Book Review – Logicomix: An Epic Search for the Truth

Written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou
Illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna

Bertrand Russell, British logician and philosopher spent his life in pursuit for truth and for a clear, logical system for understanding that truth. He began with the study of mathematics (until one of his own discoveries undermined the foundations of truth upon with math stood) and later integrating philosophical logic.

The graphic novel is interesting in the ways that it is layered — a story within a story within a story. It opens with the author of the graphic novel talking directly to the reader and explaining that this is a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell and going into the process of making the book. Then it shifts into the story itself with Russell meeting up with a group of antiwar protesters while on his way to giving a lecture on logic. The protesters call for him to join them, because he once protested against WWI when he was younger. Instead, he invites them to listen to his lecture, wherein he begins to tell his life story and how he began his life-long pursuit of truth. The graphic novel shifts back and forth through these layers of storytelling (and even eventually uncovers a fourth and arguably a fifth layer).

At first I was put off by the self-referential aspect of Logicomix. I didn’t like that the author and the artists interacted with the reader. However, I soon came to realize that including this multi-layer aspect to the graphic novel, not only allowed the authors to creatively explain certain aspects of logical theory that get lost in the storyline, but the layering actually begins to embody some of the logical theories being discussed.

The graphic novel in a sense contains itself, or at least the discussion of itself, which seems to touch upon “Russell’s Paradox”, a theory discussed in the book, and which I’m sure that I can’t rightly explain on my own. Honestly, thinking about it makes my head hurt, but it goes something like, if it contains itself, then it doesn’t; if it doesn’t, it does. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t ask me, because I can’t wrap my mind around it either.

Fortunately, Logicomix doesn’t dwell too much on the complexities of logic theory, but rather focuses on the people who developed them, what motivated them, and the conflict between thinking theory and trying to live it.

At the end of the graphic novel, the authors admit to bending some of the factual history to make for better storytelling and follow that up with a glossary of sorts that presented a slightly more in depth and factual look at the various logic theories and logicians that the readers encounter in the book.

Logicomix turned out to be a supremely fascinating book with gorgeous art and a passion for intellectual discovery. Definitely worth a read.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]

Book Review: Don't Hex With Texas, by Shanna Swendson

Katie Chandler has left New York and returned to her family in Texas, said to be devoid of all things magical. However, when strange things start happening in her home town, Katie starts to suspect the forces of evil are up to something. This is the fourth book in the Enchanted Inc. series, and I hope it won’t be the last.

One of the great things about this series is the relationship between Katie and Owen. There’s a continued tension of will it/won’t it that stems directly from the characters themselves, rather than some artificial outside influence or being dependent on any overly orchestrated love triangle. There’s a sweetness to their friendship and a genuine affection that is built on more than lust or sex appeal.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this fun chick-lit series, unfortunately, sales on the third and fourth book were not high enough for the publishers to pursue publishing the next books in the series. Very disappointing, because I would love to see more of this storyline and see what happens as Katie and Owen’s relationship begins to grow, not to mention all the rest of the assortment of lovable and bizarre characters throughout this world.

Here’s my plea, if you like fantasy and/or chick lit, please check out Enchanted, Inc. the first book in this series, in which Katie first stumbles upon the magical world. If you enjoy it, then buy more books in the series, especially the third and fourth books and spread the word to others. Hopefully if the sales improve, the fifth and sixth books will be able to be released. This would thoroughly please me. (^_^)

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]

A Writer's Dream Life

I enjoy playing with what I suppose should be considered my own internal fan fiction. Typically this involves taking a character of my own invention and trying to fit them into the world of Buffy or Stargate SG-1 or Fringe, or whatever I’m currently obsessed with at the time. I never write any of these inventions down. Rather it’s a sort of mental puzzle that I enjoy trying to work through, because I often can’t incorporate the my character into the world without corrupting the structure of the world building or messing with the chronology of events. It think it’s a typical writer thing, and can be a good way to toy and practice with plot structures.

Last night, I finished reading Tithe*, by Holly Black, and then tuned into the premeire episode of Being Human** (because I happened to be actually at home when it came on) — both of which I enjoyed.

I noted this to myself before, and it became clear once again last night, that I have to careful what fantasy story lines I read and/or watch before going to bed because it will often invade my dreams. Last night, my brain decided to play my fan-fic puzzle game with me while I was trying to sleep. It kept trying to incorporate the faery realms into the world of Being Human and kept trying to see what the characters, especially the werewolf would do in the face of this faery threat. (A short version is that the faery queen wanted to make the werewolf her pet, so that she could use him as a guard and a weapon against anyone who would threaten her. Yeah.)

