mix of the two-wheeled history of the city and his own experiences as he began to fit in. It’s fascinating, to learn of the occupation by the Germans, of their attempts to loot bikes from the citizens, of their resistances, and of the repercussions to Germans across the decades to follow. Also fascinating – to learn how Amsterdam was always a crazy bike town, how it started going over to the car in the 50s, and of the various efforts by different people and groups to wrest back control of the city (which they have done, for the most part).

There are the negative aspects, too, the running of red lights and especially the thievery of bicycles (the author’s loose survey shows that citizens tend to lose a bike a year to thieves). That part was a little eye-opening to me – I’d had this view of Amsterdam as a two-wheel utopia and yet it’s got its own problems (like canals filled with bikes that have, for whatever reason, been thrown in – sacrilege!). But for the most part it does capture what is, in my opinion, one of the most elegant, friendly and human forms of transportation (second is trains).

I only wish more people could read this and then look at their Americanized world, really look, and see the asphalt plains and the societal isolation we experience in this land of cars and convenience, where our neighborhoods are empty places and nobody walks or bikes in for fear of angry motorists and their two-ton killing machines (looks like a little bit of my own options are showing through here).

Anyway, great book of human possibility and positive change.


Last Updated on Sunday, 24 December 2017 13:23

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