Archive for the ‘Books/Novels’ Category

Harry Potter Returns in New J.K. Rowling Short Story

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Just shy of seven years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling has returned to Harry Potter in a new short story on PotterMore.com.

Formatted as a newspaper article in the by gossip columnist Rita Skeeter, the story takes a look at the adult Harry Potter, his wife Ginny, as well as Ron and Hermione as they attend the 2014 Quidditch World Cup.

Oddly enough PotterMore.com also notes that the Skeeter character will have a new book, Dumbledore’s Army: The Dark Side of the Demob, published on July 31 (Harry Potter’s birthday). In the world of Harry Potter, Dumbledore’s Army was the name given to a group of rebellious students led by Harry who rebelled against the ultra-strict Dolores Umbridge.

Rowling is currently involved with the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film trilogy, based in the world she established in the Harry Potter series.

Image from telegraph.co.uk.

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Paper Rebels – A Review of The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett

TITLE: The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett
AUTHOR: Tom Angleberger
PUBLISHER: Amulet Books
PRICE: $12.95
RELEASED: August 6, 2013

Need to catch up? Check out The Strange Case of Origami YodaDarth Paper Strikes Back!, and The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

How excited do you think Tom Angleberger was when the new Star Wars trilogy was announced? Now he’s got at least another three movies to draw from for these Origami Yoda books! He gets to ride the Star Wars train for another decade!

I jest, of course. The Origami Yoda series could have been a big, uninspired money grab decorated with Star Wars characters. Instead, as the books progress Angleberger’s messages about the education system get more and more intriguing. In Jabba, we see a school administration failing to connect with both students and teachers. We even spend a little time looking at parent/child relationships. It’s a refreshing, fun look at the flaws in the American school system, coming from a rather unlikely source. After all, there is a paper Hutt on the cover.

The fourth book in the series sees Dwight, a seventh grader at McQuarrie Middle School renowned for his Origami Yoda finger puppet, return to the school and warn of an approaching crisis. Unfortunately, his predictions soon come true. In light of low standardized test scores, the school discontinues its elective programs, replacing them with the “FunTime” learning system, which in essence consists of a bunch of cartoons with bad singing. Now Dwight, Tommy, Kellen, Harvey, and the rest of the gang must form their own Rebel Alliance (complete with an entire cast of Star Wars puppets) to stand up to a school that has taken their creative outlets away from them. But can a small band of middle schoolers really make a difference?

“Edgy” isn’t a word I’d use to describe these books at all. But when you compare a small portion of the content in this book to that of its predecessors, that’s the word that somehow comes to mind. For instance, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to a student whose mother forbids him to socialize with Dwight and the others, as she’s a conservative Christian, and doesn’t want him worshipping false idols, i.e. a puppet that can “use the Force.” We also get a peek into Tommy’s home life, and see that his dad isn’t exactly the most attentive guy in the world. Again, not subject matter you’d expect to see here.

What impressed me the most about this book is how Angleberger played up the importance of having a cause worth fighting for. There are a couple of chapters in Jabba in which students want to gather their origami rebellion to fight against frivelous causes, and Angleberger stresses the importance of standing up against actual injustice, rather than things we don’t like. Hey, I never wanted to do sit-ups in gym either. But I never blew up a Death Star over it. As an adult, I appreciated the way he put things in context.

Angleberger’s Origami Yoda books have the look, and even the feel, of harmless Star Wars fun. And at the end of the day, I suppose that’s what they are to most young readers. But they manage to tackle a few real-world issues in a way that’s not overly confrontational, and despite how the plot starts, doesn’t necessarily paint school administrators as the bad guys. Adults may find some unexpected food for thought in these pages.

RATING: 9/10

Front page image from amazon.com. Interior image from bookday.org. 

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Batman & Robin Cast as Aging Gay Heroes in New Book

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Batman & Robin’s sexuality has been called into question ever since Frederick Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent in the ’50s. Now, a new book is reviving the debate, while also calling the sexuality of other comic book characters into question.

