Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Book #06

Entropy by Robert Raker

When a series of child abductions and murders disrupt the life of an economically blighted community, the consequences have far-reaching implications. The brutal crimes take a different toll on a disparate group of individuals; the scuba diver who retrieves the children’s bodies; the disfigured cellist who thinks he knows who’s responsible; the undercover federal agent; and the mother of one of the victim’s. United in a situation not of their choosing, they are forced to take a deep, introspective look into their intersected, yet isolated lives.

This is a very powerful and beautiful novel; one which I wasn't expecting to hit me quite as hard as it did. The cover and blurb suggest a standard crime novel, where all is unravelled in the finale, and the criminal is revealed; this is certainly what I thought I was getting myself into. Entropy is not that type of novel.

Raker uses one of my favourite techniques, multiple voice narrative, to tell his story. We're given four different characters who have been affected by the child murders, and we are allowed to feast on their grief, confusion, anger, betrayal, and a host of other emotions. We see how they differ, yet how they are linked in their desolation and despair.

The diver who is employed to recover the childrens' bodies is introduced to us first. Through him, we are given the stark facts of the murders in contrast to how they are affecting his mental state, and his home life. We are then introduced to a disabled musician, whose life has been deconstructed after the loss of his arm. He believes he knows who is responsible for the crimes. Our third narrator is the undercover agent employed to live in the mindset of a paedophile; we see how this additional personality affects his life and relationships. This was the most harrowing, but my favourite of the narratives, purely because it was so raw, so shocking, yet so memorable. Lastly we meet the mother of one of the victims; an entirely flawed and selfish woman, but someone whose life has been utterly torn apart.

Entropy is a fitting title; each of the characters experiences utter chaos in their lives and seem at a loss as to how to put this right. Raker shows us their lives as though they're rotting away beyond any comprehensible cure. It's incredibly bleak and heartbreaking in places, and the language Raker uses is lyrical in places, pulling the reader wholly into the characters' melancholy.

The novel has no real climax, and I felt this was entirely justified. How often in life do the strands tie up nicely in the end? We can't always put everything into a box and tie it up with a pretty bow. Raker is showing us what it looks like when you turn the stone over on peoples' lives, particularly after a devastating series of crimes strikes a small town.

An entirely different take on a crime novel; I absolutely loved it.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Book #05

100 Bullets: Six Feet Under the Gun by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

This sixth volume features six stand-alone chapters, each focused on one of the story's main players: Dizzy, Cole, Benito, Lono, Graves, and Wylie. And behind each individual's story, the war between Shepherd and Graves continues to escalate, and the uneasy alliance of the thirteen families continues to fracture.

In this volume, Azzarello revisits the stories of six characters we have met before. In doing so, he allows us more insight into their motivations, and successfully foreshadows the direction of the plot. Although there doesn't seem to be any plot direction here, the exploration of the characters does it job in creating tension, and driving the story into unknown territory.

The artwork in this volume was particularly attractive, and I'd go as far to say the contribution of the artists here was more valuable than Azzarello's. The layout is thought-provoking, eye-catching, and utterly macabre in places. I thought it was excellent, and truly wonder why graphic novels aren't taken far more seriously as an art form.

The knots are tightening with the Trust; things are falling into place, and the intrigue is building. This is a great series to get into, and I'm glad I've had the opportunity to do so in a linear manner!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Book #04

100 Bullets: The Counterfifth Detective by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

In the fifth volume of the 100 Bullets saga, Agent Graves continues his puzzling behavior of providing ordinary people an opportunity to exact revenge with impunity from those who have victimized them. After receiving an attach case and the standard 100 bullets from the mysterious Graves, Milo Garret, a broken-down L.A. private detective learns that a recent mishap that left him scarred and without a face might not have been an accident. But as the mystery of his misfortune unravels, Milo must decide between having answers and having a future. 

I liked this one a lot. Once again, we're back in Graves' domain, and see him offering the 100 bullets to a private investigator with bandages on his face. As it turns out, his accident wasn't so accidental, and he has a lot more in common with the other characters than we previously think.

It's pretty standard gritty, pulpy noir; a detective with alcohol and violence issues, strip joints, femme fatales and a seriously unfortunate ending. Some of the artwork is totally brutal, but gorgeous. Lots of sex and loads of gore - what's not to like?

Again, I had to really concentrate to work out where the plot was going, and where each of the characters linked into the main thread of the story. I'm not sure if this is the fault of the author, or due to my own stupidity and/or tendency to skip quickly through frames. It seems that this volume, although small, is a link into something bigger, and more exciting.

Volume six!

Book #03

100 Bullets: A Foregone Tomorrow by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

In the fourth collection of this series, Agent Graves continues to offer immunity to everyday people to carry out their innermost desires of vengeance with the 100 bullets that he supplies. But as these self-serving manipulations take place, pieces of the mystery of the Minutemen and the organization that created them start to come together, and we discover to the research and conspiracy theories of Mr. Branch. As more is revealed about the series' main characters, the true meaning and importance of the conflict between Graves and the Trust starts to emerge
It's all beginning to come together. I often struggle to remember where I left off with graphic novels, so it took me a while to work out what was going on.

In previous volumes, we're treated to the decision-making processes, cultural differences, and motivations of characters who are handed the case containing the bullets of immunity. That's always very exciting, but in this volume we're treated to some character background and depth; we learn more about the past lives of the Trust and the Minutemen, and begin to understand the plot with a bit more clarity than we were previously allowed.

My favourite story arc here was Graves bumping into an older gentleman in hospital, and realising they had met before in the sixties. Subtle hints are made about an incident in Dallas, which really appealed to me since I've had a morbid fascination for what happened on this day since reading 11.22.63.

There's a lot going on here, and at times it's hard work to keep up with the changes in pace, new information, and characters who look confusingly similar (sorry). It's not a bad volume, it just relies a lot on the reader having already taken information from the first three volumes and (in my unfortunate case) remembering it all. I am worrying I'm not keeping up as I should be.

Despite the information overload, it's still intriguing, still well-drawn, and still filled with uncertainty. Let's do volume five.