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BOOK REVIEW – The Bomber Mafia: A Story Set in War by Malcolm Gladwell

BOOK REVIEW – The Bomber Mafia: A Story Set in War by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell is a marvellous writer. In The Bomber Mafia, he explores how ethics and principles affect our decisions. There is smooth almost conversational assuredness about the way he writes. It is like listening to your smartest most eloquent friend tell you about something interesting he has just discovered.

The Bomber Mafia story is not one I had heard of before. It is a wide-ranging one that covers battlefield ethics, technological innovation, politics, and culture.

One of the key takeaways for me is how people identify and solve problems based on their personalities. We are introduced to some great characters in the Bomber Mafia from the genius inventor of a bombsight to two airmen who have vastly different approaches on how to defeat the enemy.

The other takeaway is that we need to be careful about thinking that technology will save us, that we just need that one key invention to solve our problems. It doesn’t it, and in some ways it never has. What we choose to do with innovations and how we approach the inevitable moral quandaries they pose is something we all have to wrestle with.

As with all Gladwell’s work, he occasionally takes leaps logic of that are not necessarily justified by the facts or goes off in tangents that are perplexing.

On the whole as a history of the American airforces contribution to WW2 and the lasting legacy that has had on all future military engagements The Bomber Mafia is enlightening and engrossing. As a study of what humans do under immense pressure it is thought-provoking.

Buy the book here and they will kick me some money.

BOOK REVIEW: The Devil You Know by Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne

BOOK REVIEW: The Devil You Know by Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne

From the opening page I found The Devil You Know to be thoroughly gripping.

The mix of true crime and psychological study might sound lurid or exploitative but Adshead and Horne write with sensitivity. The importance of empathy is at the heart of book. While the book does not go into gory details it is unflinching in the way it approaches the crimes that been committed. Adshead does not seek to make excuses only to understand how she can help those who are in her care.

Each chapter is dedicated to one patient. The conversations Adshead has with her patients are fascinating. I found the chapters about David and Charlotte to be especially memorable. The writing style is somewhat economical but is full if humanity and insight. While it is easy to read in the way that it is written some of the content is harrowing.

I found it to be one of those books where you think to yourself I’ll read just a few more pages before I go to bed and those pages end up being entire chapters.

Much of the book is about perceptions. Ones we hold go ourselves and those of other people. If you’re interested in understanding why people do terrible things and what we can do to help them then this is essential reading. An enlightening and entertaining read that is among the best books I have read this year.

Link to buy the book that kicks me some money.

BOOK REVIEW: Forget Me Not by Alix Garin

BOOK REVIEW: Forget Me Not by Alix Garin

Forget Me Not is both piercing and charming. It gets inside you and makes you ache and smile. It is the sort of story that the French are so wonderful at doing.

Alzheimer is a horrible condition and the book doesn’t shy away from the pain that it causes. Decisions need to be made about care, the simmering tension of not knowing if the decisions are in the best interests of the loved one you are putting into an institution or simply one that makes your life more convenient.

Much of Forget Me Not is about how we lose intimacy with parents as we grow older. Small acts of fondness like resting your head on your mum’s shoulder become few and far between. Alzheimer hastens this as the memories that bind a family together are become obscured. Clem cannot bear seeing her grandmother in this state. At the heart of Forget Me Not are Clem’s attempts to reconnect one last time with Grammy. Clem’s desire to do right by her grandmother is noble but causes her to do things that are utterly foolish putting both of them in danger.

The painterly watercolours of Garin’s art are warm and inviting. There’s a bright airiness to many of the images. The linework is unfussy and simple so much detail and indeed the ambience is reliant on the graceful colouring. Garin art moves from tear inducingly sad images to cheerful buffoonery with equal mastery. There is a tenderness to illustrations that creates a sort of profound synchronicity with the plot. A particular moment that touched me was when Clem was giving Grammy a bath. The vulnerability of both of them in those panels resonated with me.

Forget Me Not is a wonderful novel. It is a story told with compassion and hope. The sadness of losing a loved one is awful and it doesn’t shy away from this. The messiness of it all. The crux of the tale is how we make their final moments of life as full of contentment and joy as possible. The way people die matters. After all, it is the memories of their final moments that linger with us long after. Forget Me Not is a joyous and melancholy exploration of coming to terms with a terminal illness. A funny, eloquent, and uplifting book about grief.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Please condsider buying the book using this link.

BOOK REVIEW: The Rag and Bone Shop by Veronica O’Keane

BOOK REVIEW: The Rag and Bone Shop by Veronica O’Keane

O’Keane writes with clarity and compassion about mental illness. The book is full of lessons we can learn from those suffering from mental illness about how our minds work.