Erotic Lives of Superheroes by Marco Mancassola was originally released in Italy in 2008, but has recently been released in English. The book casts the likes of Batman, Robin, Superman, Mr. Fantastic and Mystique as aged action heroes, who were active in the early 20th century. Now, their lives are threatened by a mysterious conspiracy, giving them a chance to live out one last love story.

The book’s portrayal of Batman in particular has earned a great deal of media attention. In the book, the character’s boredom leads him into a series of one night stands with younger men.

“Batman has always had a very dark side,”  Mancassola recently told The Independant. “And it shouldn’t be a shock that my version of this character indulges in weird forms of fetishism and extreme sex. Narcissism is his inner abyss. He let his only real love story miserably fail because he is in love with the mystery of youth — that inacessible, fleeting kind of spirit that he sees in the eyes of his young male and female pick-ups.”

Despite the potentially inflammatory nature of the story, Mancassola said the book isn’t meant to offend.

“There was no intention to shock or offend anybody,” he said. “Erotic Lives of the Superheroes is just an attempt at exploring the complex humanity of a group of characters.”

Interestingly enough, news outlets have been publishing images of George Clooney, and the cast of Batman & Robin with the story. In 2006, Clooney told Barbara Walters: ”I was in a rubber suit [in the movie] and I had rubber nipples. I could have played Batman straight, but I made him gay.”

Source: Newsarama
Image 2 from dreammoviecast.com

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A Fond Farewell to Sookie Stackhouse

By Becky Luksa
Contributor

Sookie Stackhouse is an old friend of mine. Or at least it feels as if she is.

This is what happens after one reads novels with good characters. You feel as if you know them. You consciously know that they are not real people, but it feels as if they are. This particularly happens in a long book series, as one is spending a large period of time with the characters. The Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris have been published for the last 13 years and I have been reading them since I was 15 years old. Now, with the 13th book, Dead Ever After, the series has come to an end

I still remember the first time I picked up the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I was 14 and perusing the book section at Sam’s Club. I unknowingly picked up the fourth novel in the series and brought it home with me. It wasn’t long before I realized that there was more to this story, and I almost immediately went out and picked up the first three. I devoured all four of them. And I couldn’t wait for more!

It was fascinating. A world were vampires were out in the open due to advances in medical science. What was even more interesting was the impact that this development had on a telepathic waitress in a small town in Louisiana. And the fact that the vampires were not the only supernatural creatures residing in Bon Temps.

Since then, I have been deeply involved with the life of Sookie Stackhouse. I have seen her go from a meek, quiet, nervous telepath working as a waitress, to a strong, independent woman who can stand on her own two feet no matter what situation she is put it. She is intelligent and is always taking steps to improve herself. She has beliefs that she holds dear and a brother that means the world to her. I have a great knowledge of her love life and her various opinions on things. As I said, she’s like an old friend. Of course, it’s more of a one-way friendship. She has no idea who I am.

But like an old friend, she has been there for me. Anyone who has ever hit puberty knows that the teenage years are some of the worst years of your life. Throw in some tumultuous life experiences, and you have one pretty horrible time. But, no matter what was happening in my life, I could always count on these novels to provide an escape. I could saunter off to a world that has magical creatures. I would immerse myself in the world of Bon Temps and forget about whatever else was going on around me. because what was happening to Sookie was for more interesting.

These books have been there for me through one of the most difficult time periods of my life. Besides that, they are simply entertaining and good reads. It is so easy to get absorbed into a world where seemingly every single mythical, magical creature exists. They are filled with action, adventure, romance, and a good mystery every single time. And while I am a little sad to see the series go, the final novel is truly a fitting end.

It is always difficult to figure out the best way to end such a long running series. But,Harris did it in a nearly seamless way because she doesn’t try to outdo herself. She does not try to make an epic grand finale. Instead, the novel feels very familiar and does not differ much from the other books in the series. The only really different thing Harris does is switch from Sookie’s dominant perspective to that that of the villains. But this is only for a very short period of time, and it provides insight into the events of the story, so it has a purpose.

Sookie’s development as a character is finished by the end of the novel, which is how one should end a series. That development is slower in this book than in others, but that is because it is the end of the series. Most of the character’s growth has been accomplished by this point. Sookie developed wonderfully throughout the series, and each of the changes in her character made perfect sense and could be seen through the events she went through. Storylines with the other characters in her life are also wrapped up and in ways that flow nicely with the overall plot of the novels.

