Monday, May 16, 2011

Reading update, or missattitude reads manga

I think I have my computer issues sorted, so maybe I'll be able to update more often. I hope.

I'm not making much progress in Cryptonomicon right now. Just not in the right mood for it, I suppose. Plus, I've been taking care of the computer issue, or worrying about it, for the past few days, so I needed something to read that wasn't particularly intricate. Cryptonomicon is intricate; you have to pay attention or you miss things.

However, my roommate turned me on to a manga series called Library Wars, by Kiiro Yumi. There are four volumes so far, and I read through all of them over the weekend, just here and there as I had a little time. Although they are clearly geared to younger readers, I have to admit that I like this series a lot, and got quite involved in it.

For the uninitiated, manga is Japanese graphic novels, sort of the print version of anime. This particular series is about a girl, Iku Kashahara, who joined the Library Forces which, in this near-future world, has the responsibility for protecting the libraries from another government group that tries to confiscate and ban books they don't approve of. This fight has escalated to the point where there are actual battles over the library's right to hold and disseminate books that are seen as dangerous by this group and its supporters. This is not exactly Fahernheit 451-lite, but the point here is the same: censorship is not a good thing.

These manga volumes, which are apparently based on a series of novels by Hiro Arikawa, are not all ideology and violence, however. Iku joined the Library Forces because several years earlier, she had an experience in a bookstore in which the censors tried to confiscate a book she was trying to purchase, but a young Library Forces agent intervened and got her book back for her. She has turned the memory of this agent into an idealized hero who she wants to emulate. And that's where the story takes off.

I had never read manga before, and I approached these volumes with a bit of skepticism. Turned out, I couldn't put them down, and now I'm just hoping that a new volume comes out soon.

I should probably note one thing. Because these were originally published in Japanese, the English-language translations are printed Japanese style to preserve the integrity of the illustrations and the pace of the storytelling. So, the volumes, and each page, read from right to left rather than left to right. It was a little difficult to get used to this at first, but there is an illustrated guide in each volume showing how to read a page, and before I was finished with the first volume it seemed completely natural to be going in the opposite direction, so to speak.

Also, I have just barely started reading The Jesuit and the Skull: Teilhard de Chardin, Evolution, and the Search for Peking Man, by Amir D. Aczel (Riverhead Books, 2007; 288 pages). I'm only a few pages in, and so I can't say yet whether I will like it and finish it, but those first few pages have me hopeful for this one. I picked it up as part of my research for a writing project I'm working on, but I just might read it for pleasure before I start sorting through the inforamtion to take notes.

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