The open section of the book especially is full of insights about how many of us perceive there to be a separation from mind and body which O’Keane persuasively argues is unhelpful.

O’Keane punctuates her points using vivid examples from art and literature as well as case studies from her own practice. Memory is a strange often unreliable thing that we all depend upon. The Rag and Bone Shop does a wonderful job of exploring how memories are made, how they are stores and how change over time as we recall them.

Reading this made me realise how memory is central to the human experience, to understanding the world and our place in it.

There were some concepts that I struggled to understand but this was more my fault than that of the author. However, given the subject matter, those looking for a light read need to go in understanding that while O’Keane has made most of the concepts accessible there are still many theories that are tough to grasp (or at least they were for me).

It is one of those books that after you finish reading it you have a better understanding of not only yourself but of other people in the world around you. Astounding and illuminating in equal measure.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

Please consider using this affliate link to buy the book.

The Down River People by Adam Smith & Matt Fox

The Down River People by Adam Smith & Matt Fox

There is a point in The Down River People that left me stunned and wondering what the hell just happened. Much of the early parts of The Down River People I feel are Smith and Fox articulating the feelings of pain and isolation that people grieving go through. The staggeringly difficulty of going on with life after the death of someone you love is something that Myers labours through.

The things we inherit from family is another theme that runs through the novel. Untangible treasures such as the memories of being together and more difficulty concrete things like financial difficulties. Myer and his father, Darnell, both seem to suffer from similar bouts of mental illness to the extent that Darnell shares his way of coping; by standing in the river and waiting for the feelings to pass.

The script is heartfelt and captures both a sense of place and authenticity around the people that live there. Oddly, it reminded me of Where the Crawdad Sings. The Down River People works as well as it does because of its setting. The Down River People is a stranger book than Delia Owen’s book. Still, they both evoked the same feelings of empathy and sorrow in me. I was expecting it the continue to be a slice of life story that follows Myers as he copes with his grief which it sort of does.

Without giving spoilers, The Down River people starts as one story and finishes as a different one, one that is stranger and more profound. As mentioned before, there are points in the story that I found shocking, devastating, and confusing in the best possible way. As Southern Gothic goes, this is one of the best examples of the genre in graphic novel form.

Myers strained relationship with his estranged mother and his stepfamily forms the bedrock for the latter half of the novel. It is here that Smith takes the most narrative risks, ones that pay off in unexpected ways.

The art is bewitching. The style of it wrong-foots you as much as the script does. Hues of depressing blues and browns colour every page. Despite it being set in the south, there is little brightness or light. There is a down to earth quality to it, a world-weariness in the character and place designs that creates a sense of realism. Mathew Fox does a superb job of composing his images, and there is a fluid quality to the way he lays out the panels. There are some astoundingly powerful illustrations in the book, especially later on. Mike Fiorentino lettering deserves mention; he does an excellent job.

I suffered a bereavement last year; this story hit a soft spot in me. The start of it left me feeling unsettled, but it is a sensitive exploration of grief and the need for all of us to renew ourselves, however hard that may be. 2021 is turning out to be a fantastic year for graphic novels; this is one of the best. The Down River People is an absorbing story that will leave you reflecting on long after you have put it down. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

Please consider using this link to buy the book.

Slaine: The Horned God – Audiobook by Pat Mills & Simon Bisley

Slaine: The Horned God – Audiobook by Pat Mills & Simon Bisley

An utterly magical adaptation of a seminal graphic novel. Of the two 2000AD audiobooks I have listened to, The Horned God was by far the best. While Slaine is the title character, his dwarf Ukko, played superbly by Gerry O’Brien, has the star performance.

Much of the appeal of The Horned God was in its brutally beautiful art. This adaptation uses 3D audio and fantastic sound design to recreate some of that visceral sensation of seeing a battle on the page and has a rather more immersive effect.

The characters are brought to life delightfully by a cast where every performance is captivating. I especially like the use of regional Irish accents used by the different tribal chiefs.

Slaine is a difficult character to like, and this is not exactly a redemption story. Stubborn, arrogant, ambitious, and vicious, Slaine is determined to achieve his goals no matter the cost. The themes of nature, feminism; especially how history sidelines the role of women, and how history is inherently unreliable are all explored through the lens of Celtics myths. It lingered with me long after I had finished trying to grasp what Pat Mills and Simon Bisley were trying to say.

Fantastic stuff. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

Sentient by Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Steve Wands

Sentient by Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Steve Wands

Lemire does it again. An utterly thrilling sci-fi adventure.

Like most of Lemire’s best work the themes of family and making the best of terrible situations are explored with a typically deft touch.