Also, the plot of the novel is fitting for the end of the series. You do not hang around vampires without creating a few enemies along the way. Some of Sookie’s old enemies are seeking revenge on her. Bringing back old characters to play the villains in this novel is fitting because, at this point, you do not want to introduce new characters or try to craft a fresh villain, only to bring the story to an end. Also, these enemies make sense for where Sookie is in her life.

The Sookie Stackhouse series is a fun and entertaining series, and the final novel was a fitting end. One of the most difficult things to do as an entertainer is to keep coming up with new ideas and keep people coming back to hear them. Charlaine Harris has done this successfully 13 times. For those who have not read the series, I highly recommend it. I know that one day I will be making the journey back to Bon Temps.

Front page image/image 2 from sookieverseblog.net. Image 3 from wakethedeadpodcast.blogspot.com.
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The Mildly Amusings – A Review of The Interestings

TITLE: The Interestings
AUTHOR: Meg Wolitzer
PUBLISHER: Riverhead Hardcover
RELEASED: April 9, 2013

By Becky Luksa
Contributor

It seems as if you are jinxing yourself by titling your book, The Interestings. No matter who writes that book, it is doomed to be boring, no matter how hard they try.

Even if the title throws you off, it seems as though it could be a good story. The summary makes the book sound like a fascinating story filled with great characters and conflict. But this is not so. This is the conundrum one encounters when reading The Interestings. Its lack of an overarching conflict makes the novel feel slow and, well, uninteresting.

The novel examines the lives of four friends who met at a summer camp for artistic teens and follows them from age 16 until their mid-fifties. Two of the friends, Ash and Ethan, marry and become incredibly successful, actually making money off their art. Ethan becomes a famous animator, which allows Ash to follow her dream of becoming a theater director. The other two, Jules and Jonah, give up their art and chose different careers. Jules and her husband, Dennis, are drastically less successful than Ash and Ethan. Jonah is successful in his career, but not in his love life.

The main focus of the novel is the relationship between the two couples, showing the disparity between their lives. Jules is extremely envious of the life that her two friends have accomplished, feeling as if their friendship is somehow lessened by their class gap. Ash and Ethan love Jules and don’t seem to care about money, or lack thereof. They are happy to use their wealth to treat their friends to expensive dinners and vacations, while Jules and Dennis begrudgingly accept. Jonah’s story is more of a sub-plot to the novel, which chronicles his life as the son of a famous folk singer and gay man. He is not so much bothered by Ash and Ethan’s extreme wealth as he is by the feeling that something is lacking once he decides to not pursue music as a career.

The problem is that Jules’ envy of her friends does not drive the plot. This extreme jealousy never causes any conflict between the friends. Jules silently suffers, or complains to her husband. But does not take any action. She never tries to ruin Ash’s life, or even have an argument with Ash and Ethan about their wealth or lifestyle. It’s the whole showing versus telling rule that every writer is told in Writing 101. There are some nicely shown characterizations, but they are few. There is conflict, but it is almost all internal or quickly resolved. No one does anything. If they do take action, it is in an area that is not exactly relevant to the relationships in their lives. There is the possibility for great conflict in the emotions the characters have, but it is simply not utilized in the way it should be. The whole novel seems to show these people simply living their lives, going through the major milestones of life; going to college, getting married, having children and raising them.

One other issue with the story is that many of the social elements that the author brings up, feminism, the gay rights movement, and several other political and social movements, seem forced and at times irrelevant. The political references made throughout the story, mostly ripping on former presidents Nixon and Reagan, are out of place and so jarring that it brings the reader out of the story. There is a time and a place for political commentary. If some of these elements were weaved into the story, perhaps used for characterizations instead of just trying to make a point, they could actually be very useful to the writer. Fiction is a great place to make social commentary, but often times it is best when the reader does not even realize that commentary is being made. If it sticks out too much from the rest of the story, it actually becomes annoying. Some of the points Wolitzer makes are great and important, but they stick out like red wine on white carpet.

