Tuesday 27 October 2020
Sunday 25 October 2020
Monday 12 October 2020
Sunday 11 October 2020
Sunday 4 October 2020
Judging a book by its cover: Not exactly the most exciting of covers, showing only the staircase in what seems to be an old house. The black and white floor tiles in the hall are a bit reminiscent of a chessboard, but the intricate game the characters in the book find themselves in is a lot more convoluted than a chess game.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.
Saturday 3 October 2020
Friday 2 October 2020
#CBR12 Bingo: Happy (I never thought that Sandman could be adapted into an audio story, so this made me very happy indeed)
Official book description:
When The Sandman, also known as Lord Morpheus - the immortal king of dreams, stories and the imagination - is pulled from his realm and imprisoned on Earth by a nefarious cult, he languishes for decades before finally escaping. Once free, he must retrieve the three “tools” that will restore his power and help him to rebuild his dominion, which has deteriorated in his absence. As the multi-threaded story unspools, The Sandman descends into Hell to confront Lucifer, chases rogue nightmares who have escaped his realm, and crosses paths with an array of characters from DC comic books, ancient myths, and real-world history, including: Inmates of Gotham City's Arkham Asylum, Doctor Destiny, the muse Calliope, the three Fates, William Shakespeare , and many more.
In July 1998, my life changed forever. In those days, I still lived in a suburb of Oslo and didn't necessarily visit the centre of the city all that often. When I did, I always took a trip to Avalon, the dedicated fantasy/sci-fi/all things nerd book shop there (the book shop sadly closed long ago now). On a display table near the front of the shop was Fables and Reflections, by no means the first volume in the long-running Sandman series, but an excellent introduction. I think Neil Gaiman had recently visited Oslo for the first time, and the shop was promoting his most famous work. I had never read any graphic novels before but was drawn by the description of the series. I bought the book, started reading it on the bus on the way home, and my mind was blown. I had never read anything like it before, and I was utterly hooked on the stories of dreams and nightmares, the family dramas with references to all manner of mythology, classical literature, comic books, and the like.
This was a time when Norwegian libraries were not particularly well-stocked with fantasy of any kind, and certainly not English-language comic books and graphic novels (I'm happy to say that that's changed massively over the last 20 years - one of the public library branches in Oslo is now dedicated entirely to comics and graphic novels in different languages. Hence, I had to buy each volume before I could read the full story. My records show that it took me about a year to get all ten volumes of trade paperbacks, some of which I've now had signed by Neil Gaiman himself.
Funny story, one of them isn't actually signed to Malin, because my dear friend Ben was a bit of an idiot back when he took my copy of Preludes and Nocturnes to a signing in Newcastle. This was back before I really knew him, and he was still just my then-boyfriend, now-husband Mark's school friend. See, Ben and another of Mark's school friends, Ruth, had initially joked that his Norwegian girlfriend's name was Helga. By the time Ben was taking one of my precious trade paperbacks to Newcastle to get it signed as a favour, he'd met me several times, and knew my name was Malin. But when he got to the front of the signing line, and Mr. Gaiman asked him who to sign the book to, Ben (lovable moron) blurted out Helga, and only after he'd left the shop remembered that it was not, in fact, my actual name. This is also why I have a signed copy of Anansi Boys, where Neil Gaiman apologizes to me for getting my name wrong.
So how do you successfully adapt what is both a written and a visual medium, you ask? You hire an excellent ensemble cast, so that all of the various characters we meet in the pages of the first three volumes of the graphic novel opus are voiced by different and distinct voices (there's a huge ensemble of people who do multiple voices over the course of the audio drama, but never in the same scenes, making it much easier to keep track of who's speaking at any given time). You also get someone to narrate and describe the various scenes and characters in them (or occasionally add descriptions of the setting and characters to the inner monologues of one or several of the people in a scene), so the listener is told what they would have seen on the page if they were reading the comic. That the narrator here is Neil Gaiman himself (whose voice I find very soothing) just seems extra fitting.
I read several reviews of this audio drama that complained that with very few exceptions, everything is kept exactly as it was in the original 90s comics, with no attempts to adapt or bring it more up to date. This was mentioned as a criticism, I didn't think it was a problem. I also know the source material being adapted exceptionally well, having read the comics multiple times. Even so, as I kept listening, I actually pulled my trade paperbacks off the shelf to halfway follow along. To someone who's never read the original graphic novels, it may be harder to follow the plot, even though the team who adapted did a very good job in filling in with background sounds to give you an idea of action and plot.
Each issue of the comic is one approximately 30-minute long episode, with little audio credits and everything. It felt like I was listening to an old-fashioned radio play, and I loved it. How well the adaptation works for you may also depend on how you feel about James McAvoy. I love him and his voice, and think he did a splendid job voicing Lord Morpheus. Kat Dennings worked surprisingly well as Death. The only one I wasn't entirely happy with was the guy playing Desire, whose voice just didn't "fit" with my mental image of what it should be.
A brief trigger warning towards the end. In both Preludes and Nocturnes, The Doll's House and Dream Country, there are elements of horror. The issue 24 Hours, for instance, where a number of people are kept trapped in a diner by an escaped Arkham Asylum inmate in control of Dream's ancient ruby and are slowly driven increasingly more insane over the course of the story was even more horrifying than it is on the page because all the various people got their own voices and felt more real than they do when you just read them. It was harder to stay detached. There are also stories of serial killers, and child abuse and women being raped and beaten - so be aware of that.
Now I'm left impatiently waiting and hoping that this becomes enough of a success for Audible that they'll choose to adapt the rest of the series as well. Recording audio dramas must be something that should be perfectly doable even now, with production halted on so many things due to Covid-19.
While I'm choosing to use this for my "Happy" square for this year's bingo, it could just as easily have fit with "Nostalgia", since this was such an important part both of my adolescence and so ground-breaking for comics in general during the 1990s.
Judging a book by its cover: I have tried to track down the name of the cover artist for the dark, broody image of Dream, without any luck. It's a good depiction of Lord Morpheus, and I like that it looks like he himself is made up of sand or dust and kind of blurring at the edges a bit.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.