The shocking opening of the book left me breathless. I read this in one sitting flipping through the pages with more haste than the brilliant artwork deserved. Walta’s work here is lovely. The design of the spaceship and characters is realistic yet striking. While all the action scenes are terrifically choreographed, the book really soars when our protagonists are talking to each other, all the pain and uncertainty writ large across their faces as they seek to find a way through the awful circumstances they find themselves in.

Melancholic yet unsentimental Sentient is a story of survival and love that is just wonderfully told.

Brilliant stuff.

Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy. Please consider using this affliate link to buy to the book.

BOOK REVIEW: Elecboy by Jaouen Salaün

BOOK REVIEW: Elecboy by Jaouen Salaün

The artwork here is engrossing. Salaün world-building and character designs are spectacular. Every page is rich with detail. It is a beautiful thing to look at. The painterly colouring adds depth to each panel.

Salaün demonstrates equal finesse with balls to the wall action sequences as they do with quite dramatic moments. Much of the book is about Joshua’s troubled relationship with his father and the tensions his family has with the ruling elite. The sections of the book where the loathsome Sylvio argues with his father or is conspiring with his grandfather are particularly good.

The world that Elecboy takes place in is weary and on the verge of breaking down. It clearly has taken some inspiration from other post-societal collapse stories such as Mad Max, I Robot, Akira, and The Postman. That said, there is a lot of original stuff here. The harsh desert landscape looms large over the characters.

The characters themselves are very much archetypical. Joshua is a rebellious young lad disappointed in the father he loves. The scheming chief is conniving and vicious. Sylvio is a desert Joffery. The two most well-rounded characters are Joseph, Joshua’s dad, and Vittorio, Sylvio’s father. Despite the obvious hatred between them, there is also mutual respect. How their feud resolves itself is one of the most gripping things about the plot.

That said, this is not a self-contained story. Which I felt was disappointing. The book asks more questions than it answers, setting the scene for what comes in the next. The good thing is that I was intrigued and interested in finding out what those things are going to be. A lovely book to look at, with an intriguing set-up that is slightly let down by the characters. Despite that, it is very much worth reading.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Please consider using this affliate link to buy the book.

BOOK REVIEW: Rogue Planet by Cullen Bunn, Andy MacDonald & Nick Filardi, Crank!

BOOK REVIEW: Rogue Planet by Cullen Bunn, Andy MacDonald & Nick Filardi, Crank!

Rogue Planet evokes memories of Alien and Aliens in a very good way. The blue-collar crew of a salvage ship encounter supernatural and inhuman terrors on Lonely Orphan.

Bunn’s script is gripping from the off. We are introduced to a cast of characters with enough foibles and eccentricities to make you wonder which one of them will be killed off first and indeed how many if any of them are going to survive. Bunn’s dialogue is occasionally a bit heavy-handed and cheesy but no more than you would expect from a sci-fi/horror story. However, there are also genuine tender and humorous moments between the crew that cruelly made me care about the characters. There is a nice mix of action set-pieces and slower anxiety building sequences (one scene of the crew trying to navigate their back to the ship after an ambush is particularly good).

The art is quite simply fantastic. Both the inks and colours bring to life the creepy and weird alien beings that are hunting the crew. As someone who has seen a few horror movies, it is always nice when an original monster is brought to the page. Some of the creatures are so unnatural looking it took me time to process what I was looking at. Always a good sign in monster design.

The plot itself hits all the horror story beats but it does so with aplomb. I’m not sure there is enough here for non-genre fans but for anyone with a passing interest in sci-fi or horror Rogue Planet is definitely worth picking up. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Please consider using this link to buy the book.

BOOK REVIEW: Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Race Massacre by Alverne Ball & Stacey Robinson

BOOK REVIEW: Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Race Massacre by Alverne Ball & Stacey Robinson

The massacre that happened on Black Wall Street is quite rightly being given greater visibility. The Watchmen TV series is an example of that. Whereas many tellings of the evil that occurred in Tulsa focus on the violence, or the events immediately preceding, Across the Tracks focuses more on what was lost. It tells of how Greenwood was founded, why it flourished, and the important people in the town’s history. Many of these remarkable American deserve their own books.

Because Across the Tracks takes this approach it makes the bitterness and agony I felt all the more acute when the violence does occur. Across the Tracks is superbly researched. The small details bought to the page by Alverne Ball script gives some scope to what was lost when Black Wall Street burned.

Stacey Robinson’s art has an earnest quality to it. They mostly play it safe with page composition and panel layout. However, the thickly inked lines and Robinson’s ability to accurately capture the likenesses of historical figures are both pleasing. As is Robinson’s knack for capturing emotions.

Overall this is a good graphic novel history of a shameful event in American history. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. Please consider using this link to buy the book.