Despite the title, the characters in the book are not all that interesting. Both Ash and Jules fall flat in their characterizations. Ash is beautiful and caring, and that’s about it. The two other aspects of her personality that the reader is given are that she’s a feminist and has the ability to lie, as if that makes her so special and distinguishable from so many other people. Jules is ugly, less talented than Ash, and envious. There are moments where the author provides great characterizations, Ash’s reactions to her brother being accused of rape, or the way that Jules interacts with her sister. More of these moments would have created strong characters who come to life as you are reading them.

Their husbands are slightly more dynamic. Dennis can battle through the fog of his depression to care for his only daughter. Despite his generosity with money towards his friends, Ethan is terribly selfish when it comes to his personal life. Jonah is probably the most three dimensional character. He is a talented guitarist who gives up his music because of a traumatic experience he had as a child, goes to MIT and ends up designing innovations to help disabled people. He is terribly closed off, but can muster the emotion and strength to confront the man who did him wrong. He is the one who realizes creativity can be part of your life, but doesn’t have to be the whole thing. Sadly, his story is limited to only a few chapters and various other mentions throughout the book.

Within the pages of The Interestings is there is the potential for a really good story. There could be really great conflict between these two sets of friends. Parts of the story are thought provoking and exciting to read, and the way the characters react to the present situation does a great job of showing who they are as people. Unfortunately, there is not enough of this to make the story good.

RATING: 5/10

Front page image from salon.com. Image 1 from npr.org. Image 2 from timeout.com.
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The Origami Rebellion – A Review of The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee

TITLE: The Secret of the Fortune Wookie
AUTHOR: Tom Angleberger
PUBLISHER: Amulet Books
PRICE: $12.95
RELEASE DATE: August 7, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Well how about this? Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda books, which obviously make use of characters and imagery from both Star Wars trilogies, now comprise a trilogy themselves. I think we all know what this means! Look for the three books to be released on Blu-ray next year, with freshly enhanced picture and sound, a CGI elephant that’s inserted into the cantina scene for no apparent reason, and an audio commentary with way too much Ben Burtt…

In The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, Dwight, the eccentric originator of the mysterious Origami Yoda finger puppet at Ralph McQuarrie Middle School, has been transferred to a different school. This is much to the chagrin of Tommy, Kellen, and most of the other students. But Tommy’s crush Sara swoops in to fill the void with her very own “Fortune Wookiee,” a paper fortune teller made to look like Chewbacca, complete with its own “Han Foldo” to translate the grunts and growls. As Origami Yoda used to do, the Fortune Wookiee gives out little gems of advice to the kids, helping them through various predicaments. Meanwhile, Dwight isn’t acting so eccentric anymore. In fact, he’s downright normal! What’s happened to McQuarrie’s resident Jedi Master? And will Origami Yoda ever be seen again?

On the surface, I imagine it’s easy to write these books off as an author’s clever attempt to hook kids into his origami story by dressing it up with Star Wars characters. Heck, for all I know that was his mindset. Thankfully, the books are such delightfully quirky messages about creativity, individuality and friendship, that all the Star Wars jokes and references are simply a delicious icing on the cake. If you’re a third grader who spots this book, Chewbacca’s picture gets you to pick it up, but you put it down thinking about all those things. That’s the formula, at least. And it seems to be working given the great success of the series.

In Wookiee, Angleberger builds on a foundation he planted in Darth Paper about how closed-minded school administrators can unintentionally stifle, if not altogether stomp out, the creative spirits of young people by forcing them think inside a box that’s too small for them. He throws in a time-tested plot point about the arts as a whole that will no doubt spark Tommy, Dwight and the other characters to form a little Rebel Alliance of their own in the next book.

The only thing in this book I wasn’t sure about was the way the kids acted. Tommy and the others are supposed to be in 7th grade by now. It’s been awhile since I was a junior high kid, and ultimately what matters is that these books are written for elementary school kids. But when I was a 7th grader, I doubt I would have been so impressed with an origami finger puppet, much less be convinced that one actually had magic powers. If the characters are going to act like naive elementary school kids, then why not just make them naive elementary school kids? What would change in the story? Tommy and Sara’s pseudo romance maybe. But at this point it’s innocent enough that it really wouldn’t effect much. I will admit however, that I could be off base on this one. And I’m definitely not up for going back to middle school to research the topic further…

All in all, another solid outing by Angleberger. Fortune Wookie isn’t as strong as Darth Paper was, but it opens the door for some really interesting content for next time. Let the paper folding continue!