My brain kept wanting to puzzle this story line out through some very odd dreams, which meant that my sleep was restless. I kept tossing and turning and wanting to fall into a deep sleep, but also a part of me didn’t want to loose the thread of this storyline that my mind was inventing, because I kind of liked where it was going, too.

I woke up very tired this morning.

*sigh* Sometimes, I wish I could turn my writing brain off.

*Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale follows the story of Kaye, a girl who follows her nomadic mother quest for fame through dive bars in Philadelphia. Kaye is grateful when their nomadic lifestyle comes to an end, however, and they are forced to return to her grandmother’s house, offering her the opportunity to reconnect with fairy friends both human and faery. It isn’t before long, however, before she finds herself entangled in a political and dangerous intrigue between the faery courts. The faeries in this book are tricksy and deadly throughout, just as they ought to be. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read with enough adventure and well-wrought surprises to keep me excited. I’m definitely looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy.

**Being Human, apparently based off of a British version, is about a vampire and a werewolf, who are tried of feeling and behaving like monsters. So they decide to become roommates in order to look out for one another and keep each other out of trouble. It’s not the most original story around, but it has enough story and character going for it that I’ll stick around watching it for at least a few more episodes. Besides I love Sam Huntington (from Detroit Rock City), who plays the werewolf. He’s that geeky, awkward cute that I just love.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]

Books Read in December

1. The Red Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang
2. The Pleasure Seekers, by Tishani Doshi
3. Morning in the Burned House (poetry), by Margaret Atwood
4. Talking Back to Poems: A Working Guide for the Aspiring Poet, by Daniel Alderson
5. Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing, by Barbara Guest
6. Behind the Mountains, by Edwidge Danticat
7. Island Beneath the Sea (audio book), by Isabel Allende
8. The Good Neighbors: Kind, by Holly Black
9. Post Meridian (poetry), by Mary Rueffle
10. Flight of Shadows, by Sigmund Brouwer
11. Flirting with Pride and Prejudice: Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece, edited by Jennifer Crusie
12. Damsel Under Stress, by Shanna Swendson
13. Yarrow, by Charles De Lint
14. The Penelopeia, by Jane Rawlings
15. Taste of Salt: A Story of Modern Haiti, by Frances Temple
16. Breath, Eyes, Memory (audio book), by Edwidge Danticat

Click here to read reviews.

The Penelopeia, by Jane Rawlings

When Odyseus returns home from his long journeys, he finds that his wife Penelope has not only been steadfast in her defense of her home, but that she has managed to keep secret the birth of Odyseus’ twin daughters — a secret kept to spare them from the suitors ravaging their home.

But the gods are not done with this noble family yet, as it has been decried that Penelope and her two lovely daughters must travel to Pythia to visit the oracle and on from there to visit Helen so that her daughters may learn her secrets of healing.

Rawlings writes this continuation of The Odessy in the epic poetic style of Homer, mimicking the tone and voice of her favorite translation of the work. She accomplishes this quite well, for except for the fact that her poem is in first person, it sounds almost exactly like the Odessy as I remember reading it years ago.

I was slightly bored by it at time, though, because much of the epic poem is spent in convincing Odyseus to allow them to leave and in the sharing of only mildly interesting tales. It takes quite a while for Penelope to even get on the ship, let alone begin her adventures. Further, her adventures, being those of a woman are much tamer than her husbands. There is very little reason for her to use her cunning, which she clearly has as seen in the Odessy. The most exciting moments are those that came more than half way through the book, when she is taken up by the great Amazon warrior women who wish her to join their ranks. My interest was only roused then, and was diminished when she left their ranks.

In some ways Rawlings had to cheat to make this story happen, had to invent and secret in aspects of the story that were not in the Odessy in order to make it work. And even, the restrictions of women according to the time and culture in her characters lived meant that she could have gone further with this story, to delve deeply into strength and potential of women as I had hoped. Any attempt to have women go off on adventures on their own in ancient Greece, unless their were Amazons or in some other way free from men and the burdens of reputation, ultimately results in a story that sounds forced. Or perhaps it can be done, but it came out sounding forced here, despite Rawlings best efforts. In the end I was a bit disappointed with this tale.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]