Current Reads for November

Fan art by AKRU from DeviantArt. Click to check out his work.

Cover art by AKRU from DeviantArt. Click to check out his work.

At the moment, I’m reading the fantasy/crime thriller The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. The softback edition is some 750 pages long, far from anything you could finish in an afternoon. The tale involves a crew of thieves running con jobs against the nobility of the city of Camorr. In the middle of their biggest con yet, Locke faces off with a political rival who is dead set on murdering Locke’s boss.

This book could very well be big news soon as Warner Bros picked up the film rights, assigning two screen writers and a couple of people to produce it.

Although I’m enjoying the read, I am discovering a constant issue with fantasy books. It feels like every fantasy author has to turn their first book into a huge series of stories. The Lies of Locke Lamora has two sequel books already published, with another four to go. George R.R. Martin is still doing so with A Game of Thrones (currently five of seven). Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time is probably one of the longest series in existence. And many of these aren’t short reads either, but actually seem to grow with every new installment.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy suddenly doesn’t seem as bad, length wise.

Speaking of GRRM, A Storm of Swords is in my to-read pile. I’ve finished the first two books and have been reading them paced against the HBO series. It’s interesting to draw comparisons between the two of them and pick up differences both subtle and major.

In my non-fictional reading includes Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Blood: The Stuff of Life by Lawrence Hill. And somewhat between fiction and non-fiction is a single classic, The Canterbury Tales.

Finally, I’m also adding the manga series, Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) to the list of reads. Manga are shorter, only taking some 30 to 40 minutes to read, tops. I’ve spoken on how awesome the series is when it only just came to the U.S. Before anyone asks, I have not yet caught the anime series, although I have heard it is available for free on Hulu. I may check that in the mornings and watch while I work out.

Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)

I don’t read much manga. Too much of it goes on about childish things and cutesiness that I don’t have the patience for. So when I find a series that I like, much less catch up on in a single day, it must be a damn good one.

Shingeki no Kyojin

Shingeki no Kyojin

Shingeki no Kyojin, better known as Attack on Titan, is an up and coming manga to watch out for. The series is relatively new. There are only 37 chapters out at the moment (each chapter being the length of one regular comic book). The first volume has been released to the U.S., but fan-lations are available for the recently released volumes Japan-side.

SnK is set in a world where, a century ago, mankind was almost wiped out by giants who eat us. No one knows or understands why, especially since it seems that the Titans draw no nourishment from it. But by building a city encased in a massive wall, our race is protected until the appearance of the “Colossus”, a one-of-a-kind Titan who is 60 meters tall. After kicking down the gate, the Titans enter and take the outermost layer of the city, while two more walls keep the Titans out.

Eren Jaeger and his adopted sister Mikasa are survivors of the attack, who enlist in the military. When the Colossus appears again five years later, Eren is thrust in battle and soon discovers his ability to transform into a Titan himself. However his gift destroys the trust his allies have in him.

Worse yet, they soon discover that their are others who can shift into Titans; suggesting that the Colossus maybe one of these shapeshifters…

Shingeki no Kyojin is dark. It’s bloody. It’s deep. It’s rewarding. And it’s awesome.

Series creator Hajime Isayama does a great job of taking all those tiring anime/manga clichés and somehow crushing them against his forehead like a beer can. Eren is young, but he hates being just a kid in a cruel world. Nor does he cry or whine or go “poor me” like some other protagonists who tire me out. Not when good old revenge motivates him. Puberty has seemingly been skipped. A lot of the doubt that comes from the protagonists tends to be understandable feelings of, “I don’t wanna get eaten.”

Seeing a real life act of vore would probably damage me psychologically as well. Well, more than I already am.

Likewise, Eren is more a component of an ensemble cast of fleshed out characters. While his power is incredible, it has plenty of limits. He’s lost fights in the series, only to get saved by his allies and friends. This isn’t the tiring “get beat up waiting for Goku” teamwork, it’s legitimate “work together” teamwork. I don’t think there’s any guarantee that Eren will survive to the end of the series.

The best thing that Isayama has done thus far is concoct the perfect pace for character development, world building, discovery and intrigue. The world is young, but there’s a lot of depth. There are details about the Titans which are explored and explained, yet there are many questions left. Fights lead to discovery, and victory is rewarding to the reader as they unravel another clue in the mystery. But there are also distant goals to keep us going, such as the unachieved research material in the home of Eren’s father.

Most awesome of all is the fact that SnK is so young that no one can spoil it for you. It’s so fresh and new that no one knows enough to blow the plot. But fear not! Isayama has admitted in interviews that he’s thought hard about the what happens next. So you (probably) won’t have to fear crazy-weird plot alterations just to keep the series fresh.