RATING: 8.5/10

Need to catch up? Check out The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back

Front page image from starwars.com. Interior image from torwars.blogspot.com. 

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Superman Versus The Ku Klux Klan – Book Review

TITLE: Superman Versus The Ku Klux Klan
AUTHOR: Rick Bowers
PUBLISHER: National Geographic
PRICE: $16.95
RELEASED: January 10, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Realistically, Superman Versus The Ku Klux Klan probably could have been done as an extended magazine or newspaper article. The amount of time the book actually spends on the Superman franchise’s conflict with the Klan is fairly minimal. But when you consider the book’s good intentions, and the fact that the people picking it up will either be kids (it’s written for ages 10 and up), or those who might not have a great familiarity with comic books or US history, you realize the book deserves a bit of leeway. After all, it shines a light on a portion of Superman’s history that many fans might not be familiar with.

In the 1940s, Superman was a hit not only on the printed page, but on the radio as well. The Adventures of Superman starred Bud Collyer as the title character, and ran for over a decade (in various formats and time slots) from 1940 to 1951. Broadcast live before a listening audience, kids were thrilled with adventures like ”The Curse of Dead Man’s Island,” ”The Yellow Mask and the 5 Million Dollar Jewel Robbery” and ”The 5 Million Dollar Gold Heist.” Then in 1946, the show began to develop more of a social conscience. Suddenly, the Man of Tomorrow was facing threats that actually existed in the real world, and none were more real than the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was and is a white supremacist organization, which at the time was notorious for its violent crimes against African Americans, Jews, Catholics, among others. As the show underwent its turn toward shows displaying the importance of tolerance, addressing the Klan was both a natural and important path to take. But this battle wasn’t limited to the radio waves. In the 16-episode storyline broadcast in 1946, the show’s creators used actual inside information and details on the KKK provided by moles in the organization, including journalist and human rights activist Stetson Kennedy (shown below). In the end, the Man of Steel and his radio cohorts helped to prevent a nation-wide revival of the Klan.

Before it looks at the storyline dubbed “The Clan of the Fiery Cross” (the KKK name was never actually used, but the group was clearly alluded to) the book chronicles Superman’s rise in popularity in the ’30s and ’40s, the Klan’s rise to prominence up to that point, and fills us in on the lives of key players like Stetson Kennedy and show producer Bob Maxwell. This build up actually makes up the majority of the book. Thus, if you’re looking for a 154-page book solely about the groundbreaking yet controversial radio broadcasts, you may be disappointed. But again, consider your intended audience: Kids. This book builds up both parties so that you can come in with no knowledge of either, and still come away knowing the whole story. From that standpoint, you really can’t fault Rick Bowers for the way the book is formatted.

From a journalistic standpoint, the book provides an insightful look at the creation of the “Fiery Cross” story, from it’s conception, to it’s development as a program designed to educate kids about hate, to it’s execution and aftermath. But it doesn’t get so bogged down in details that it gets boring. It has just the right amount of depth to it. It also contains a number of page-sized photographs, ranging from classic comic book covers to historical photos.

Once it gets down to business, Superman Versus The Klu Klux Klan illustrates the power that pop culture figures can have in educating children, and perhaps even reminding a few adults, about the dangers of mass hate. It’s an especially bright spot in the history of Superman which should never be forgotten.

RATING: 8.5/10

Front page image from avclub.com. Image 1 from metal misfit.wordpress.com. Image 2 from zonafandom.com. 

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The Batman Files – Book Review

TITLE: The Batman Files
AUTHOR: Matthew K. Manning
PUBLISHER: Andrews McMeel Publishing
PRICE:
$100
RELEASED:
October 25, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In his printed page adventures it’s been established, particularly in recent years, that Batman keeps a journal at the insistence of Alfred. The Batman Files uses that concept to present us with a guide to The Dark Knight’s world, as seen from his point of view. The book also presents mock newspaper clippings, photographs (the latter of which are mostly panels from comic books), and dossiers of the inhabitants of Gotham City.

As far as Batman guide books/encyclopedias go, The Batman Files is pretty good. It’s 13.5 x 10.5 size and leather cover with a magnetized clasp make for an impressive looking book. In terms of the information provided, there was enough in here to educate even the most devout Batman fan. I’m speaking from experience on that one. Nothing amazingly eye-opening, but there were some little character tidbits that I hadn’t known.

The Batman Files is a lovely tribute to the Caped Crusader and his history. But whether or not you want to buy it really depends on what kind of book you’re looking for. As it’s formatted like an actual journal/scrapbook, it doesn’t break the fourth wall by offering first appearance dates for characters, a publishing history, or anything like that. It cheats a bit by presenting characters’ most notable stories (or at least the once in continuity) as “Related Case Files.” For instance, such files for Two-Face would include “The Long Halloween, The Eye of the Beholder, Dark Victory, etc. So if you’re looking for a more complete view of Batman’s history, you don’t want The Batman Files.

It’s also worth noting that by the time this book was released, much of its content was rendered obsolete by the DC Universe reboot. We’re not quite sure how much of it is gone, but we’re definitely looking at outdated version of Batman’s continuity.

I’m obviously being nitpicky here. One of the things that really impressed me about The Batman Files was the way Manning was able to effectively duplicate Bruce Wayne’s “voice” in this book. If you’ve read enough of his comics over the years, I wouldn’t say it’s incredibly difficult to determine things that Batman would or wouldn’t say, or to figure out how he’d say them. But doing a book like this requires the writer to not only get inside Batman’s head, but to do it at various points in the character’s life. Top that off with the task of writing in the voices of Jeremiah Arkham and the various newspaper writers and Gothamites that we hear from this book, and you’ve got a task that would be challenging for even the best of writers, and Manning deserves a lot of credit for it.

The Batman Files is a gorgeous book jam-packed with information and beautiful color artwork from (give or take) the last two decades. It’s a solid gift for Batman buffs, particularly those interested in the ins and outs of the recent mythology. From that standpoint, it’s got just about everything you’d want to know. It’s not for everyone, and the price is a bit steep, but it’s a lovely tribute to Batman and his world.

RATING: 8/10

Front page image from playeraffinity.com. Image 1 from matthewkmanning.blogspot.com. Image 2 from blog.indigo.ca. 

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The Boy Who Loved Batman – Book Review

TITLE: The Boy Who Loved Batman
AUTHOR: Michael Uslan
PUBLISHER: Chronicle Books
PRICE: $29.95
RELEASED: August 10, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

You’d think a book called The Boy Who Loved Batman wouldn’t be short on interesting Batman content. Unfortunately, that is indeed what Michael Uslan’s memoir suffers from. It’s still a lovely book, but it’s missing an element that would have made it a truly great read.

Michael Uslan is sometimes an unsung hero in the world of comic books. In the early ’70s, he was the first person to teach an accredited college course on comic books at Indiana University, which earned him national publicity. More famously, he tirelessly campaigned for the creation of a dark, serious live action Batman film, which in the years following the campy Adam West show, was given very little consideration by studios. Since then, he has served as a producer on all six of the live action Batman feature films (as well as Swamp Thing, Constantine, the National Treasure movies, and numerous other projects). The Boy Who Loved Batman chronicles Uslan’s journey from a comics-obsessed young boy to a man who built one of the most lucrative and beloved film franchises in the world.

I don’t think anyone can argue that Uslan has lived an amazing life. His is a story of perseverance and a stubborn refusal to give up on a dream. He tells his story with a downright infectious enthusiasm that makes The Boy Who Loved Batman an all the more uplifting read.

However, as I’ve said before, I judge autobiographies not just by the story the author has to tell, but by how well the tell it, and if they can eliminate excess fluff and keep things interesting for readers. The Boy Who Loved Batman fails to do that at certain points. When Uslan talks about his relationship with his brother, certain portions of his school days, and even parts of his law career (which proved integral in his efforts to get the Batman film franchise off the ground), he sometimes goes on too long. This in turn may lead to readers skipping certain chapters altogether.

Also, while he’s been involved with all the Batman feature films, Uslan neglects to talk at length about Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. He simply skips from Batman to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. As a reader, this was frustrating. Given all the build up we get in this book as to how much Uslan wanted to portray Batman as a dark avenger of the night, I’d love to have known what he thought of Joel Schumacher’s colorful, overdramatic take on Gotham City and its inhabitants (though at one point he mentions he was a harsh critic of the now-infamous Batsuit nipples). Considering how positive and upbeat Uslan’s voice is in this book, hearing him talk about some of his films negatively (assuming he harbors some negative opinions) might have been a sharp turn for readers. But if you’re going to write a book about producing the Batman movies, you should probably make a point to talk about all the Batman movies.

Still, The Boy Who Loved Batman is a fun look not only at Uslan’s journey, but the history of the comic book medium. He talks about attending the first ever comic book convention as a boy, getting to meet and correspond with creators like Otto Binder, and how much the industry supported him when he began his course at Indiana University. Longtime fanboys will be able to relate to Uslan almost instantly, as his sheer glee in talking about Batman, comic books and superheroes is something we can easily relate to. It’s something everyone can relate to on some level.

The Boy Who Loved Batman isn’t as good as it could have been, but it conveys the message it wants to: That if you’re willing to work for them, amazing things can happen.

RATING: 7.5/10

Front page image from nj.com. Image 1 from maggiethompson.com. 

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Double Dexter – Novel Review

TITLE: Double Dexter
AUTHOR: Jeff Lindsay
PUBLISHER: Doubleday
PRICE: $25.95
RELEASED: October 18, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Double Dexter, Jeff Lindsay’s sixth Dexter book, is the worst in the series. While the TV show, which is loosely based on the books, has maintained a consistently high quality, the books seem to be getting progressively worse.

In this book, the unthinkable happens to Dexter, a serial killer who only kills those who fit his moral code. Someone catches him in the act, and then flees the scene. Dexter soon begins to receive cryptic and threatening emails from his witness, and very bad things start to happen for America’s favorite murderer. At the same time, a new serial killer shows up in Miami who brutally beats his victims to death, but doesn’t break their skin. As Dexter and his sister, Sergeant Deborah Morgan of Miami Metro Homicide, follow this new killer’s trail, Dexter must keep his private life from unravelling. Along for the ride is his wife Rita, Rita’s children Astor and Cody, his infant daughter Lily Anne, and his brother Brian (a less moralistic serial killer).

The premise of Dexter being seen by an innocent bystander has been explored on the TV show, but this is the first Dexter story in which someone has seen our main character’s dirty deeds and almost immediately become a threat to him. It’s an intriguing idea, which unfortunately isn’t used effectively until the last fourth of this book. Up until that point, much of the narrative is rather dull. One could easily skip pages at a time and not miss anything essential. For instance, a significant portion of this book is devoted to a boy scout camping trip Dexter goes on with Cody. The story between Dexter and his witness had just taken an extremely interesting twist, but Lindsay pulls us away from that to go camping. Granted, the sequence winds up furthering the witness storyline significantly at the very end, but does the end justify the means if we’ve put the book down before we get there? Probably not.

Rita’s character is also rather annoying in this book. She’s persistently nagging Dexter about buying a new house, and bumbling through sentences like a moron. In the book, she has no redeeming qualities other than simply being Dexter’s wife and the mother of his kids. She’s almost an antagonist.

Dexter’s humorous banter is rendered mostly ineffective this time around. I’m finding that the better the story is, the more effective Dexter’s wit is. In contrast, if you’re bored to death for most of the book, it becomes contrived and annoying.

Lindsay had a good premise for this book, but he failed to execute it in an entertaining way. Is it unfair to expect the books to be as successful as the show? Maybe, maybe not. But regardless, this book feels like a phone-in that’s packed with needless, uninteresting, unentertaining fluff. Lindsay can do much better than this.

RATING: 3.5/10

Front page image from litereactor.com. Lindsay image from telegraph.co.uk.
For more from Dexter and Jeff Lindsay, check out
Dexter Is Delicious.

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